Vietnamese Diaspora – A “Brain Drain”?

Source: The Economist

Source: The Economist

“Brain-Drain” is the migration of best and brightest from poor countries to rich countries.  Vietnam, like many other low and middle income countries, had seen its best leave for greener pastures.  But now, at least for some countries, the best and brightest may be returning home.

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor, Dr. AnnaLee Saxenian, has been studying the interrelations of entrepreneurship and globalization through a case study of Silicon Valley.  Her studies suggest that there have been a recent shift from Brain-Drain” to “Brain-Circulation,” meaning foreign born entrepreneurs are becoming “agents of globalization by investing in their native countries, and their growing mobility in turn [fuels] the emergence of entrepreneurial networks in distant locations.”

Dr. Saxenian obseved that Asian-Americans, primarily those from China, Taiwan, and India, make up over one third of Silicon Valley’s high-skilled workers.  This is not surprising because:

1) There is a high concentration of Chinese, Taiwanese and Indian immigrants in the Bay area

2) These immigrants place strong emphasis on education, specifically science and engineering.

Moreover, Dr. Saxenian found that most successful foreign-born entrepreneurs owe their success to their “ethnic resources.”  By leveraging their social and ethnic communities, these entrepreneurs (many are recent immigrants) have been able to build professional and business networks that “support their US ventures, which they use to accelerate the formation of new firms” in their native countries.

The big question here is – why haven’t we, Vietnamese Americans, turned our “Brain-Drain” to a “Brain-Circulation?”

Do we need to establish and maintain stronger links to Vietnam?

Do we need to better leverage our social and ethnic communities?

Can we too leverage our “ethnic resources” to create business and investment opportunities in Vietnam?

Is it only then, can we pull Vietnam above the poverty line?

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6 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well, soon as the Vietnamese government starts to respect its own citizens, maybe we’ll consider putting our money into it. Not to mention that we bring more than enough visiting over there only to be scorned.

  2. Brandon says:

    Hey Uyen,

    Economically, this is a genuine concern. But socially and politically, we have to consider WHY people left their “native” land. For ethnic descendants to return, they have to feel a connection. For one that was severed by a nightmarish war to begin with, no such connection would have existed.

    This article is only true for those who prospered from “ethnic resources.” The question would be more relevant if these resources were actually the driving force behind people’s motivations.

    –my two cents

  3. James H. Bao says:

    I think the question at hand is who are we punishing when we refuse to invest in Vietnam? Are we punishing the government or are we actually hurting the 80 million Vietnamese people still living there? I think people now need jobs, education, and exposure to the global economy, something that expatriates are in a position to provide. At the end of the day, it is about making lives better, not politics or social agendas.

  4. Neil Ng. says:

    This is a great question. I’ve been asking a similar question to many other Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans that I know. One sad notice is that many still consider Vietnam as a place of no hope and many seem to have a mental prejudice against anybody from Vietnam.

    But on the bright side, the GDP growth rate of Vietnam in the recent decade has been very impressive. There was a paper by the World Bank predicting over capacity of the infrastructures of the port cities such as Saigon, but the city is expanding its importing-exporting capacity in a rapid pace! I wonder when will there be an efficient public transportation system like ones existing in Japan and South Korea? 10 years? 20 years? Well, I’ll work toward that goal and find out. I also hope others will see more hope in the growing country.

    On the last note, I love to see optimistic young like-minded people. Keep it up!

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