Highly Skilled Migration and International Flows of Talent, Knowledge, and Capital (TKC) is a project funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR). TKC aims to improve our understanding of whether and how highly skilled migrants activate their social networks and leverage their role as international knowledge gatekeepers, contribute to solve cross-border information problems, and transform the brain drain into brain gain and brain circulation.
Highly skilled workers play a key role in today’s knowledge economies, as they introduce and diffuse innovations that encourage economic growth and well-being. Migrants are an essential component of these highly skilled workers worldwide: in 2013, the worldwide stock of migrants stood at 230 million, namely 3.2% of worldwide population (UN-DESA and OECD, 2013). However, important variations emerge across skills’ groups: tertiary educated immigrants living in OECD countries augmented by 70% during the 2000s, with just 10% for low-educated ones. Migration rates for the tertiary educated are higher than for the rest of the population, and generally increase with further education. Thus, differently from the past, highly skilled individuals represent the most dynamic component of international mobility flows. Far from taking place exclusively along a South-North or East-West axis, highly skilled migration occurs also between advanced economies, with the UK, Germany and other European countries as both destinations and origins. Science, technology, and engineering migration contributes heavily to these trends, including to its geographical variation.
TKC’s research topic stands at the cross-roads of different disciplinary approaches, ranging from the geography of innovation, the economics of migration, and IB studies. All of them can be re-examined within the general theoretical framework of diaspora economics. Constant and Zimmermann (2016) define diasporas as “well-defined group(s) of migrants and their offspring with a joined cultural identity and ongoing identification with the country or culture of origin”, and propose to put them at centre-stage in all studies concerning migrations. While migration is the necessary precondition for diasporas to exist, not all migrant groups are internally bound by diasporic ties, nor ethnicity is the only source of such ties. In the case of highly skilled migrants, professional ties matter, too, as they both imply different migration channels and cohorts, and allows for specific forms of interaction.
TKC is a theoretical and empirical project, whose deliverables will consist in research papers and open access datasets. Its ambition is to enrich the debate on migration on a global scale, but especially in Europe and France, where the dominant focus on low skilled or refugee immigration both obscures the importance of highly skilled flows and contributes to negative stereotyping. TKC will be articulated in six work-packages, taking a complementary approach between the macro (country), meso (firm), and micro (individual) levels of analysis.
TKC has a strong engagement towards collecting micro-data concerning specific categories of very highly skilled workers, such as inventors, scientists and executives, with the migrant status to be ascertained by available biographic information and/or name analysis. These data may provide a suitable and interesting alternative to more classic data sources, both because of their detail and for their pointing at homogenous professional groups, rather than generically tertiary educated workers.