THINK PIECE

Prepared for online publication at www.storiesfordevelopment/research

By Claudette Russell

December 15, 2018

SECOND GENERATION RETURN MIGRANTS: 

THE NEW FACE OF BRAIN CIRCULATION IN THE CARIBBEAN

Executive Summary

People have been crossing borders since borders were created. Most migrate for economic or environmental reasons, from the global South to the global North in search of wealth and opportunity. In the Caribbean, the region has a long history of migration to the global North resulting from long-standing political ties with its colonial masters.

The migration of Caribbean people to the U.S., U.K., and Canada peaked in the 50s and 60s. Some migrants have started returning home as retirees. This first wave of return migrants is consistent with models of international labour migration that assumes that some migrants will be inclined to return to their countries of origin once they have maximized their earning income abroad. But while some migrants are returning as retirees to reconnect with their homeland, others are in their younger years and are returning to capitalize on the skills gained in the North. This return flow of migrants is increasingly being defined by the children of first generation migrants "returning" to their parents’ country of origin to enter emerging labour markets – this second wave of “returnees” is a phenomenon partially driven by improvements in living standards in countries in the global South.

Caribbean nations have among the highest emigration rates of skilled workers in the world. Perhaps, the children of first generation migrants, called second generation return migrants, will have an impact on the societies and economies of their new homes. Second generation return migrants bring with them education, connections to the North, and often an entrepreneurial spirit which could contribute to growth in the region.

Once the loss of the best minds from the region was reason for concern. But, second generation return migrants to the Caribbean offer a potential for the region to benefit from the investments it has made to the North. This gives new reason for Caribbean governments to put in place tailored policies that respond to younger migrants who offer great potential to contribute to the region. Download the full report. 

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