Center for Migration and Refugee Studies

Author's Department

Center for Migration and Refugee Studies

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Cairo Studies on Migration and Refugees

Publication Date



Within the Middle East and North Africa region, Egypt can certainly be considered the number one emigration country in terms of total number of emigrants. But even within a larger pool of countries, the developing countries for instance, Egypt still occupies a position within the list of top ten-emigration countries according to the World Bank . Egypt is also amongst the top remittance-receiving countries with only thirteen other countries worldwide receiving a higher level of remittances in the year 20103 . While accounts of the actual number of Egyptian migrants vary greatly due to the unavailability of accurate and comprehensive data (estimates range from 3-8 million), there is no doubt that there are millions of highly-skilled Egyptians abroad in both Arab and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries4 . One would assume that much research has gone into exploring the effects of such high levels of highly-skilled emigration on Egypt‟s development. However, the reality of the matter is that the relationship between Egyptian emigration and development has not received enough attention. Meanwhile, in the international arena, debates about the relationship between migration and development have raged over the past decades. More recently, though, a growing body of literature has begun to stress the positive effects emigration can have on the development of labor sending countries. This body of literature points to the resources (both financial and non-financial) available in migrant communities that can be leveraged for home country development5 . There are multiple factors, nonetheless, that shape this process and determine whether or not emigration can yield such a positive result. Of these factors, home country policy has surfaced as a majorly influential determinant in recent years. In the case of Egypt, though, there has been very limited research specifically conducted on the Egyptian government‟s recognition, or possibly lack thereof, of the value of the millions of highly-skilled Egyptian migrants presently abroad for Egypt‟s development. Especially following some of the developments that have emerged in the past couple of decades such as the emergence and applicability of the transnational approach to migration, the increasingly skilled nature of Egyptian migrants, and the proven benefits associated with home countries‟(such as India and China) engagement of their migrants, an examination of this topic is well overdue. Survey and analysis of present day Egyptian migration policies and more specifically Egyptian engagement policies towards migrants is essential to understanding the current effects of Egyptian highly-skilled emigration on Egypt‟s development and to maximizing the benefits that Egypt can amass as a result of such highly-skilled emigration. This paper hopes to make a contribution towards this end. It will focus on Egyptian government policies, beginning in the early 1980s, towards highly-skilled migrants. This time period has been selected as it constitutes the most recent phase of Egyptian migration policy. For the purposes of this paper, “highly-skilled migrants” are defined as those that have, at the least, a university degree. In this case, we have decided to further focus our study specifically to the engagement of highly-skilled migrants residing in the OECD. This focus was selected due to the value of highly-skilled migrants for home country development and the large proportion of them in OECD countries as well as to the greater availability of data on migrants in OECD countries. Hence, our main research questions for this paper are what are the policies of the Egyptian government towards the migration of highly-skilled Egyptians and towards the engagement of highly-skilled migrants specifically in the OECD? And are these policies likely to engage highly-skilled migrants in the OECD for Egypt‟s development? Before we delve into an examination of this question, though, we believe it will be useful to briefly review some of the theories that have emerged on transnationalism and the engagement of migrants in recent decades as they constitute the guiding framework for this paper.

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