From brain drain and brain gain to brain circulation: conceptualizing re-expatriation intentions of Vietnamese returnees

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Internationalisation in Vietnamese Higher Education



Place of Publication



School of Business and Law




Ho, N. T. T., Seet, P. S., & Jones, J. (2018). From brain drain and brain gain to brain circulation: Conceptualizing re-expatriation intentions of Vietnamese returnees. In Internationalisation in Vietnamese Higher Education (pp. 217-234). Springer, Cham.


Much of the extant literature in the field of brain circulation has tended to focus on talented individuals leaving their home countries (brain drain) or talented graduate/professionals returning to their home countries (reverse brain drain). As part of its economic strategy to transform its economy, Vietnam has adopted measures aimed at tackling skill shortages and reversing the so-called “brain drain” by attracting back overseas Vietnamese graduates/professionals. This reversal, however, may be temporary as Vietnamese returnees may go abroad again (in other words, re-expatriate), if for example, they are unhappy and do not adjust well to their home country. This paper reviews research on the reasons behind why Vietnamese returnees who have studied and/or worked abroad in advanced/developed economies, and have returned to Vietnam, may decide to re-expatriate on their own initiative. We find that intentions to re-expatriate are affected by different pull and push factors associated with the home and host countries. Vietnamese returnees are pulled abroad by host country attraction (e.g. higher salaries and better job opportunities), and pushed away from their home country by home country dissatisfaction (e.g. dissatisfaction with the working environment in Vietnam). Further, negative re-entry experiences (e.g. reverse culture shock and poor cross-cultural readjustment) may prompt Vietnamese returnees to consider re-expatriating. This chapter adds to the limited number of studies on brain circulation and re-expatriation of returnees in emerging economies. It contributes to theory by developing a conceptual framework of factors affecting the re-expatriation intentions of returnees in the context of an emerging economy, notably Vietnam. It also offers a number of implications for the Vietnamese government and managers with respect to retaining Vietnamese returnees.



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