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Brain drain takes Mongolia’s youth and vibrancy

By B.Khash-Erdene

In the past, the Mongols were known as nomads, but today they are often known as migrants. Though many Mongolians who have gone abroad to study or work return home, an equal number are remaining overseas and many more are looking for ways to go abroad.

Young and old alike aspire to find work that pays them well. They therefore aspire to work abroad in any type of job, because the lowest-paid work in countries such as the USA and Japan is often higher than the wages of specialists and professionals at home.

In 2010, the first census of Mongolians living abroad was conducted by the National Statistical Office of Mongolia. According to the census results, in 2010 there were 107,000 Mongolia citizens living and working abroad, which is roughly 4 percent of the total population. In 2010, 40,200 Mongolians lived in Kazakhstan, 30,800 in South Korea, 27,300 in USA and around 5,000 in China and Japan.

The government classifies Mongolians abroad in two categories: Mongolian citizens and Mongolian individuals. The first category refers to those Mongolians living abroad who are under the protection of the State, while the latter refers to those whose nationality is Mongolian but who are not under the protection of the Mongolian State and rights, because they have renounced their Mongolian citizenship.

Curiously enough, because Mongolians who become citizens of another country must renounce their Mongolian citizenship, several famous Mongolian athletes are no longer Mongolian citizens.  Such athletes include shooting sportsman, D.Munkhbat, who has become a citizen of Germany, and sumo wrestler N.Tsevegnyam, who is a citizen of Japan.

The census statistics relating to Mongolians living abroad do not include those Mongolians residing abroad illegally or working without work permits. The number of people who are native Mongolians but are not able to access the rights and protection normally given to Mongolian citizens is high compared to the population size because many Mongolians are living abroad illegally or have overstayed their visas abroad. So although they would theoretically be eligible to register at their embassy for rights and protection, they do not do so for fear of being sent back to Mongolia empty handed. They therefore choose to remain without protection.

Although the Government of Mongolia has encouraged Mongolians living abroad to return home to contribute to the development of their nation, there has not been a great increase in the number of returnees.

It is easy to understand why many Mongolians remain abroad. Given the current average household salary in Mongolia, it is impossible for most people to purchase their own homes. Real-estate price have skyrocketed in the capital city, reaching between 1.5 and 3 million MNT per square meter. Indeed, the dream for many who work and live abroad is to someday be able to buy their own homes and lead a comfortable life.

The benefits of the growth in the Mongolian economy in recent years are not being felt by the majority of the population. Most households still live from day to day, only barely managing to sustain themselves. The average household savings in Mongolia are only around 2 million MNT (around 1500 USD).

Therefore many people aspire to work and study in foreign countries where they can earn higher wages, get better quality education and experience a higher standard of living. It is economically beneficial for Mongolians who have attained a professional degree in a developed country and who are able to obtain well-paid specialised employment, with higher wages than those available in Mongolia, to remain abroad.

According to the World Bank, the labourers of developing countries working in developed countries benefit from the foreign currency and the developing countries benefit from remittances.

In 1997, the South Korean Small and Medium Industry Union began hiring Mongolians. They were often people with low or no qualifications, designated to non-specialised jobs. This Mongolian labour force usually had families to support at home and sent money to them. In 2000, the money sent from South Korea by contracted workers was equal to 10 percent of the total Mongolian GDP, according to A.Solongo, a Professor in the Population Study Centre of the Economics School of the Mongolian National University.

But while remittances contribute to the economy when the citizens of developing countries go abroad those countries lose a valuable resource: human resources. Those living abroad tend to be the most productive individuals of the country, as they comprise mostly the younger and middle aged section of the population.

It is a shame to think of all that labour contributing to the development of other countries, while their motherland is starving for a skilled labour force and suffering from brain drain.

There are very few Mongolian families today that do not have members of the family working or studying abroad. In the past decade the number of Mongolian students who have successfully gained entry into prestigious learning institutions such as Stanford, Oxford, Harvard, has increased significantly. Likewise, the number of Mongolians working abroad for the world’s leading technological companies, such as Apple, Microsoft and Toyota, has increased. Their achievements should be recognised and rewarded.

But while many skilled Mongolians have been successful abroad, the vast majority of the Mongolians living overseas are working in non-specialized physical labour jobs. This is due to their lack of qualifications and their low level of fluency in the languages of the countries they live in. Many of the brightest youth of Mongolia are living uncomfortably as outsiders in foreign lands doing hard labour for long hours with only a distant dream of living richly.

As these people get older they are burdened with illness, due to their tireless efforts, and all their savings are spent on medication to regain back what little health they can.

Throughout their lives, there remains within many migrants a depth of feeling for their nation and many of them return home when they are old. But they are crippled and unable to work. The sad truth is they have contributed very little of their time and labour to their nation. But they are still Mongolians and desire to return home in their old age to rest.

It seems that through losing much of its youthful population, Mongolia has become a land in which its battered and tired citizens come to die, rather than a vibrant country of young citizens together building their country’s future.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=3114

Posted by on Feb 28 2013. Filed under Community, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Brain drain takes Mongolia’s youth and vibrancy”

  1. Gadaadad surdag mongol oyutnuudiin toog medej bolohuuu?

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