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Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development: The Case of the Highly Skilled Filipino Migrants in New Zealand and Australia


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This paper provides evidence that highly skilled migrants continue to remain connected with and deeply committed to their home country. These connections challenge the notion of knowledge and skills loss from high-skilled migration. Highly skilled migrants are also involved in remittance giving, which, although of the noneconomic type, offers new possibilities for building wealth. These are the so-called ‘knowledge transfers’ which consist of the flows of knowledge, skills and ideas to the home country. This paper analyses these knowledge transfers through the highly skilled Filipino migrants in New Zealand and Australia.
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Journal of Current
Southeast Asian Affairs
Siar, Sheila V. (2011), Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development:
The Case of the Highly Skilled Filipino Migrants in New Zealand and Australia, in:
Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs
, 30, 3, 61-94.
ISSN: 1868-4882 (online), ISSN: 1868-1034 (print)
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 Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 3/2011: 61-94 
Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and
Development: The Case of the Highly
Skilled Filipino Migrants in New Zealand
and Australia
Sheila V. Siar
Abstract: This paper provides evidence that highly skilled migrants continue
to remain connected with and deeply committed to their home country.
These connections challenge the notion of knowledge and skills loss from
high-skilled migration. Highly skilled migrants are also involved in remit-
tance giving, which, although of the noneconomic type, offers new possibili-
ties for building wealth. These are the so-called ‘knowledge transfers’ which
consist of the flows of knowledge, skills and ideas to the home country. This
paper analyses these knowledge transfers through the highly skilled Filipino
migrants in New Zealand and Australia.
Manuscript received 3 October 2011; accepted 5 December 2011
Keywords: New Zealand, Australia, The Philippines, skilled migration,
knowledge transfer, brain gain, skilled diaspora
Sheila V. Siar is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Development Studies,
University of Auckland, New Zealand.
E-mail: <>
 62 Sheila V. Siar 
The advent of the knowledge economy in the late 1980s brought the focus
on knowledge as an important source of wealth for countries. Knowledge is
considered a key driver for creating new ideas and innovation, raising
productivity and increasing competitiveness (Foray 2006; Huggins and
Izushi 2007). This has resulted in an increased and continuous demand for
highly skilled people, many of whom come from developing countries. This
has raised serious concerns about the apparent loss these countries are expe-
riencing as a result of this growing skilled migration. This loss is more popu-
larly known in the literature as ‘brain drain’ (for the origin of the term, see
Giannoccolo 2006). Docquier and Marfouk (2004) noted in their study the
most affected ones, which include the Philippines, India, China, Mexico and
Vietnam, due to the large numbers of their educated people leaving. In the
case of the Philippines, which is the focus of this paper,1 an International
Labour Organization study conducted by Alburo and Abella (2002) con-
firms that it is indeed suffering from brain drain as the number of its profes-
sionals who went abroad exceeded the number of professionals added to the
workforce between 1990 and 1999.
Developing countries like the Philippines benefit from international
migration through financial remittances but this does not seem to be the
case when it comes to high-skilled migration. Studies show that highly
skilled migrants generally have a tendency to remit less (Faini 2007; Niimi,
Ozden, and Schiff 2008). For instance, Alayon (2009) finds in his research
on the Filipinos in New Zealand that they send money irregularly and the
remittance comes mostly as gift to family members they left behind, mainly
their parents, or as support for the education of nephews and nieces. This
behaviour is attributed to the fact that the highly skilled often settle perma-
nently in the host countries, are able to bring their families with them, and
are more likely to come from wealthier families (Brown 2003).
The Knowledge Transfer Argument
This outflow of skills and knowledge may not necessarily mean a ‘loss’ for
home countries based on the concept of knowledge transfer which has been
1 The author sincerely acknowledges the funding provided by the Asia New Zealand
Foundation (Emerging Researcher Grant), the UoA Faculty of Arts (Doctoral Re-
search Fund) and the NZ International Doctoral Research Scholarship whose sup-
port enabled her to carry out this research. She also thanks her supervisors, Dr.
Yvonne Underhill-Sem and Dr. Ward Friesen, for their insightful comments and
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 63 
studied by Meyer (2001), Meyer and Brown (1999), Saxenian (2002, 2005)
and Hunger (2004). Basically the argument is that knowledge and skills can
flow back to home countries through a variety of processes as migrants
remain attached to their home countries. This attachment creates a valuable
transfer or circulation of knowledge which challenges the notion of brain
drain or knowledge loss and offers new possibilities for building wealth.
High-skilled migration is viewed as a beneficial process that does not neces-
sarily lead to a loss of knowledge for sending countries because it increases
the intellectual and social capital of migrants, which may benefit home coun-
tries through knowledge transfer.
Several theoretical propositions support the concept of knowledge
transfer: transnationalism, diaspora, network or circulationist approach and
knowledge spillovers. The discourse and studies on transnationalism, first
articulated by Basch, Schiller, and Blanc (1994), suggest that through differ-
ent forms of transnational practices, migrants can remain connected with
their home country as well as other places (Guarnizo, Portes, and Haller
2003; Kivisto 2003; Patel 2006; Portes 1997; Waters 2002). Meanwhile, the
concept of diaspora – considered as a special case of transnationalism –
suggests that migrants can remain committed to their home country (Cohen
1997 and Hardill and Raghuram 1998 both works as cited Bailey 2001) while
maintaining multiple linkages and interactions than span national borders
(Satzewich and Wong 2006).
A closely related framework is the network or circulationist approach
which advances the idea that migrants are connected to one another and
with their home country through a web of networks that propel the diffu-
sion of new technologies, management and trade (Ouaked 2002). Any ap-
parent loss of skills can therefore be restored through the exchange or circu-
lation of knowledge between migrants and their home country (Meyer 2001).
Finally, the knowledge spillover concept suggests that knowledge can
flow or ‘spill over’ across individual workers and entities (e.g., firms) and the
circulation of knowledge workers facilitates the flow of knowledge and prac-
tices. This, in turn, enhances innovation (Vinodrai and Gertler 2006).
Overview of the Paper
This paper investigates the concept of knowledge transfer through the high-
ly skilled Filipino migrants in New Zealand and Australia. It examines the
viability of knowledge transfer as a strategy for capitalising on the significant
skills of the highly skilled Filipino diaspora and for facilitating its participa-
tion in the development of the home country. The study explores the nature
of these transfers, their forms, the knowledge assets that flow, the motiva-
tion for their engagement, and how these transfers contribute to the home
 64 Sheila V. Siar 
country. Several studies have investigated the concept of knowledge transfer
or knowledge circulation, particularly those involving the Indian and Chi-
nese diasporas (Saxenian 2004, 2005; Xiang 2005; Zweig, Chung, and Han
2008) as well as the South African diaspora (Brown 2003; Crush 2000).
However, these studies seem to lack an understanding of the diasporic ties
and sentiments of the highly skilled and the multiple lives they lead, includ-
ing their motivations for engaging in practices such as knowledge transfer.
This study hopes to fill that gap.
Data for this research were drawn mainly from face-to-face semi-
structured interviews of 32 highly skilled migrants from New Zealand and
Australia who were found to have knowledge transfers to the Philippines.
Participants were recruited and identified through the use of personal net-
works, promotion in ethnic media and purposive snowballing techniques.
Additional information and data for verification about the participants were
obtained from internet sources such as the website of the company they
own or work for, the ethnic or professional organisation to which they be-
long, and online articles published about them, as well as from newspaper
articles and other print materials.
This paper presents some findings of the research. The next section
provides the study context by giving an overview of the pattern of high-
skilled outmigration from the Philippines drawn mostly from secondary data
particularly official statistics, books and monographs. The section also dis-
cusses the rationale for the choice of the host countries and an explanation
of how the terms ‘highly skilled migrant’ and ‘knowledge transfer’ were
defined in the research. The third section begins the discussion of the re-
search results by giving the migrants’ profile. The fourth section presents
their involvement in knowledge transfer particularly in science and technol-
ogy knowledge transfers and their motivation for involvement. The last
section presents the conclusion.
Pattern of High-skilled Outmigration from the Philippines
There are more than eight million Philippine-born migrants in different
parts of the world as of 2008 (Table 1). Between 34 and 48 per cent of the
total from 1999 to 2008 are permanent migrants. Knowing the extent of
permanent migration is important to determine how much knowledge and
skills are actually leaving the sending country in the long term. Compared to
temporary migrants whose return is expected, this possibility has a slim
chance in the case of permanent migrants. Although not all of them are
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 65 
highly skilled, a significant number of them are tertiary educated before they
left the Philippines (Figure 1). More than 30 per cent of emigrants leaving
for the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – the four tradi-
tional immigration countries – are college graduates, reached postgraduate
level or have postgraduate degrees.
Table 1: Estimated Total Number of Filipino Migrants, 1999-2008
Source: Commission on Filipinos Overseas n.d.
The bulk of permanent migrants can be found in the United States, Canada
and Australia (Table 2).2 Given that the immigration policies of these coun-
tries give premium to skills and level of education and considering that
about a third of the total number of emigrants to these countries are tertiary
educated (Figure 1), the movement of Filipinos to these countries consti-
tutes large social losses to the Philippines as these highly skilled are unlikely
to return in their productive years (Alburo and Abella 2002).
2 Although there are also large numbers of permanent Filipino migrants in Japan as
shown in Table 2, it is doubtful whether their occupation can be considered as
highly skilled. Their large number is due to the many Filipino women who are
working as choreographers and dancers on labour contract. Although these occu-
pations belong to the professional category in the International System of Classifi-
cation of Occupation (ISCO) developed by the International Labour Organisation,
the real nature of these jobs in the professional sense is contentious as they encom-
pass a variety of functions from the professional to the nonprofessional. As Go
(2002: 354) succinctly puts: “this category of professionals, however, is a catchall
for all types of entertainers working most in Japan, from the professional singers
and dancers to the commercial sex workers. Consequently, the professional skills of
many of these workers have been questioned.”
Year Permanent Temporary Irregular Total
1999 2,482,470 2,981,529 1,828,990 7,292,989
2000 2,551,549 2,991,125 1,840,448 7,383,122
2001 2,736,528 3,049,622 1,625,936 7,412,086
2002 2,807,356 3,167,978 1,607,170 7,582,504
2003 2,865,412 3,385,001 1,512,765 7,763,178
2004 3,187,586 3,599,257 1,297,005 8,083,848
2005 3,391,338 3,651,727 881,123 7,924,188
2006 3,556,035 3,802,345 874,792 8,233,172
2007 3,692,527 4,133,970 900,023 8,726,520
2008 3,907,842 3,626,259 653,609 8,187,710
 66 Sheila V. Siar 
Table 2: Top 15 Countries of Destination of Filipino Migrants (as of December
Permanent Temporary Irregular Total
World total stock
estimates 3,907,842 3,626,259 653,609 8,187,710
Top 15 destina-
United States 2,552,034 128,616 155,843 2,836,493
Saudi Arabia 351 1,072,458 20,000 1,092,809
Canada 533,826 73,632 6,135 613,593
United Arab
Emirates 713 541,666 32,000 574,379
Australia 233,943 23,926 7,975 265,844
Malaysia 26,002 89,681 128,000 243,683
Japan 141,210 60,020 30,700 231,930
Qatar 15 224,027 5,600 229,642
United Kingdom 91,206 102,291 10,000 203,497
Singapore 35,820 66,411 56,000 158,231
Hong Kong 23,507 125,810 6,000 155,317
Kuwait 500 136,018 10,000 146,518
Italy 27,003 77,087 13,000 117,090
Taiwan 8,100 83,070 2,885 94,055
Germany 44,619 8,075 2,100 54,794
Note: Permanent refers to immigrants or legal permanent residents abroad whose stay
does not depend on work contracts. Temporary refers to persons who stay over-
seas is employment related, and who are expected to return at the end of their
work contracts. Irregular refers to those not properly documented or without valid
residence or work permits, or who are overstaying in a foreign country. New Zea-
land does not appear in the list due to its small number of Filipino migrants
Source: Commission on Filipinos Overseas n.d.
The decision to leave one’s country is regarded in the international migra-
tion literature as both an individual and a family/ household decision arising
from the interplay of push and pull factors (Massey et al. 1993). Push factors
have conventionally been regarded to constitute aspects such as low income
and unemployment in the sending countries while pull factors are their op-
posite such as higher income and better socioeconomic stability in the re-
ceiving countries. However, studies that investigated why highly skilled peo-
ple, particularly health professionals, move overseas show a myriad of other
factors that form part of their motivation to leave the home country.
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 67 
At the outset, the motives for migration of highly skilled and low-
skilled migrants appear to be similar. They are both economic migrants that
are induced by better remuneration and improved economic benefits in the
receiving countries. Several studies on the migration of health professionals
particularly physicians and nurses have shown this (Astor et al. 2005; Dovlo
and Nyonator 1999; Kingma 2001; Lorenzo et al. 2007; Vujicic et al. 2004).
Apart from the lure of a better income, however, other conditions are de-
sired by the highly skilled, such as professional development and more ad-
vanced technology through which they can use their skills and learn new
Fig. 1: Educational Level of Filipino Emigrants prior to Migration to the Four
Traditional Immigration Countries (in per cent), 1999-2009
 68 Sheila V. Siar 
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 69 
Note: Numbers in boldface are percentages of tertiary educated (college graduate,
postgraduate level, postgraduate).
Source: Commission on Filipinos Overseas n.d.
A study by Lorenzo et al. (2007) on nurse migration from the Philippines
provides a good picture of the reasons why highly skilled Filipinos move
abroad (Table 3). Their data were obtained from 48 focus groups of Filipino
health workers, mostly women, some of whom also wish to leave the Phil-
ippines. Although the survey is focused on nurses’ reasons, they are applica-
ble to other occupations. The results show that apart from socioeconomic
and safety factors, they are also motivated to migrate overseas for personal
and professional development arising from the opportunity to upgrade their
skills and to travel and be exposed to other cultures.
Similar views were expressed in a study by Astor et al. (2005) on the
perceptions of different professionals in Colombia, Nigeria, India, Pakistan
and the Philippines regarding the reasons for physicians from developing
countries migrating to developed countries. Because the professionals who
participated in the study were also working in the health field (as academics,
policymakers or physicians), their responses are reflective of the actual mo-
tivations of the physicians who migrated abroad. The majority of the 644
respondents, a mix of men and women, expressed the belief that developed
 70 Sheila V. Siar 
countries could better provide physicians a more suitable environment to
utilise their highly specialised skills (Astor et al. 2005).
Table 3: Reasons for Filipino Nurses Going Abroad
Push factors Pull factors
Economic: low salary at home; no
overtime or hazard pay; poor health
insurance coverage
Economic: higher income; better
benefits and compensation package
ob related: work overload or stress-
ful working environment; slow pro-
ob related: lower nurse-to-patient
ratio; chance to upgrade nursing
Sociopolitical and economic envi-
ronment: limited opportunities; de-
creased health budget; sociopolitical
and economic instability in the Phil-
Sociopolitical and economic envi-
ronment: advanced technology;
better sociopolitical and economic
Personal/ family related: opportunity
for family to migrate; opportunity to
travel and learn other cultures; influ-
ence from peers and relatives
Source: Lorenzo et al. 2007: 1412.
While the majority of the respondents perceived that higher income is highly
valued by physicians, a substantial percentage of them believe that physi-
cians are also concerned with factors related to the practice and develop-
ment of their profession and the opportunity to network with fellow profes-
sionals in their field. This is evident in the desire for “increased access to
enhanced technology, equipment and health facilities” and “to work in an
academic environment with more colleagues in one’s field of interest”
(Astor et al. 2005: 2494). Apart from economic and professional factors,
general safety and better prospects for one’s children are highly desired
factors by respondents in the same study. This may be linked to the fact that
highly skilled migrants often bring their families with them when they move
overseas so the welfare of their children, including their education, is a pri-
mary consideration.
Moreover, the Philippine government plays a significant part in induc-
ing international labour migration by actively promoting it (Alcid 2003; Asis
2006; O’Neil 2004). As a country perennially beset with high poverty levels
and high unemployment rates, labour migration is openly supported by the
government as a stop-gap measure to alleviate the country’s socioeconomic
problems (Alcid 2003). Over the years, the government has proactively facil-
itated the movement of its people overseas. It created the Philippine Over-
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 71 
seas Employment Administration (POEA) in 1982 to streamline the bureau-
cratic process in the provision of contract labour to foreign employers,
which in effect degularised the labour export industry. This, according to
Alcid (2003: 111), is intended to make the Philippines, through the POEA, a
“better marketer, promoter and exporter of Filipino workers”.
Asis (2006) notes that a ‘culture of emigration’ permeates in Philippine
society due to the government’s active facilitation of labour migration as
well as the media’s depiction of positive images associated to migration.
Working and living abroad has become a dream for many Filipinos despite
the risks and uncertainties and the social costs it bears. Even the choice of
degree to pursue is motivated by a desire for a better chance of going abroad
with ease. Most young people – and with the influence of their parents –
would often choose courses like nursing, information technology, and sea-
faring, as these are occupational fields that are in high demand abroad. In a
nationwide survey of 1,200 adult respondents in 2002, one in five Filipinos
was found to have a desire to migrate (Asis 2006). Even children at a young
age have a conscious desire to leave the country. A 2003 survey among chil-
dren aged ten to twelve indicates that nearly 50 per cent of them wish to
work abroad someday (Asis 2006).
Australia and New Zealand as Destination Countries
The growing advocacy in the international community in the 1950s against
racial inequality forced many traditional immigration countries to begin
reforming their immigration policies (Brawley 1993). In the past, both Aus-
tralia and New Zealand had actively promoted the recruitment of Europeans
in consonance with keeping their countries ‘white’. The changes in their
immigration policies, coupled by the growing political unrest and economic
uncertainty in the Philippines in the same period and through to the 1980s
and beyond, caused the huge increase of Filipino settlers in Australia. Be-
tween 1966 and 1971, the Filipino population in Australia grew by 159 per
cent and between 1976 and 1981 by 158.8 per cent (Marginson 2001). The
Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, more popularly known as the White
Australia Policy, was finally lifted in 1973 (Harris 1993).
Until the 1990s, most of the Filipino immigrants to New Zealand were
young women who came as spouses or fiancés of Kiwi men they met
through friends or by answering personal advertisements in newspapers (Te
Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand n.d.). The series of reforms in the
immigration policies that began in the 1960s and led to the passage of the
1986 Immigration Act that highly favoured skilled migration gradually in-
creased the number of skilled Filipinos in New Zealand. This Act paved the
way for the entry of highly skilled migrants from non-traditional source
 72 Sheila V. Siar 
countries like the Philippines. Persons seeking admittance are evaluated not
on the basis of their race or nationality but whether or not they meet the
specified requirements in terms of age, education, profession, business inter-
est, or asset they can transfer to New Zealand.
New Zealand and Australia are increasingly attracting highly skilled Fil-
ipinos particularly nurses, doctors, radiologists, engineers and IT profession-
als. Although the numbers of Filipino migrants in both countries are smaller,
particularly for New Zealand (only 25,200 as of 2008 based on CFO data)
than those who are in the United States and Canada, this does not mean that
studies on the Filipino migrants in these countries are not important. There
is, in fact, a dearth of studies on the Filipino diaspora in these countries, and
this study hopes to fill that gap.
Figure 2 shows the percentage growth of Filipino migrants in the US,
Canada, Australia and New Zealand from 1999 to 2008. The graphs for
New Zealand and Australia exhibit generally consistent increasing trends
except for certain years. The number of highly skilled people going to these
countries is expected to further increase in the coming years, particularly to
New Zealand, due to chain migration arising from increased social networks,
the tighter immigration policies and visa retrogression in the United States
and the saturation of the more traditional migration markets. This will have
important implications for the Philippines as far as the debate on knowledge
loss or brain drain is concerned.
Fig. 2: Percentage Growth of Filipino Migrants in the Four Traditional Immi-
gration Countries, 1999-2008
Source: Stock data from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas n.d.
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 73 
In Our Future with Asia, the New Zealand Government reports that as of
2006, Filipinos are the fourth largest ethnic group in New Zealand (New
Zealand Government 2007). In 2001, 30 per cent of New Zealand’s univer-
sity-qualified people were born overseas and of this, 20 per cent of the total
is of Asian descent. In particular, the Philippines is ranked as the third larg-
est source of skilled migrants in science and technology.
Meanwhile, in Australia, those arriving under its skilled category com-
prise the largest group of settlers for 2002 to 2009. In 2008-2009, around
158,000 new settlers came (Australian Government 2009). The Philippines
was the sixth largest source of these settlers behind the UK, New Zealand,
India, China and South Africa.
Clearly, as compared to Australia, New Zealand does not appear to be a
preferred destination of Filipinos as evidenced by the small size of its Filipi-
no diaspora. However, 89 per cent of its Filipino migrants in 2008 are per-
manent migrants suggesting that return migration is very slim. In terms of
policy, this is a serious issue for the Philippines as far as the debate on
knowledge loss is concerned.
Moreover, the choice of New Zealand and Australia as host countries is
conceptually relevant to study. New Zealand is the first in the world to have
embarked on the neoliberal agenda (Kelsey 1995). Between 1984 and the
early 1990s, reforms were made in the welfare system and in the financial
and labour markets, along with the privatisation of many functions per-
formed by the government and opening up the local industry to competition.
At the same time, realising the many economic opportunities and the geo-
political significance for New Zealand that relations with Asia could bring,
New Zealand’s economic priorities have also started to focus in the region.
Its neoliberal reforms included changes in its immigration policies that take
a more liberal stance to attract Asian capital and skills. By accepting immi-
grants from non-traditional source countries such as the Asian region, New
Zealand not only found a source of capital and skilled labour, it also “con-
solidated (its) regional connections with Asia” (Spoonley 2006: 20). As
Asia’s global representation strengthens and deepens, particularly through
East Asia (China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan) and South Asia (India),
New Zealand and Australia will continue to look at the Asian region as a
significant site in terms of their economic future. This suggests continuous
and increased flows of capital, ideas, technology and people (both high
skilled and low skilled) between New Zealand and Australia and the coun-
tries of Asia, including the Philippines.
 74 Sheila V. Siar 
Defining Important Terms
For the purpose of this research, a ‘highly skilled migrant’ is defined as hav-
ing at least a tertiary degree and a current job that belongs to the three high-
est occupational major groups in the International Standard Classification of
Occupations (ISCO) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), name-
ly: (1) Legislators, Senior Officials and Managers, (2) Professionals, and (3)
Technicians and Associate Professionals; and being born in the home coun-
try, in this case, the Philippines, and may or may not be a permanent mi-
grant in the host country. The point of reference in terms of occupation is
the migrant’s current job. This ameliorates issues of incomparability of qual-
ification levels across international labour markets and, at times, the lack of
recognition of national qualifications by foreign employers.
Apart from the comprehensiveness and applicability of the ISCO for
international comparison of occupations across national labour markets, its
use in the research is guided by the fact that both New Zealand and Austral-
ia, along with many other OECD countries, have developed or revised their
national classifications using ISCO as their model (Hoffmann and Scott
Meanwhile, the term ‘knowledge transfer’ is operationally defined in the
research as the sharing or flows of knowledge or skills on, but not limited to,
science and technology, business and trade, economics, and culture and the
arts. Activities by which knowledge transfer may be carried out may be in-
formal or formal in nature and may include, but are not limited to, meetings,
email information/ data exchanges, training, informal advisory, research
project, and expert consulting (Meyer and Brown 1999), setting up business
ventures or investing in the home country (Hunger 2004; Zweig 2006;
Zweig, Chung, and Han 2008), and creative works and performances about
culture and life in the home country (Addison 2008). The cited references
serve as the study’s bases for defining knowledge transfer and determining
the different kinds of activities that may be considered knowledge transfer.
3 In 2006, Australia and New Zealand released a unified system of standard classifi-
cation of occupations which is compatible with ISCO-88 (Australian Bureau of
Statistics 2009). Jointly developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Sta-
tistics New Zealand (Statistics NZ) and the Australian Government Department of
Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), the system is called the Australian
and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 75 
The Highly Skilled Filipinos in New Zealand and
The profile of highly skilled migrants who were found to have knowledge
transfers to the Philippines and thereby interviewed for the research gives an
idea of the characteristics of the highly skilled Filipino diaspora in New
Zealand and Australia.
The sample consisted of 32 participants: 11 from New Zealand and 21
from Australia. The majority of the participants were between 35 and 55
years old (68%). By host country, most of the participants from New Zea-
land were younger, between 35 and 45 (64%), while most of the participants
from Australia were between 35 and 45 (38%) and 46 and 55 years old
(38%). The majority of the participants in New Zealand were males (64%)
while there were slightly more female participants in Australia (52%). In
both countries, there were more participants who were living with a spouse
or partner than those who were not (82% in New Zealand and 67% in Aus-
Looking at the level of education of all the participants, the majority of
them have a Bachelor’s degree (31%) or a PhD (31%). The education of the
Australian participants is higher. There are more participants with PhD in
Australia (43%) than in New Zealand (9%) but there are more participants
with master’s degree in New Zealand (27%) than in Australia (5%).
Table 4 provides details of the participants’ specific occupation before
migrating as well as their current occupation. These are categorised using the
ISCO (International System of Classification of Occupations) system, name-
ly: ISCO 1 (Legislators, Senior Officials, Managers) and ISCO 2 (Profes-
sionals). Their reported occupations prior to migration signify their highly
skilled status before migrating. A little more than 70 per cent of them were
employed in professional jobs before migrating and a small percentage were
managers (19%). There were more migrants in New Zealand who held man-
agerial positions before migrating. Three migrants, all in Australia, were
students before they migrated. Two of them, brother and sister, came with
their parents when they were teenagers, while the other one was an under-
graduate who settled in Australia after marrying his Australian girlfriend.
Although these three did not obtain their tertiary degrees in the home coun-
try, they were included in the study for important insights that can be
gleaned from their cases.
Looking at the participants’ current occupation, it is apparent that there
have been significant changes between the time prior to their migration and
after they migrated. While the total number of professionals has not
changed as Table 4 shows, the number of migrants holding managerial posi-
 76 Sheila V. Siar 
tions has slightly increased and this can be attributed to the rise of business
owners. These results not only point to the phenomenon of deskilling which
is experienced by most highly skilled migrants, but they also show a type of
coping mechanism used by the highly skilled to improve their labour market
participation which is creating their own employment (Riaño and Baghdadi
Table 4: The Migrants’ Occupation prior to Migration and their Present Occu-
pation at the Time of the Interview, New Zealand and Australia, 2009
Occupation prior to
quency Present occupation Fre-
Legislators, Senior
Officials, Managers ISCO 1
Legislators, Senior
Officials, Managers
echnical manager 1Sales manager 1
Regional tourism director 1 Operations and export
director 1
Sales manager 1Department manager 1
ice-president (real estate
sales and development) 1 Executive officer 1
Information systems
manager 1 Business owner/ Manag-
ing director 3
Lawyer/ Managing part-
ner in a law firm 1
otal 6
otal 7
professor/ Lecturer/
Senior lecturer
professor/ Lecturer/
Senior lecturer
Medical doctor 4Medical doctor 4
Researcher/ Scientist 3 Researcher/ Scientist/
Senior scientist 4
echnical specialist/
Development worker 2 Quarantine specialist 1
Publications editor 2Case officer 1
Programme officer 1
echnical adviser 1
Computer programmer 1Programme officer 1
Business consultant 1Lawyer 1
rade specialist 1Computer programmer 1
Legislative officer 2Rehabilitation specialist 1
Sales executive 1Disbursement officer 1
Nurse 1
eacher 1
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 77 
Occupation prior to
quency Present occupation Fre-
Business development
consultant 1
otal 23
otal 23
Student 3Retired professor 1
Retired lawyer 1
Source: Author’s own compilation.
Other details of their employment experiences reveal the difficulties that
some of them faced to integrate in the domestic labour market and the
strategies they employed to address these. While a little more than half of
the total had a first occupation in the host country which was related and
commensurate to their level of education and training prior to migration, the
rest initially worked in unrelated occupations. About 24 per cent of the total
got employed once in a job that was unrelated to their level of education and
training, 11 per cent worked twice and three per cent worked three or four
times each before they were able to get employed in a related and commen-
surate occupation. Seven of 23 participants who did not have employment
difficulties were scientists and academics who had job offers before their
arrival in the host country. The other participant who had the same success-
ful experience was an inter-company transferee from Mexico to New Zea-
Although the majority of the migrants did not have employment
difficulties on their arrival in the host country, about 46 per cent of the total
studied for a degree, diploma or certificate in the host country. The degree
or course they have completed is given in Table 5. When asked about their
main reason for doing this, most of them said they wanted to enhance their
credentials to land a better job. This clearly relates to the experience of
several migrants in the research who had difficulty in the beginning to find
an occupation which was related or commensurate to their education or
 78 Sheila V. Siar 
Table 5: Degree or Course Attended by Migrants Who Studied in the Host
Country, New Zealand and Australia (n = 15)
Degree/ course Frequenc
PhD 5
Masters 4
Bachelors 4
Postgraduate diploma 4
Certificate course 2
Note: Total does not equal to 15 as some migrants studied for more than one degree or
course. For instance, the migrant who immigrated in his late teens studied from
Bachelors to PhD in the host country.
Source: Author’s own compilation.
The majority of the participants arrived in the 1990s and 2000s (Table 6).
The participants from New Zealand are fairly recent migrants who arrived
mostly in the 2000s while those from Australia came in the 1990s. There
were even a few participants who arrived in Australia as early as the 1970s.
The proliferation of arrivals into New Zealand in the 2000s may be attribut-
ed to the effects of the introduction of the Skilled Migrant Category in De-
cember 2003. This new category of migrant phased out the General Migrant
Category. Based on a revised points-based system, it is intended to bolster
the recruitment of skilled migrants which New Zealand needs (Birrel,
Hawthorne, and Richardson 2006). It is similar to Australia’s selection crite-
ria in the areas of English language requirements, bonus points for former
international students with NZ qualifications, and additional bonus points
for occupations of current shortage, job offer and other employment-related
criteria (Birrel, Hawthorne, and Richardson 2006). For Australia, the prolif-
eration of participants who arrived in the 1990s reflects the increasing trend
of Asian migration in that period as a result of relaxation of policies of eth-
nic and racial exclusion which began earlier, of which the most significant
changes include the discarding of the White Australia Policy in 1973 by the
new Labour Government and the introduction of a points system in 1979 in
which personal skills, rather than race and ethnicity, became the basis for
selection (Ongley and Pearson 1995).
The majority of participants from New Zealand have been residents for
more than two years and less than eight years which is consistent with the
previous finding that most of them are fairly recent migrants. Meanwhile, a
greater number of participants from Australia have been residents for more
than 14 years and even more than 20 years. Expectedly, as most participants
have been living in the host countries for a relatively longer period of time, a
large percentage of them (84%) are already citizens (Table 6). The rest are
either still permanent residents or on work permits.
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 79 
Table 6: Participants’ Arrival in the Host Countries, Length of Stay as at the
Time of the Interview (2009) and Immigration Status
Arrival NZ Aus Total %
1970s 0 4 4 12.50
1980s 1 4 5 15.63
1990s 2 10 12 37.50
2000s 8 3 11 34.38
Total 11 21 32 100.00
Length of stay in host
country NZ Aus Total %
6 to 24 months 1 0 1 3.13
More than 24 months to 8
years 6 2 8 25.00
More than 8 to 14 years 2 4 6 18.75
More than 14 years to 20
years 1 7 8 25.00
More than 20 years 1 8 9 28.13
Total 11 21 32 100.00
Immigration status NZ Aus Total %
Citizen 8 19 27 84.38
Permanent resident 3 1 4 12.50
Work permit 1 1 3.13
Total 11 21 32 100.00
Source: Author’s own compilation.
Involvement in Knowledge Transfer
The reported knowledge transfers of the 32 participants were organized into
three general themes. These themes and the number of migrants who re-
ported these knowledge transfers are: (1) science and technology knowledge:
13 migrants; (2) business and trade knowledge: 8 migrants; and (3) other
types of knowledge (e.g., creative arts and culture, development models and
project management tools, migration information, Philippine issues): 11
Focusing only on knowledge transfers that deal with the flow of S&T
knowledge to the home country, this section of the paper analyses these
knowledge transfers.
 80 Sheila V. Siar 
Onset of the S&T Knowledge Transfers
Figure 3 shows the time when the 13 migrants involved in S&T knowledge
transfers arrived in the host country and the time when they started to be-
come involved in knowledge transfers. Pseudonyms were used in lieu of
their actual names in keeping up with the interview consent agreement that
the participants’ privacy will be protected.
Fig. 3: Year of Arrival in the Host Country and Onset of S&T Knowledge
Transfers (n = 13)
Migrants in Australia
Migrants in New Zealand
Source: Author’s own compilation.
1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010
Ter y
Arrival inH ost Country S tartof Knowl edge T ransf er
1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010
Arriva linH ost Country S tart ofKnow ledg e Tra nsfe r
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 81 
As can be gleaned from Figure 3, it has taken some time for early migrants
or those who came in the ‘70s and ‘80s to become involved in knowledge
transfers. The S&T knowledge transfers undertaken by the migrants in Aus-
tralia occurred only beginning the 1990s and those by the migrants in New
Zealand took place only beginning the 2000s or nearly 20 years after their
migration. This may be linked to the fact that migrants in their initial years
were still settling in, not yet stable and lacking in both economic capital and
extensive social networks. As described earlier, they were not insulated from
settlement issues in the host countries however educated or skilled they were.
Some of them experienced deskilling and took a number of jobs before
finally getting the one that was commensurate to their skills and level of
education. Some migrants even trained or studied for a degree in the host
country to increase their chances of getting a better job.
This delayed onset of knowledge transfer vis-à-vis the migrants’ arrival
in the host country appears to be consistent with the Indian diaspora’s in-
volvement in the growth of India’s software industry. Arriving in large
streams in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Indian diaspora in the United States began
to emerge as a significant force in the economic activities of their home
country only in the ‘90s, or 10 to 20 years later when they had already estab-
lished themselves and had resources to invest as well as the networks to tap
(Pandey et al. 2006).
It is also interesting to note that the onset of transfers of the more re-
cent migrants or those who arrived in the 2000s is earlier compared to those
who migrated 20 or 30 years ago. This may be attributed to the impacts of
enormous advancements in communication and transportation technologies
(ICTs) that have taken place in this period and made knowledge transfer
Nature of the S&T Knowledge Transfers
Most of the knowledge transfers are actual visits to the Philippines to give
lectures and training, conduct medical and surgical missions, and set up
agricultural technology-based livelihood activities. A few of these knowledge
transfers are virtual in nature, aided by ICTs such as, for example, the case
of two academics who served as thesis co-advisors. Knowledge intermedia-
tion or brokering by the diaspora is also seen in three cases. Two of them
facilitated the bringing of health expertise and equipment to the Philippines;
the other spearheaded the formation of a science and technology diaspora
network, which in turn also performed a brokering role of bringing S&T
knowledge to the Philippines through its members. Box 1 provides a brief
description of five of these S&T knowledge transfers.
 82 Sheila V. Siar 
The role of intermediaries is acknowledged in the knowledge spillover
literature (Wright et al. 2008; Yusuf 2008). Intermediation, according to
Yusuf (2008), is notably important when the knowledge is the tacit or un-
codified type. Knowledge related to S&T particularly the skills type is usually
considered tacit or uncodified and thus also require face-to-face contact for
successful transfer.
In the selected cases described in Box 1, the presence of knowledge in-
termediaries is apparent in Gary’s case through the STAC-Melbourne as well
as in Vic’s case. The UNDP’s TOKTEN program and the Philippine gov-
ernment’s Balik (Return) Scientist program provided the avenues for expat-
riate scientists to share their skills in the home country. The management of
the BSP is handled by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
According to the BSP head, Assistant Secretary Ma. Lourdes Orijola of the
DOST, the BSP started in 1975 for a period of five years, extended up to
1986 and revived in 1993. As of 2008, there have been a total of 320 scien-
tists who came back, 195 who went back to their host countries after their
stint, 114 are still in the Philippines, and 14 are already deceased.4
The state-run and funded Philippine General Hospital (PGH) is anoth-
er example of an intermediary whose facilitation became instrumental in the
case of Jenny and of Mina. In Australia, local organisations such as the Rota-
ry Club have also performed an intermediation role by providing financial
support in the medical and surgical missions to the Philippines organised by
However, the case of Anton shows that knowledge transfer can pro-
ceed and flourish even without the presence of knowledge intermediaries.
Yet it is surmised that knowledge transfers that receive brokering assistance
are more organised and have a wider scope in terms of audience reach. Be-
cause resources and support in terms of facilitation are also provided by
knowledge intermediaries, knowledge transfers of this type also entail less
transaction cost for the expatriate professionals, which could be an incentive
for them.
The difficulty of not having a knowledge intermediary was apparent in
the case of Anton. He related experiencing coordination problems while
organising his lectures and seminars in the Philippines.
Occasionally you get a few invites where they just don’t go anywhere.
People just leave everything open-ended. They would contact me
while I’m here but once I’m there and I call them, they would say
they’re interested but there’s nothing definite which can be quite an-
4 E-mail to author, 14 October 2008.
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 83 
Some migrants also reported other kinds of barriers in conducting these
knowledge transfers. Ted, a restoration ecologist based in Australia and who
participated in the Philippine government’s return scientist program, felt
that some professionals in the Philippines are not receptive to the idea of
collaborating with expatriates. He sensed this in his interactions with aca-
demics from a certain university. “They think that anything that happens to
the Philippines is their thing,” he said.
Gary, a senior scientist in a government research organisation in Aus-
tralia who led the formation of a scientific diaspora network among Filipino
scientists, IT professionals and engineers in Melbourne, had the same ob-
servation. He said he got mixed reactions from some university officials
when he presented to them his ideas on how to improve the engineering
education in the Philippines. There was a group who welcomed the oppor-
tunity yet others were simply not interested. This is disappointing, he said.
Gary also observed that there is no strong sense of cooperation be-
tween the government and professional networks in the Philippines. There
is more competition rather than cooperation.
We tried to promote the setup used in Australia, and I guess it’s the
same setup in New Zealand, where government and industry work or
the professional bodies work together and even across professional
groups. But in the Philippines, they have their own tribes so it’s diffi-
cult to implement it because of that culture. So, I guess for that rea-
son, the benefits for the Philippines are less than for other places that
are able to work together.
Box 1: Brief Description of Selected Science and Technology Knowledge
Transfers Found in the Study
1 The case of Vic: The diaspora as a source of knowledge and skills
(with a knowledge intermediary)
After living in Australia for 22 years and wanting to work in the Philip-
pines which he had not done before, Vic applied to the Transfer of
Knowledge by Expatriate Professional (TOKTEN) programme of the
UNDP. At that time, he was an engineering professor in New South
Wales. He stayed for five months and gave short courses to professional
civil engineering bodies and to a tertiary university. When he was nearing
retirement, Vic took a long leave of absence and went back to the Phil-
ippines in 1997, as a return scientist under the Philippine government’s
Balik Scientist Program (Short-Term Expert). Feeling the three months
were not enough and given the availability of a full-time teaching posi-
tion, he extended his stay and taught courses in the engineering depart-
 84 Sheila V. Siar 
ment of the same state university which is his alma mater. At one point,
he also served as chairperson of the department. After seven years teach-
ing in the Philippines, Vic went back to Australia in 2004 to reunite with
his family. In 2009, already widowed, he returned to the Philippines,
again through the return scientist programme of the Philippine govern-
ment, and spent three months giving lectures and talks to tertiary institu-
2 The case of Anton: The diaspora as a source of knowledge and
skills (without a knowledge intermediary)
For the past 10 years, Anton, a practicing psychologist and senior lectur-
er of a university in New Zealand, has been giving free lectures and
workshops to different medical schools in Metro Manila each year when
he visits the Philippines. He always contacted his colleagues prior to his
visits to explore the possibility of giving lectures. In one of these lec-
tures, he shared a questionnaire he developed to help doctors diagnose
patients with sleep problems. At one point, in 2006, Anton also gave
away free of charge to some medical schools a psychiatry assessment
teaching software which he had developed. The software is being sold in
the US and in New Zealand. He also shared in his lectures a website ini-
tially designed to help university students handle stress. He developed
the website along with some colleagues in the New Zealand university
where he is employed.
3 The case of Jenny: The diaspora as a source and broker of
knowledge and skills
Since 2008, the Philippine Australia Medical Association (PAMA) has
been conducting medical and surgical missions to remote areas in the
Philippines. Although PAMA has been existing for 17 years, it was not
involved in this type of activity and mainly focused on fundraising for
donations which it sends to the Philippines. The idea for a medical mis-
sion started when Jenny, a new migrant, recommended it to her fellow
PAMA members. Since then, she has been in the forefront in organising
these medical missions, utilizing her contacts in the Philippines such as
her former colleagues in the University of the Philippines where she
graduated and a local chapter of Rotary Club in New South Wales where
she is an officer, for personnel, financial and institutional support.
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 85 
4 The case of Mina: The diaspora as a broker of knowledge and skills
An executive director at the Department of Health and Aging in Victo-
ria, Mina has been helping to send audiology experts and hearing aids for
deaf children in the Philippines since 1994. With her Italian audiologist
husband also rendering support, she is using her extensive contacts in
Australia in the audiology field to invite experts to share their skills and
to gather used hearing aid from hospitals which can be sent to the Phil-
ippines. The recipient of these efforts was initially a mission school for
the deaf established by an Italian priest and which was in need of not on-
ly hearing aids but also experts to calibrate these hearing aids and train
the teachers. Beginning 2000, the couple decided to change their focus of
not just helping a single school but the wider community by sending the
equipment to the Philippine Society of Audiology (PSA) whose president
she knows personally. Mina and her husband thought they could help
more people in this way because the PSA conducts regular medical mis-
sions in remote areas. The couple also linked the Australia-based experts
who are interested to share their skills in the Philippines through lectures
and training to the PSA for possible collaborative activities.
5 The case of Gary: The diaspora as a source of knowledge and as a
broker for the setting up of a skilled diaspora network
In 1994, Gary migrated to Australia as a skilled migrant with an offer of
employment from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research
Organisation (CSIRO). A year later, he established STAC-Melbourne.
STAC stands for Science and Technology Advisory Council, an alliance
of scientists, IT professionals, engineers and graduate students in the
S&T field to promote S&T advancement in the Philippines by way of
knowledge sharing and collaboration. Before coming to Australia, he had
been a member of STACNET, the virtual counterpart of STAC. When
he arrived in Victoria, he found that there were also one or two other
people who were STACNET members. Realising they could constitute
the core group to form a STAC chapter in Melbourne, Gary presented
the idea to them. He and his fellow STACNET members got together
and in 1995, they formally organised STAC-Melbourne, with him as the
founding president. The activities of STAC were mostly visits to the
Philippines to give presentations of the members’ studies as well as
meetings with fellow researchers for possible collaborative work. Part of
the objectives of STAC-Melbourne which this senior scientist tried to
promote was improving the engineering education in the Philippines.
Gary visited several Philippine universities offering engineering educa-
 86 Sheila V. Siar 
tion, including his alma mater where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree,
to look at their curriculum and talk to university officials.
Motivations for Involvement in Knowledge Transfer
The motivations shared by the migrants who were involved in S&T
knowledge transfers may be categorised into altruistic reasons and personal
gain. Altruism was exhibited by the majority of the participants and ap-
peared to be the strongest motivation. This sense of altruism was found to
be driven by four things.
One is the plain desire to help the Philippines which was cited by a
large majority of the migrants. For example, Nes, a medical practitioner in
Australia who was involved in promoting virgin coconut oil (VCO) in the
Philippines for treating diabetes, said he wanted to make Filipinos aware
they have something within their reach which is medicinally valuable. With
coconut trees abundant in the Philippines, VCO is a resource which is readi-
ly accessible to Filipinos.
I didn’t think that there was going to be any benefit to me. I think, in
fact, I lost money because I paid for my own transport going there,
back and forth. To me, I didn’t see that there is anything but what I
wanted to happen was for them to actually realize that they have
something in their hands and that they can actually potentially pene-
trate the world market with it, get the Filipinos known for, and it will
actually benefit the entire world medically as well. So that’s primarily
my purpose.
Another is the feeling of accountability to the home country. Ted, the resto-
ration ecologist who migrated to Australia when he was 17, felt he “should
give and return something to the Philippines.”
For Jenny, the medical doctor in Australia who initiated her organisa-
tion’s medical missions to the Philippines, the hardships she experienced
there was the motivating factor.
I know the hardship in the Philippines that is why I left, and because
of this, I want to take part actively in making life better for other peo-
ple. And then (gain) benefit for myself, mainly knowing that I am ful-
filling the goal I set to myself; otherwise, I will feel guilty.
For some, the obligation to their home country is linked to or influenced by
their professional training. This is somehow evident in the response of Ted:
Scientists like me have an obligation for science to flourish and this
can be achieved by exchanging knowledge and collaborating. I am a
scientist, I have a natural curiosity for learning. I love what I’m doing
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 87 
and I love sharing with others because you know, that is an attribute
of being a good human being.
Similarly, the motivation given Tery, the ex-military who migrated to Aus-
tralia, is related to his former profession in the Philippines.
I was in the military; I was trained there so my heart is in service. And
because it was cut-off by some events which I didn’t have any control,
I still long for that thing, my heart is still in the Philippines. You can
take the Filipino out of the Philippines but you cannot take the Phil-
ippines out of the Filipino. That’s why whenever I see some technol-
ogies that may be applicable there, I ask myself what can I do.
Only two participants gave reasons that are different from the ones previ-
ously discussed. Their reasons were more self-seeking in nature. One of
them is Nilo, an associate professor in an Australian university who availed
of the return scientist programme and is currently involved in mentoring
Philippine students majoring in analytical chemistry by acting as a co-
supervisor. He said he thinks his knowledge transfer is also beneficial to him
because the students are able to help him in his research and in terms of
joint publications, which would assist in the advancement of his academic
Another example is Tem, a food scientist in Australia who availed of
the return scientist programme of the Philippine government and Australia’s
volunteer programme. He returned to the Philippines through these pro-
grammes to be with his ageing parents. In fact, after two short-term volun-
teer stints (one with the Australian programme and the other with the Phil-
ippine government), he applied for a longer return scientist engagement of
two years to spend more time in the Philippines to be with them.
I go back to the Philippines only because of them. Before I don’t miss
them but lately, I began to miss them and be concerned about them
because they’re old already. All of us are already living abroad and on-
ly my parents have remained in the Philippines.
The sense of altruism exhibited by the majority of the migrants in these S&T
knowledge transfers and which emerged to be the stronger motivation for
sharing their knowledge with the home country has also been found in the
other types of transfers (business and trade, and other types). These altruis-
tic reasons are actually consistent with the strong diasporic connections that
most of the participants demonstrated.
For instance, while more than 80 per cent of them are already citizens
of either host country, 75 per cent of all participants still consider the Phil-
ippines as their ‘home’. The majority of them had taken the citizenship op-
 88 Sheila V. Siar 
tion only for pragmatic reasons (e.g., ease of travel/ mobility, benefits and
security that the citizenship could bring). This demonstrates that in reality,
the participants do still remain emotionally tied and connected with the
Philippines. At the same time, they are also loyal to the host country, cogni-
zant of their obligations as its citizens, and grateful for the security it pro-
vides them. About 66 per cent of them also still attend the celebration of the
Philippine Independence Day and events in the host country that highlight
Philippine culture such as shows and concerts. Almost all of them also still
long for information about the Philippines with the Philippine media and
people back home as their frequent sources. When asked about aspects of
the Philippines they miss the most, they mentioned the sense of community
and social support, the customs and traditions in the Philippines, and the
tight family structure. Their responses suggest the high regard they still hold
for the community spirit which is dominant in the Filipino culture. Their
longing for these aspects is also demonstrated by the way they also miss the
(Filipino) people, in general, and traits such as sense of humour and warmth,
as well as their family and friends.
These sentiments denote the strong emotional ties that these highly
skilled migrants have with their country of origin. The knowledge transfers
they reported may be considered as another manifestation of these connec-
tions and more importantly, their commitment to the Philippines. It is also
possible that these emotional ties and sentimental longings have influenced
them to transfer their knowledge to the home country.
Knowledge transfers reinforce the transnational character of migration.
They link the host and home countries through the circular flows of
knowledge, skills, capital and technology. However, as the study shows, the
onset and sustainability of these transfers is affected by the level of stability
of the diaspora, which in turn is affected by various factors around them.
This shows that migrants remain bounded or constrained in terms of their
transnational or diasporic practices despite living in a transnational space. At
times, these factors pertain to policies in both countries – for example, the
host country in terms of its receptivity to the migrant population (particular-
ly in terms of labour policies) and the home country in terms of the support
it extends to its diaspora.
That the onset of knowledge transfer appears to be dependent on the
level of stability of the diaspora underscores the importance of appropriate
support for the successful adjustment and settlement of migrants – a task
for both home and host countries. For the home country, improving pre-
 Skilled Migration, Knowledge Transfer and Development 89 
departure information so that departing emigrants are aware of the situation
overseas, maintaining continuous linkage, and providing assistance through
the consular offices in the host countries are ways by which it could make
the lives of its diaspora easier. These could also keep the diaspora’s senti-
ments and sense of attachment with their home country alive.
Meanwhile, host countries should ensure a suitable environment for the
highly skilled to utilise their knowledge. Labour policies that constrain the
acceptance of the diaspora’s skills and education hamper the onset of their
knowledge transfer activities to their home country. Issues of unemploy-
ment and deskilling, or being relegated to lower status and lower paying jobs,
affect economic and professional stability. The lack of stability makes them
less capable of transferring knowledge because knowledge transfer requires
not just intellectual capital but also social and economic capital. This points
to the need for carefully aligned labour, education and migration policies in
host countries for all migrants, including highly skilled migrants.
The diaspora’s motivation to help the Philippines is evident in the S&T
knowledge transfer cases found in the study. This suggests the need for
intensive promotion of government programs such as the Balik (Return)
Scientist to entice expatriate scientists to share their skills. There was no one
from New Zealand who has tried the program suggesting the lack of pro-
motion. The BSP has been around since 1975 yet its impact appears to be
minimal. No less than its head, Assistant Secretary Orijiola in an interview
with the author in January 2010, attested to the lack of support – in terms of
staff and funding – of the Philippine government to the BSP. Taiwan, China
and Korea are good models to follow. They have been successful in encour-
aging their S&T diaspora to return and this she attributed to their govern-
ment’s well-orchestrated and well-funded programs. The Chinese model, a
very comprehensive one with a well-defined diaspora policy (the ‘dumb-bell
or double-base model), is documented in some publications (Zweig 2006;
Zweig, Chung, and Han 2008).
What the Philippines needs is not just additional programs but a well-
defined diaspora policy that will serve as a guide in coordinating and consol-
idating all activities and ensuring their sustainability. There is a strong bias
toward promoting labour migration (Alcid 2003; Asis 2006) for the obvious
reason of remittances. Little effort is being undertaken to mobilise expatriate
professionals and engage them in development. If the government will con-
tinue doing this, it will eventually lose its talented overseas professionals.
As a concept and strategy, knowledge transfer will only succeed if a
learning and sharing culture is also present in the home country. It is not
enough that expatriate professionals are willing to share their knowledge and
skills. The social environment where the sharing takes place should be re-
 90 Sheila V. Siar 
ceptive to knowledge exchange. As the study shows, some highly skilled
migrants felt the resistance and lack of openness of home-country profes-
sionals to exchange information and collaborate with them. The presence of
a diaspora policy and corresponding programs that explicitly promote a
culture of sharing and learning could serve as a positive signal not only for
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... Williams (2007) uluslararası göçmenlerin yerleştikleri ülkeye bilgi ve nitelik transferini inceleyen çalışmaları kapsamlı bir şekilde derleyerek, "bilgi transferi" kavramını ve bileşenlerini tartışmıştır. Benzer şekilde Siar (2011), yüksek niteliğe sahip Filipinli göçmenlerin Yeni Zelanda ve Avustralya ekonomilerine katkısını incelemiştir. Verilerin yüz yüze anket yoluyla elde edildiği çalışma, Filipinli nitelikli göçmenlerin, çalıştıkları firmalara bilgi transferin nasıl gerçekleştirdiklerini incelemiştir. ...
... Bilgi transferi, yüksek niteliğe sahip göçmenlerin kendi ülkelerinde edindikleri bilgi, yetenek ve fikirleri göç ettikleri ülkeye aktarma süreci olarak tanımlanmıştır. Siar (2011), böylesi bir bilgi transferi için uygun ortam yaratan firmaların, Filipinli göçmenlerin yeteneklerinden faydalanabildiğini göstermiştir. ...
... Tablo 2, adı geçen alt bölgelerin kapsadığı şehirleri göstermektedir. Siar (2011) gibi çalışmalar, göçmenlerin çalıştıkları firmaya ve sektöre, geldikleri ülkenin piyasa yapısı hakkında bilgi transferi sağladığını, bununla birlikte halihazırda sahip oldukları uluslararası bağlantıların da çalıştıkları firmaya katkı sunduğunu göstermişlerdir. Suriyeli göçmenler, Türkiye'ye geldikleri tarihlerden itibaren kendi firmalarını kurmuş ya da mevcut firmalara ortak olmuşlardır. ...
... Williams (2007) uluslararası göçmenlerin yerleştikleri ülkeye bilgi ve nitelik transferini inceleyen çalışmaları kapsamlı bir şekilde derleyerek, "bilgi transferi" kavramını ve bileşenlerini tartışmıştır. Benzer şekilde Siar (2011), yüksek niteliğe sahip Filipinli göçmenlerin Yeni Zelanda ve Avustralya ekonomilerine katkısını incelemiştir. Verilerin yüz yüze anket yoluyla elde edildiği çalışma, Filipinli nitelikli göçmenlerin, çalıştıkları firmalara bilgi transferin nasıl gerçekleştirdiklerini incelemiştir. ...
... Bilgi transferi, yüksek niteliğe sahip göçmenlerin kendi ülkelerinde edindikleri bilgi, yetenek ve fikirleri göç ettikleri ülkeye aktarma süreci olarak tanımlanmıştır. Siar (2011), böylesi bir bilgi transferi için uygun ortam yaratan firmaların, Filipinli göçmenlerin yeteneklerinden faydalanabildiğini göstermiştir. ...
... Tablo 2, adı geçen alt bölgelerin kapsadığı şehirleri göstermektedir. Siar (2011) gibi çalışmalar, göçmenlerin çalıştıkları firmaya ve sektöre, geldikleri ülkenin piyasa yapısı hakkında bilgi transferi sağladığını, bununla birlikte halihazırda sahip oldukları uluslararası bağlantıların da çalıştıkları firmaya katkı sunduğunu göstermişlerdir. Suriyeli göçmenler, Türkiye'ye geldikleri tarihlerden itibaren kendi firmalarını kurmuş ya da mevcut firmalara ortak olmuşlardır. ...
Conference Paper
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Descriptive Analysis of Perceived Realistic and Symbolic Threats from Syrian Asylum Seekers Abstract This study aimed to examine the bases of threat perception that plays an important role in the development of negative attitudes towards Syrian refugees. The Intergroup Threat Theory, which provides a useful framework to explain prejudice and discrimination against immigrants and asylum seekers, suggests two distinct intergroup threats. Those are a) realistic threats which refer to perceived threats to accessing or sharing limited resources and b) symbolic threats arising from the differences in the values, culture, and lifestyle of the outgroup that perceived as having damaging potential to the ingroup values. Results of the first study conducted in 2015 (N = 385) showed that participants' perceived threat levels were high in both, realistic and symbolic threats. In the second study (N = 381) that analyses of data collected in 2019 at a later stage of the migration revealed that the participants perceived threats from Syrian refugees in both realistic and symbolic sources, consistently with the first study. Thus, based on the findings of both studies, the participants perceived more realistic threats on the issues of finding a job and increase in house and rental prices and they perceived more symbolic threats on differences in values, traditions, and child-rearing styles. The results of our study suggest that there is a need to reduce the perceived threat from Syrian refugees. Keywords: Realistic Threats, Symbolic Threats, Prejudice, Asylum Seeker
... Data from various studies indicate that returning migrants in developing, middleincome or rapidly-growing economies are more likely to be among the best-educated (Batista et al., 2007;Commander et al., 2004;Luo & Wang, 2002;Mayr & Peri, 2008), and thus most successful (Zucker & Darby, 2007). The underlying idea of "brain gain" is that certain destination countries act as learning centers where migrants may acquire skills more successfully (Siar, 2011), especially abilities that are transferable and useful to their native country's environment (Wahba, 2015). Thus, people who emigrate may return to put their newly acquired knowledge to use (Hagan & Wassink, 2016). ...
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The topic of this thesis revolves around the relationship between external voting and return migration. The aim of this thesis was to check if the concurrence of government partisanship with the election results in emigrant constituencies can impact the return migration flows. The literature overviewed in this thesis suggests various reasons for emigrating and returning; however, there have not been many studies on return migration influenced by political participation and election results. As the topic becomes more relevant in the context of globalization, it is essential to consider the possibility of people emigrating as they are dissatisfied with the ruling government and eventually decide to return once the government changes as favored by the citizens residing abroad. The hypothesis of this thesis assumes that the number of returning citizens should increase once emigrants, who voted overseas in the elections, are satisfied with the election results as their favored party formed the coalition of the government. Data was taken from the official sites of countries' or territories' governments or received via email as per request. Years of the elections or return migration are taken since the first time external voting was allowed in each country, thus the time frame varies from 1994 to 2019, and respectfully a change in return migration data is taken from 1994 to 2020 to check whether the migration of returning citizens increased within a year after the election. The sample consists of 66 countries and territories that allow external voting and has data available. After running the final regression, the results of the study suggest the opposite relationship between remigration and election results in the emigrant constituency than was predicted; hence the hypothesis of this study is rejected. Diagnostic tests revealed flaws in the collected data. Thus some recommendations are made to help improve the quality of future studies.
... Supporting the influx of nurses to the USA was the commencement of the USA-based nursing curriculum and the hope of better economic and educational opportunities (Jurado & Pacquiao, 2015). Underpinning this are the reported historical exodus of millions of Filipino nurses to the USA and Canada between 1999 and 2008 (Livelo et al., 2018;Siar, 2011). Aotearoa, too, has historically drawn heavily on the recruitment of Filipino nurses. ...
Aotearoa New Zealand faces a workforce shortage of nurses nationally. One current approach to address the labour deficit is recruiting internationally qualified nurses (IQNs) into the workforce. Undertaking a competency assessment programme (CAP), entailing targeted study and clinical assessment, supports IQNs to meet Nursing Council of New Zealand requirements for nursing registration in Aotearoa. However, CAP providers offer the course with diverse approaches and there are no standardised curricula. Furthermore, to date, there is no empirical evidence on the utility of the CAP for IQNs regarding how well the programme meets its intended objectives from the perspective of the IQNs. This research aimed to identify the elements of the CAP that a specific cohort of IQNs found relevant and useful in their first two years of working as a registered nurse (RN) in Aotearoa. A secondary aim was to ascertain if, and how, the course was perceived to enhance their acculturation into the Aotearoa nursing profession. A qualitative research method of focused ethnography framed the methodological approach. Semi-structured interviews occurred with purposive sampling of CAP graduated IQNs from the Philippines and India, representing the largest practising IQN groups nationally. Twelve participants—eight from the Philippines and four from India—with between 3 and 17 years working as RNs in Aotearoa, were recruited from the upper North Island of Aotearoa. Thematic analysis of the data resulted in two main themes describing the participants’ experiences on the CAP: 1. navigating new professional practice and 2. the need for language proficiency and positive social support. Sub-themes arising were unfamiliarity with new clinical areas and nursing roles, feeling deskilled, and misunderstanding the healthcare concepts of cultural safety and te Tiriti O Waitangi. In addition, communication barriers, with English not being a native language, Aotearoa accents and new professional terminology, significantly influenced their experiences. Finally, novel research findings were the participants’ new understandings of the symmetrical power balances between healthcare professionals in Aotearoa and recognition of the importance of the support gained from engaged and knowledgeable clinical preceptors. This research found that the participants did not view their CAP experience as having a significant impact on learning new clinical skills, knowledge, or experience of their host country’s nursing workplace. Additionally, the curricula were not seen to have provided substantial educational and clinical experience benefits regarding the Aotearoa cultural context with the exception of specific cultural practices (Tikanga) and their application to nursing service provision for Māori. Recommendations from the research are for a comprehensive multiple stakeholder review of the current CAP curriculum, specifically regarding the clinical practice model used for recontextualising nursing practice and transitioning IQNs into the Aotearoa workforce, and the provision of targeted te Tiriti O Waitangi healthcare education: and the potential for new registration pathways in-keeping with recent global trends with a focus on key nursing knowledge examinations, and mandatory modules on Aotearoa cultural context. A further recommendation is – the inclusion of extended orientation periods and mandating a period of professional supervision for IQNs in the post-registration employment period.
... as the use of social media both as online community space and as a tool for community maintenance in both local and transnational settings is an emerging trend that has been noted worldwide among Cordillerans from ethnic minorities in particular, but also in wider Filipino immigrant communities (Ignacio, 2004;McKay, 2006McKay, , 2010Longboan, 2011;S. V. Siar, 2011;Benito, 2012;S. Siar, 2014;Botangen et al., 2017;Tindaan, 2020). As Liezel Longboan pointed out in her article on how Cordillerans from ethnic minorities are creating new places online to live out their ethnic identities while living in diaspora: ...
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As of 2021, approximately 100,000 Filipinos are residing as migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand. Of these, around 2,000 individuals identify as being affiliated with an ethnic minority group. The aims of this study were to discover and document how migrants from these Filipino ethnic minority groups perform their identities within the context of Aotearoa New Zealand. To investigate this, the project sought to understand which aspects of the participants' identities were visible and how they demonstrated them;
... In terms of economic type (e.g., donation), this correlation could be intepreted similarly to H4, that is, income influences donation mediated by regular training course. Concerning noneconomic types (e.g., sociocultural activities, charitable activities), the finding is consistent with Siar [111], who investigated the relationship between highly skilled migrants and promoting welfare through "knowledge transfers" (e.g., ideas, knowledge) to their sending communities. Possibly, enhancing skills and knowledge by participating in a training course at the destination influences migrants' philanthropic behaviors toward their home communities. ...
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Rural-to-urban migration contributes to the economic and social sustainability of sending communities. The aim of this study was to obtain quantitative evidence supporting the theoretical argument that (i) rural-to-urban migrants contribute to the sustainability of their sending communities, and (ii) once they return, they are likely to behave prosocially as return migrants because they feel a responsibility to apply the knowledge and skills they acquired during migration for the sake of others in their sending communities. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in Hanoi, Vietnam, a typical destination city of domestic rural-to-urban migrants. Three hundred rural-to-urban migrants participated in this survey. The ultivariate regression analysis results indicate that rural-to-urban migrants contribute more to the social and economic sustainability of their rural home communities when they have spent longer in their migration destinations and have accumulated skills and knowledge because their experiences foster a sense of responsibility toward their home communities. This is the first quantitative investigation of the relationship between rural-to-urban migrants’ characteristics representing their accumulation of skills and knowledge in their destination cities and their supportive attitudes toward their home communities. This investigation seemed important because it was expected to clarify the conditions under which rural-to-urban migration stimulates migrants’ sense of responsibility and thus their contributions to the social and economic sustainability of their sending communities.
This article examines the political representation of Asian minorities in Australia. Utilising the case studies of the 2018 Victorian State Election and the 2019 Federal Election, it analyses how Asian candidates’ migratory, ethnic and politico-economic backgrounds shaped their pathways to politics. Based on publicly available data on Asian-heritage politicians and interviews with Asian Australians involving in party politics, the study finds both underlying challenges and emerging opportunities that Asian candidates continue to experience within Australia’s liberal nationalist multiculturalism. The study finds that institutional barriers, cultural fitness and Australia’s relations with Asian neighbours are key factors that contribute to the changing nature of Asian Australian political representation. Finally, it argues that while Australia’s migration programs have invited the skilled youth from Asia, the country’s historical White Australia policy and modern suspicion of ‘silent invasion’ still present challenges for Asian candidates in politics.
Understanding the drivers of economic growth is one of the fundamental questions in Economics. While the role of the factors of production—capital and labor—is well understood, the mechanisms that underpin Total Factor Productivity (TFP) are not fully determined. A number of heterogeneous studies point to the creation and transmission of knowledge, factor supply, and economic integration as key aspects; yet a need for a systematic and unifying framework still exists. Both capital and labor are embedded into a complex network structure through global supply chains and international migration, and it has been shown that the structure of global trade plays an important role in economic growth. Additionally, recent research has established a link between types of social capital and different network centralities. In this paper we explore the role of these measures of social capital as drivers of the TFP. By leveraging the EORA Multi Regional Input Output and the UN International Migration databases we build the complex network representation for capital and labor respectively. We compile a panel data set covering 155 economies and 26 years. Our results indicate that social capital in the factors of production network significantly drives economic output through TFP.
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Academic diasporas have an impact both on their host countries and their homeland during the process of knowledge creation and human capital stock increase. This study examines the effect of the reverse migration tendencies of academicians in the Turkish Diaspora on their academic productivity. In the study, data obtained from 466 Turkish scientists working in universities and research centers in Germany were analyzed through Probit Regression. According to the results, the tendency of intellectual reverse migration of the scientists in Diaspora affects academic productivity positively. Accordingly, the intellectual reverse migration tendency of scientists in the diaspora increases their academic productivity by 0.12%. In addition, it is concluded that the academic connections of the academic diaspora affect their academic productivity positively.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entertainment industry globally, yet little is known about the experiences of migrant musicians during this crisis. Drawing from interviews with Filipino musicians in Australia, this article considers the pandemic’s impacts on this migrant group and the ways in which they demonstrate resilience through their social and cultural capital. Their physical and virtual networks as well as skills in music and other ventures allow them to respond to the precarity connected with their translocal experiences as migrant musicians and skilled labour migrants during the pandemic. Nonetheless, this resilience is dependent on individuals’ particular economic, social and personal circumstances. Recognizing the case of Filipino musicians in Australia leads to a rethinking of potential policy implications on particular struggles facing migrant musicians in Australia during the pandemic crisis.
New Zealand's immigration policies and trends since 1945 are compared with those of Canada and Australia. For most of this period, Australia has pursued the more expansive immigration policy while Canada and New Zealand have tended to link immigration intakes to fluctuations in labor demand. All three countries initially discriminated against non-European immigrants but gradually moved towards nondiscriminatory policies based on similar selection criteria and means of assessment. New Zealand has traditionally been more cautious than both Canada and Australia in terms of how many immigrants it accepted and from what sources, but it has recently followed the other two in raising immigration targets and encouraging migration from nontraditional sources, particularly Asian countries. Historical, global and national factors are drawn upon to explain the degree of convergence between these three societies.
Transnational entrepreneurs — US-educated immigrant engineers whose activities span national borders — are creating new economic opportunities for formerly peripheral economies around the world. Talented immigrants who have studied and worked in the US are increasingly reversing the ‘brain drain’ by returning to their home countries to take advantage of promising opportunities there. In so doing they are building technical communities that link their home countries to the world centre of technology, Silicon Valley. As the ‘brain drain’ increasingly gives way to a process of ‘brain circulation’, networks of scientists and engineers are transferring technology, skill and know-how between distant regional economies faster and more flexibly than most corporations.
The Philippines and Mexico are the top labour-exporting countries in the world. But while Mexico’s workers are land-based and concentrated mainly in the United States, the estimated 7.29 million Filipino land-and sea-based workers abroad are spread out in more than 180 countries and destinations (Kanlungan Centre Foundation 2000). These workers constitute more than 10 per cent of the total Philippine population and at least a fifth of its labour force. San Juan (1998) describes this situation as the ‘unprecedented Filipino diaspora, a phenomenon analogous not to the Jewish but to the African and Chinese dispersal around the world’ (San Juan 1998: 2). This diaspora has become a vital social concern, mainly due to the country’s loss of its professionals, and skilled workers, the adverse impact on the family (e.g. children growing up without fathers or mothers or both), and the problems arising from the fact that ‘in the racially stratified or ethnically segmented labour market of the United States as well as the rest of the world, Filipinos occupy the lower strata, primarily in service occupations such as food, health, cleaning ’ (ibid: 9). Such problems include de-skilling, racist and discriminatory laws and policies in the receiving countries, and violations of overseas workers’ human and labour rights.