In an article today on the Fijivillage.com website, the Fiji Employers Federation (FEF) is quoted as saying that the tightening of Australia's skilled migration intake is good news for Fiji.
Although I do see the point here, the reality is that all Australia's tightening does is prolong the inevitable departure of people that want to get out of Fiji anyway. One could argue that the only thing worse than having unproductive staff is to have unproductive staff who have no interest in being around.
From that perspective, I don't see how Australia's tightening of migration rules is good news for anyone.
I am sure that some FEF members will be happy to see that some of their employees locked in the country for a bit longer. There may even be companies that benefit. However, the main problem I've always found with the so-called "brain drain" is the way the country views it as a battle. The "war on brain drain" is most commonly how it's portrayed with very little being done to try and improve the root cause of the activity, namely developing and marketing the value of building a career in Fiji.
I came across a United Nations document on the topic today. Written back in 2002, "Impact of Brain Drain in Fiji" (PDF link) tries to explain with charts, figures and stats, what it's all about. I don't want to oversimplify but it misses the mark and the solutions proposed, had they been implemented back then, would probably not have made a difference in 2009. Consider the following solution proposed:
Oh really? Thanks for that.
This problem will never be solved by higher salaries. Higher salaries might make people happier for a few paychecks but that's pretty much it. Quality of life makes a bigger difference and even more than that, the genuine desire to plant roots and grow.
I wrote about this topic a year or so ago in one of my Digital Talanoa columns in the Fiji Times entitled "How to Tame the Pain of the Brain Drain". In that piece, I wrote about how Oceanic as a company wanted to embrace employees desires to depart if that's actually what they wanted. I am as sure about this approach now as I have ever been. It's still not always easy to lose staff but I'm convinced it's much, much better than them disappearing suddenly or with very little warning. We have yet to introduce an official programme which brings in migration experts to talk to staff but we will often write letters of support for any Oceanic employee that desires to move or go abroad. When new staff come aboard, I feel pretty confident that I know their migration expectations as well. We try to be open about it from the beginning, in fact.
When it's out on the table and open, everyone benefits. This is proven over and over again in our workplace.
I won't over-simplify Dixon's comments to Radio Australia. The migration of skilled staff does impact different industries in different ways and there will be positives and negatives all around. I just found it a bit disappointing that there should ever be any "good news" coming from people being held back in places they don't want to be.
Nothing good ever comes out of that and Fiji needs to be proactive about changing its brand domestically to keep good people here and working instead of appearing to relish when other countries tighten their migration laws.