Why is “Brain drain” a burning problem for the economy?


Through the most of my own analyzes and researches, I was trying to give an answer to the reasons for the low economic growth in Macedonia. Inevitably, the problem that the country has with the outflow of young and qualified staff - the one which, by all logic, was meant to be the driving force that would stimulate economic activity, and thus accelerate economic growth, seems to be the main cause for the low economic growth. Before we move on to the statistics for this phenomenon called “brain drain” and a more detailed analysis of this problem in the Macedonian region, I will try to present a few basic concepts that we need to understand.

Migration is the process of moving of a population from one location to another, in order to change the habitat permanently or temporarily. This movement often refers to long distances from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible (within the teritory of the country). People migrate as individuals, as families or as whole groups. A person who migrates due to natural disasters, wars, riots or any form of civil harassment can be described as a refugee. A person seeking to migrate for political, religious or other forms of persecution is usually described as an asylum seeker.

The nomadic movement is not considered a migration because it has no intention of staying permanently in the new place. Also, temporary movements of people such as tourism are not considered migrations, due to the absence of the intention to live permanently in the places visited.

In terms of statistics, we can single out the following information, which clearly shows the migration trends in the last ten years:

  • Total number of migrants: 258 million or 3.4% of the world's population.
  • In 2013, the percentage of migrants worldwide increased by 33%, with 59% of migrants targeting developing countries.
  • As of 2010, 16.3 million or 7.6% of migrants were refugees. At the end of 2012, approximately 15.4 million were refugees - 87% of them were granted asylum in developed countries.

In the context of countries facing the problem of brain drain, they can be divided into two groups - those where migrants come from, and those countries that receive them. Thus, the countries that have received the most migrants in recent years are: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. On the other hand, the countries from which migrants come most often are: Mexico, Philippines, India, China, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, South Korea, Syria, Pakistan and Ukraine.

Well-known examples from some countries:

  • Bulgaria and Romania: Ten years after joining the EU, Bulgaria and Romania are suffering from an exodus of trained workers. But their brain drain has become a brain gain for Germany.
  • India: Migrants from India to America are known as top computer scientists. They are known to make a major contribution to bringing Indian products (mostly computer and mobile applications) to America.
  • African countries: The next big wave of migrants is expected from Africa. Today, most Africans live in poverty and cannot afford to change their residence. But as the continent slowly reduces poverty, more and more Africans will consider migrating to more developed countries.

What is more important for this topic is that the brain drain or outflow of human capital refers to the phenomenon of emigration of highly qualified or well-educated people. Defined in this way, brain drain can be observed in terms of the country from which they emigrate (brain drain), and the country in which such individuals immigrate (brain gain). As with other types of migration, the socio-economic environment is considered to be the most important factor causing the outflow of skilled people. Countries facing the brain drain problem are often countries that do not offer many opportunities, face political instability, face low economic development, often poor social protection, high unemployment or inadequate employment in relation to education. Factors that prevent the brain drain are the influence of family and friends, already acquired status in the place of residence, belonging to one's own culture and so on.

Unlike those countries from which such young and highly educated people emigrate, the countries that attract them are characterized by the opportunities for employment, better education system, political stability and those countries guarantee human freedoms, they offer better health care system etc.

The outflow of young skilled people brings long-term negative repercussions to the national economy. Some of them are: exodus of skills and knowledge, lack of qualified staff in the field of education, lack of quality staff in the field of medicine and other sectors, fewer innovations, government investment in education becomes futile and the opportunity of the government to collect taxes from the potential earnings of those highly educated people is lost.

Although it sounds a bit strange, a country can enjoy certain benefits from the brain drain, such as the inflow of remittances, reduction of youth unemployment, and thus ease the social transfers, inspiring young people with successful stories about people who managed to live a happy lives abroad, domestic companies hope to penetrate foreign markets. Also, if some of the highly qualified people that acquired greater skills and experience working abroad decide to return back home, can help in the development of the home country.

Where is Macedonia in this story? Macedonia is ranked 133rd in terms of brain drain in Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF). More than half of the young people in Macedonia hope to go abroad, and even a third of them do not even think of returning home. It is worrying that as many as 67% of the respondents in the polls complain about financial problems and do not believe that they will find a job after their education. Those who are proactive, instead of being supported, accepted and encouraged, are repressed. That is why Macedonia is facing an outflow not only of young and educated people but also of socially proactive and engaged people who do not want to be part of the censorship that exists in Macedonia. What worries me the most is the fact that, except declaratively, nothing is done to prevent the large outflow of the young highly-qualified people. The World Bank announced in 2010 that 447,000 people had emigrated from Macedonia, which is a quarter of our population. 30% of them are highly educated people. The data from 2015 say that 516,000 people emigrated from Macedonia. Some of these people are the most ambitious, perfectionist, intellectuals, suffocating in an environment where they are unrecognized, where they can not get a job for the level of their skills - but must submit to and work for some political or state officials. Due to the lack of a census, we do not have domestic data that we can refer to, and it is absurd that Macedonia, which is now dealing with the wave of refugees, is itself one of the countries whose citizens seek asylum in the EU.


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