Monday, September 19, 2005

LDC migrants; the real story

* LDC means Less Developed Countries
I have come across a report titled "Out of Africa: A migrant nurse’s story" by the New Internationalist Magazine based in Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom, that paints real truths about the people involved, the western world on the one hand and the developing world on the other.

For far too long we, in the west, have as a whole propagated amidst ourselves the propaganda about the desirability of the west to any migrant from a developing country, citing this collective conviction based on sometimes quasi other times pseudo-economic arguments, but failing to realise that the collective conviction is really the west’s self-absorbed view of itself, driven firmly by the view that the world owes the west, not the other way around.

This story of a Kenyan nurse who relocated to England and was accompanied back to her country by a UK journalist investigating the drivers of the difficult decisions the nurse had to make is a must read for anybody who prefers to be in the know, anybody who would rather live in the real world. A world where people don’t just emigrate to the west because they prefer to do so, but go to the west because they have to. I would certainly wish that the authors of the brain drain article I read in the Economist magazine would get hold of such facts before publishing another self denigrating article about economic migration.

Some points from the report:
1. Brain drain is a symptom of wider malaise.
2. The poor in developing countries would like jobs in their own countries. Emigrating is not the preferred option.
3. The west needs developing country professionals.
4. But the west [wrongfully] sees developing country education as inferior and exploitation abounds.
"…In that passport, crucially, a visa allowing her to enter Britain as a ‘student nurse’. Student - It’s a curious description for a state registered nurse with over 20 years’ experience in a wide range of fields including midwifery, family planning, community health, immunisation. A nurse, moreover, who has been a teacher of nurses. But in order to work in Britain, she must become a student again and do a three-month ‘adaptation’ course before she can start practising.

Nancy did her ‘adaptation’ at a private nursing home in the northern English town of Scunthorpe. Like many international recruits she was disappointed that she would be employed not in a hospital but in a nursing home. ‘I was hoping I might learn some new technologies,’ she says.

She was also surprised to discover that during the three months ‘adaptation’ she would be largely unpaid, though she had to pay for food and accommodation. ‘For the first 35 hours a week you worked for nothing. After that you were paid for overtime.’ According to the nurses’ union, the Royal College of Nursing, this is unacceptable. But it is quite common for migrant workers to be exploited in this way – especially in the private sector – and it does not appear to be actually illegal."
5. In hiring nurses from developing countries, the west saves in training costs about as much as the developing world owes in foreign debt (some $552bn).

6. Even with all the odds stacked against them, developing country migrants survive, much to their own benefit and to the benefit of their families back home through remittances, their respective countries of origin through consumer spending from remittances and their host countries through taxes and the training costs saved.
"…I’d walk around with two hot-water bottles to keep me warm – one strapped to my front and one to my back. She moved into a very small house that she shared with another nurse. Then one day, when the other nurse was away, Nancy slipped in the bathroom and injured her head. ‘I suddenly felt very alone. I thought: if I die here no one will know. "
7. The west has big responsibilities to the developing world for its counterproductive "assistance".
"…Its social and economic effects are clear to see. This has not happened overnight. The negative effects of IMF-imposed structural adjustment programmes and globalisation have been filtering through for many years. The public services have been ‘retrenching’ workers by the tens of thousands since 1993.

But in the 1980s and 1990s – when commodity prices collapsed and debt soared – African governments had to cede control over their economic decision-making in order to qualify for World Bank and IMF loans. Conditions attached to these loans undid much of the progress in public health. Food subsidies were scrapped, health budgets slashed and services privatised.

‘User fees’ were introduced for health services that were previously free to patients. The capacity of African governments to cope with the growing health crisis was weakened. The life expectancy of Africans has fallen by 15 years."
8. Ironically, despite the raw deal, the poor are endlessly giving.
"…When she [the nurse] gets back to Kenya [her country of origin] she wants to set up a health clinic in a poor district which has none."
9. While brain drain is an issue, internal resolutions cannot be met because of – again – the west.
"…While the emigration of health workers is undoubtedly making things worse, Nancy and I are hearing another story as well from nurses we talk to. They say that there are a great many unemployed nurses in Kenya. Most are recent graduates. ‘I find that hard to believe,’ says Nancy.

But Dr Francis Kimani, a spokesperson from the Kenyan Ministry of Health, confirms that there are around 5,000 new unemployed nurses in the country. ‘It’s a disaster,’ he says. ‘All the good brains are leaving because they are promised better salaries and working conditions in the developed world. And we can’t employ new ones because of an employment embargo set by the IMF.

The plot thickens when a spokesperson from the World Bank in Nairobi says: ‘The Bank has not put any embargo on recruitment of nurses or civil servants in general. The overall level of wages and salaries bill is an issue though, and the IMF has been discussing with the Government how the wage bill could be contained."
It is time we gave rest to this issue any many others like it. The facts are available for all that are interested to see. Unfortunately, many would rather bicker for months and years with little facts and a lot of agenda.

The message for the west is do unto others as you would have done unto you. The current actions beggar belief.
..............Well done to the New internationalist magazine for this wonderful piece......................
"Britain's cleaning industry is worth £9bn - but the immigrant cleaners doing our dirty work are increasingly living in a secret world of abuse, intimidation and illegality."


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