Nation's Brain Drain Continues to Lose Philippine Talent

While the Philippines ranks high in growing talent and global knowledge skills, it ranks very low in keeping this talent.
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You may have heard of the concept of “brain drain,” or how a developing country’s top talent is choosing to migrate and take jobs abroad instead of staying in their home country. This is usually fueled by the presence of better and higher-paying opportunities in more developed locations.

Whether or not the Philippines is experiencing it depends on who you ask, but a recent report on the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) makes a strong case for its existence.

In the 2019 GTCI Report, the Philippines ranked 58th out of 125 countries with an overall score of 40.94, a drop from its score of 44.17 last year that put the country at 54th. Despite its lower score, it emerged as the highest-ranking country among the 27 lower-middle-income economies.

But more telling are its rankings in the six pillars that make up the overall score: While the Philippines ranked high in growing talent (41st) and global knowledge skills (34th), it ranked very low in retaining talent (92nd).

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“The Philippines has a good pool of Global Knowledge Skills, scoring quite well in both High-Level Skills and Talent Impact. It is also relatively adept in growing talent, where its strengths in Lifelong Learning and Access to Growth Opportunities offset a sub-standard Formal Education,” the report stated. “More discouragingly, the country’s weak Sustainability and Lifestyle sub-pillars result in a low ability to Retain talent.”

Good at Developing Talent

Under the "Grow" pillar, the GTCI measures three factors that contribute to developing talent: formal education (quality of universities), lifelong learning (development opportunities for employees and post-graduates), and access to growth opportunities (employee empowerment and collaboration within organizations).

The GTCI revealed that while the Philippines scored low in formal education, its high rankings in lifelong learning and access to growth opportunities meant that it was still above average in terms of growing talent.

The study also highlighted the country’s high rank in global knowledge skills, which means that the quality of this homegrown talent is top-notch. This pillar measures how a country’s talent performs in both academic and corporate fields at a global scale.

Bad at Keeping Talent

However, the Philippines’ scores in other pillars of the GTCI indicate that its well-developed and high-quality talent is benefiting other countries more than itself. Its low rank in the "Retain" pillar is a result of below-average scores in sustainability (how a country protects its top talent) and lifestyle (the quality of life within a country, which includes safety and security).

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The country’s low talent retention can also be seen in its low scores in other pillars of the GTCI. In particular, the country ranked very low in terms of attracting foreigners to work and study in the country, and it also reported below-average scores in terms of its current market landscape, due in part to its low scores in ease of doing business, ICT infrastructure, and research and development expenditure.

So as much as we can be proud of the quality of talent we’re developing within the country, it’s no use when a significant portion of that talent is pursuing better opportunities elsewhere.

The GTCI is an annual report compiled by human resources expert The Adecco Group, graduate business school INSEAD, and telecommunications firm Tata Communications. In this year's report, Switzerland ranked first in terms of talent competitiveness, followed by Singapore at second and the U.S. at third.


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Lorenzo Kyle Subido
Lorenzo Kyle Subido is a staff writer for Esquire Philippines.
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