The internal brain drain: foreign aid, hiring practices, and international migration

Nicolas Lemay-Hébert, Louis Herns Marcelin, Stéphane Pallage, Toni Cela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Building on empirical material gathered in Haiti, this paper advances a new and innovative understanding of the internal brain drain phenomenon—the poaching of local skilled workers by international organisations (IOs) or international non-governmental organisations (INGOs)— by conceptualising it as an equilibrium. This equilibrium is composed of two sets of tensions: (i) those between the salary conditions in the public sector and those on offer to local personnel working for IOs and INGOs; and (ii) those inherent in the dual salary scale used by IOs and INGOs for local and international staff. These two sets of tensions contribute in their specific ways to international migration, and, as such, the internal brain drain has a bearing on external brain drain dynamics. In addition, the paper addresses the difficult policy choices facing development and humanitarian organisations, since every set of policies that impacts on one side of the equilibrium is bound to affect its other side.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-640
Number of pages20
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • aid economy
  • humanitarian aid
  • political economy of interventions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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