Not all migration is considered equal. Despite the surge of populist, anti-immigration parties across Europe, people quite like the ‘right kind’ of migration. In Britain, for example, where EU freedom of movement is at the centre of the Brexit debate, opinion polls suggest that people actually quite approve of highly-skilled migrants. Many are happy to see more foreign doctors, students, engineers, etc. It’s just low-skilled migrants they object to.
However, this raises some interestings questions. We had a comment sent in by Dimitris, who pointed out that many highly-skilled young Greeks, due to a lack of job opportunities at home, leave for abroad in order to find work. He argues that this hurts the Greek economy, because the best and brightest are making money and paying taxes elsewhere. Meanwhile, the situation in Greece gets even worse, leading to more people leaving, which means the economy deteriorates further, etc, etc.
Is he right to be so concerned? To get a response, we spoke to Dr. Ferruccio Pastore, Director of FIERI (International and European Forum for Migration Research). What would he say?
Well, the impact is often different for the young, mobile people themselves and for the country and the economy as a whole. For the young people themselves, it depends what they end up doing. Living in a different country can be a very rewarding experience, even if they stay and never come back. I know plenty of young (or less young) Italians, who live for years, and even decades, in another country, and they are very happy with it.
However, for the country and the system as a whole, it’s more complicated. If a state spends significant amounts of money to train and educate young people, and then they are lost completely, then it’s just a net loss. At least, this is the case if you think of nation-states. If we were able to think more generally as a European economy, this whole issue could be reframed completely.
But we aren’t in an integrated economy, because if Greece loses ‘brains’, they are not necessarily able to count on solidarity from the countries receiving those ‘brains’ to compensate for the loss. This is felt particularly strongly in somewhere like Italy, where public education is of relatively good quality, so it’s a big investment the state is making…
We also had a comment from Crayven, who was also concerned that ‘brain drain’ means destination countries benefit hugely from the investment in education and training made by others. Wouldn’t it be fairer if the home country was compensated somehow for the loss?
Yes, I fully agree. I think that we should ideally move towards a situation where Europe is not only able to capitalise on the positive aspects of mobility, which tend to concentrate on the destination, but should also be able to compensate the sending areas for the loss that they may suffer from this mobility. So the two sides of the mobility equation should be kept together.
This would mean that the economically weakest regions in Europe, which donate their humans temporarily to more economically attractive regions in Europe, shouldn’t be left alone with their problem. There should be solidarity supporting mobility. Mobility is certainly an effectiveness process which enhances the overall level of wealth, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the areas of origin.
Of course, this calls into question radically the whole governance of Europe, because what has been happening in Greece, Italy, Romania, etc., is that mobility has cherry-picked the best brains, in the order of hundreds of thousands or even millions. We have one million Romanians living in Italy, which has been crucial in enhancing the Italian social model. It shouldn’t just be an issue for the Romanian state and for remittances…
What’s the best way to stop the ‘brain-drain’ of young workers? Should destination countries somehow compensate the sending countries for the investment they have made in education and training? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!