Reverberations of Neocolonialism in Global Stem Migration

Monique Laney, Auburn University

This presentation discusses the post-World War II worldwide development of merit-based migration policies that offered preferential treatment to workers with skills in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). World War II had increased the role of science and technology in the economic wellbeing of nations worldwide. In order to stay or get ahead, most countries therefore began to rely progressively on innovations from experts in these fields, inaugurating a new era of recruiting skilled migrants. The Cold War “modernization” efforts to build up science and technology competency among allies as well as new nations emerging from decolonization created a ready pool of skilled migrants. The presentation argues that the resulting national migration policies are deeply interrelated and rooted in both the neoliberal organization of the global economy and the neocolonial underpinnings of the Cold War. Migration policies aimed at “skilled” workers have paved the way for today’s stiff global competition over migrants with STEM credentials, which has increasingly exacerbated inequalities around the world in two ways: 1. by going hand-in-hand with policies restricting those considered economically less desirable and 2. by the fact that the main movement of the desired migrants has been primarily from the global South to the global North, where migrants are selected and welcomed based on their skills, i.e., their economic value, while often leaving behind a brain drain in their home countries.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 5. Analyzing Modern Migrations in the Global Context