Soc. Geogr. Discuss., 3, 211-236, 2007
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09 Jul 2007
Review status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Social Geography (SG). A final paper in SG is not foreseen.
Un-restricted agents? International migration of the highly skilled revisited
H. Pethe
Seminar für Sozialwissenschaftliche Geographie, Universität München, Luisenstrasse 37, 80333 München, Germany

Abstract. International migration of highly skilled people is often conceived as the international mobility of educated personnel within transnational companies. It epitomises the successful international migration of labour. This article critically reviews this conception and analyses the major viewpoints on the phenomenon. Starting with a description of brain drain in the 1960s, researchers' attention shifted to analyses of brain exchange in the late 1980s. Studies came to the fore that focused on international migration processes from a company-related perspective and emphasised the influence of transnational companies. The importance of individual migrants, however, was neglected, since they appeared to have minor influence on the migration process. Due to recent changes in technology, reorganisation of processes of production and a policy shift, the article reinvestigates their position. Firstly, it draws on a case study on the German "Green Card" scheme which opened up the labour market for highly skilled ICT specialists. In this new process individual migrants have gained importance. Secondly, it revises the major labour flows of highly skilled persons to Germany during 2000–2003. The majority of highly skilled immigrants entered the country not via intra-company transfers or as highly skilled specialists, but as refugees or repatriates. Their labour market success, however, is low, which might question the existing positive image of highly skilled international migration.

Citation: Pethe, H.: Un-restricted agents? International migration of the highly skilled revisited, Soc. Geogr. Discuss., 3, 211-236, doi:10.5194/sgd-3-211-2007, 2007.
Discussion paper