08 September 2009 ~ 2 Comments

British graduates sent out into the world to volunteer…. who will benefit?

I enjoyed this post on the Working World blog which which discusses how:

in an effort to give unemployed graduates something to do, the British government is paying 500 people under 24 to travel abroad and take part in projects “such as building schools”

I can no longer get the BBC link to work, but you get the overview from Mark’s post as it is.  Many people now understand the negative effects of “dumping” when it comes to food supplies between countries, typically ones which have extreme discrepancies of wealth.  Dare I say, if programs like this continue to expand and if foreigners are paid by their own governments to do work for free which would otherwise cost money to hire a local person to do, would that then be human “dumping”?

  • soe

    Though in not similar manner, I feel guilty to have involved in such community projects throughout my university years…

    I am not saying that it is totally wrong… or students involved in such projects are evil…

    it is necessary first to know and understand conditions in developing countries to actually solve or contribute to better changes…

    sending money (and clueless students) without good intention but just to express superficial goodwill definitely have more bad impacts than good impacts…

    it is hard to advocate for grants without strings attached…

    an easier way is that host organizations working on the ground embrace and facilitate these students…

  • Sol

    It seems clear that in the majority of short-term, overseas volunteer experiences, the greatest impact is the one on the self. Overseas experience is also a great benefit to resumes and generally on making individuals more worldly and observant of events outside of their home country. The actual impact of an overseas volunteer, especially one without any specialization, is probably quite low (neither highly positive nor negative).

    Of course there are exceptions to this. However, overall this may amount to a dumping of humans, which thereby weakens local economies. If this is true, then the solution seems simple: make the experience an exchange.

    Many individuals in developing nations long for the experience to work in developed countries. Some individuals in developed nations seek to gain the experience of being in new and challenging situations where they can try to assist others.

    This may seem like a very tongue-in-cheek solution, but it is not. Our current systems of migration are misguided. The best and brightest of developing countries strive to work in developed countries where incomes are high. This results in a huge brain drain. This also discourages developing countries to invest in higher education in cases when they know that many of the graduates will simply seek employment elsewhere (i.e. Governments invest in human capital, but get none of the return in GDP.)

    However, the fact remains that skilled professionals are still limited by the experience they can gain in their home countries. Our systems of migration should then reflect the necessity for people to gain experience outside of their home countries. Hence, we should create period exchanges between countries. Skilled computer scientists or chemists or nurses will come to the US or Japan or Europe to fill shortages. Meanwhile unemployed graduates in political science, education, or foreign languages will go to developing countries to fill shortages in those areas. After a period of a year or two, both individuals will return to their home nation with greater knowledge and experience. (Hopefully, the returnee to the developing country would also bring back some amount of compensation as well)

    In this sort of system, there would still be winners and losers. For example, job markets would become more competitive in both places, pushing out indigenous workers. However, this is simply the competitive nature of globalization.

    (Speaking on subject of globalization, congratulations to PEPY on the geotourism award. I am glad to have voted.)