brainNot 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?

pastoreWell, 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?

pastoreYes, 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!

Fondazione Cariplo
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – dierk schaefer

78 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Abandon the country ratings and other Western nonsense of control and manipulation, and create jobs where there are needed, to keep people in their countries of origin and allow their communities to blossom by keeping and educating their youth.. Change and progress needs young people to work and stimulate it. When one country is deprived of them, then nothing changes. It gets worse and so the rich countries have to deal with migrant or refugee crisis and flows.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Christos Mouzeviris
      Northern EU countries gave billions to Club Med countries to upskill and civilise them.

      What happened?

      They lied, cheated, robbed and did nothing.


    • avatar

      Won’t stop a company in Berlin from hiring from Greece to fill a skilled job opening. The more globalised the world gets, the more centralised these types of jobs get.

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis


      A pity YOU don’t make decisions :(

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Same countries subsidising the rest…

    • avatar
      Julia Hadjikyriacou

      Lots of people with the same ideas taking action EU-wide to make it a reality. Organisations: Positive Money, Basic Income EU, Diem25 and many more I am sure :)

  2. avatar
    Bobi Dochev

    Offer them good start and opportunities fore personal and carrier development in their own countries.
    Just follow what Julia and Faddy said above!

  3. avatar
    Bódis Kata

    Literacy rate in Afghanistan is about 37% percent, in Pakistan it’s about 41%. And that’s basic literacy in the native language.

    Both countries would need to retain their skilled labor very badly or else they will never dig themselves out of the hole.

  4. avatar
    Miguel Rodrigues

    Well how about:

    a) A serious fight on precarious labour;
    b) Invest and create jobs within Europe and stop strangling countries with TSCG or they’ll never dig out of the hole;
    c) Enforce reduced labour time, it’s ridiculous that we’re much more productive than we were before the industrial revolution but keep the same working schedule, it’s not sustainable and it’ll be impossible to employ everyone.

  5. avatar
    Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy

    Higher wages. Companies in Germany offering minimum wage employment to persons with a college or master’s degree in the relevant field are ludicrous.

  6. avatar
    Eugenia Serban

    No way. No compensation. States that can not use, hire and pay skilled and educated young people don t deserve to be encouraged in this situation and be funded for coruption.

  7. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    Islamic science and our smart Christians are always our pioneers . Thanks to them we have modern science , solar panels , electric cars , we know how to build and protect environment . They build and financed huge factories in China to build electric cars and solar panels . Do you know why in China , because we atheist in the EU did everything to prevent them to develop , atheist wanted to export oil and burn fossil fuels , only to make big money , greed .

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      Atheists also want a basic income.
      More green tech.
      Less emissions.

      Are we stereotyping now?
      Is that it?

      Let’s talk about what religion the biggest oil burning backwards country has.

  8. avatar
    Paul X

    This is called free movement and is one of the “non-negotiable cornerstones” of the EU, you want access to the free market you have to accept this without any conditions

    And as for Dr. Ferruccio Pastore and his suggestion that Europe ” should also be able to compensate the sending areas for the loss that they may suffer from this mobility” ……likewise Europe should compensate the destination countries for all the unqualified immigrants who also arrive and are a net drain on their in short, I suggest it’s a pointless idea as you would just be robbing Peter to pay Paul

  9. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    As long as poor countries are in the Eurozone they will lose their youngest and brightest.

    There simply is no reason to stay.

  10. avatar

    Oh come on! For a starter don’t think we don’t know what you want us to suggest as a solution “One currnecy, one budget for the EU” make out it’s the only way to fairly distribute education costs and prospects created by the brightest that education results in. Sadly though, that’s just not what would happen in reality. In reality what would happen is the same thing that already does, but just not on a Europe wide scale. Those who make the budgeting decisions won’t be as concerned about spheres of lesser significance. This may be inner city slum areas, remote rural areas of no political importance and so on. They will be ignored completely. Places where the budget makers and their “peers” for want of a better term are from, and therefore their children go to will however get the better treatment when it comes to opportunities. As a consequence ensuring the multiple tiered quality of education and therefore opportunity within society continues to the benefit of those who are in charge now.
    But more directly wrong with this system concept of “good immigration types” is this idea that importing skilled professions is a long term solution. In the UK for example, we don’t have enough doctors. We haven’t had enough doctors for a very long time now. Our solution has been to import doctors. This hurts the countries we imported them from medically as well as in terms of socially and financially. And it’s not a sustainable system. What we should be doing is creating better opportunities for all local people willing and able to be trained as a doctor to have that chance. Same goes for any and all professions, importing skills only works short term, long term what needs to be done is to incentivise and facilitate training.

  11. avatar
    Andrew Potts

    Either you locate factories in areas of high unemployment ie Spain, Italy just as an example or you support unemployed young people from European black spots to relocate to places where there is jobs. Help with accomadation and language, its is already being done in Germany with the wave of migrants during 2015 so it could be done inside European borders.

  12. avatar
    Katrin Mpakirtzi

    Its terrible to loose the best minds… even for migrands. The best minds get away so the countries loosing the hope to get better. Of course we cant build Oxford universeties everywhere but this could be wonderfull

  13. avatar
    John Marcogliese

    Brain drain . How many students who supposedly over educated have non marketable degrees. Statistically which degrees have little marketability. These courses should not be funded but very limited. Hundreds of thousands of temporary workers are brought to Europe. Why not force these unemployed youths to do these jobs while they wait for a job?

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      “Un-marketable degrees”.
      I lol’d.

    • avatar
      Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

      Imagine your self been a young doctor or a lawyer and having to work as a pizza boy for 250-300 euros per month and having to pay more than 500 e in rent and bills every month.. If you think about it is easy to see why this people are fleeing

    • avatar
      Paul X

      I don’t see whats funny, there are plenty of “un-marketable ” degrees, I cannot recall ever seeing a job advertised with an educational requirement of a Degree in “History of Art” or “Philosophy”
      The problem these day students think they only have to attend University and get a degree in anything and the world will owe them a living….the reality is you need to to get a Degree in a subject that is actually in demand, and if studying these subjects is too hard for you then don’t bother going to University. In the end the only ones that benefit from these worthless bits of paper are the universities who run the courses

    • avatar
      John Marcogliese

      l would think that a doctor would easily find a job. It is not easy.

    • avatar
      Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

      Hmmmm.. Since the beginning of the crisis almost half a million people left from Greece to other countries to find a decent job, most of them are young scientists.. Lawyers, doctors, mechanical engineers..most off them left because they felt that they had no future..

    • avatar
      John Marcogliese

      The Greek government destroyed the country with an irresponsible debt. Very sad.

    • avatar
      Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

      I’ll did,and the worst thing is that without those young and educated people the country has little hope of recovery, at least to what it used to be..

    • avatar
      Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

      I can’t agree more than that.. From all these politicians that took those huge loans only one ended up in jail and he probably going to be free in 3 or 4 years because of his age.. He said ones that “he wasn’t the only one taking money from simmens ” meaning that the entire government was corrupted… But no one really went after them or simmens..

    • avatar
      John Marcogliese

      Rebuild. The eu is a disaster. Europe has many resources.

  14. avatar
    Slavu Bernard

    i am thinking at “rural hospital theorem” of Alvin Roth. Provide a subsidy for experienced people (50+)

    • avatar

      Automation is in full swing.
      In a few years NO DEGREE will keep you safe.

      This idiotic scapegoating of “well you chose the wrong degree” is meaningless.
      Robots can oerform heart surgery.
      Game over “jobs”.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      I would suggest a degree in any of the engineering disciplines will keep you safe for the foreseeable future, robots can do many things but one thing they cannot do is innovate and think laterally, and that is what good engineers have to do…at the end of the day who develops the robots?

  15. avatar
    Kevin Owen

    That is easy. Pay a decent wage. Why do you think all those EU migrants came over? That is because the wages are shite where they came from.
    More EU buffoons trying to overturn Brexit with unsupporatable scare mongering.

    • avatar
      Samuel Rus

      The only buffoons are the Brits who voted for Brexit. This won’t get you rid of all the migrants, you idiots. Most migrants come from outside the EU. You could have stayed in the EU and still protected your borders against immigrants. Have fun with your future tariff burdened collapsing economy.

    • avatar
      Kevin Owen

      Stop talking out of your arse Samuel Rus.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Samuel Rus
      Typical, silly misapprehension on your part.

      ‘Brexit’ was about ‘controlling’ immigration and not about stopping immigration.

    • avatar

      As far as a I remember Brexit was going to help reach the thens of thousand a year target so yes it was about reducing immigration through controlling your borders. To be fair so far it has been successful, low skilled labour for farming is harder to find due to the falling pound and in my field researchers are less willing to come here due to uncertainty (all official immigration data are up to june). Just submit article 50 and problem solved, I don’t think further action will be needed as to the EU but the RoW is a whole different matter. Any country you want to trade with would like better visa access (not free movement but still easier than now) so that will double the amount of RoW immigrants since these typically represent more ppl than the EU (e.g India) and poorer than EU countries on the whole. Saying that you might be right Brexit is about increasing immigration which I find very funny!

      I know I cant convince a true Brexiteer that immigration might be higher if you have open door policy with India and China rather than the EU but it is quite obvious to me. Easing the restrictions even a little bit will have a significant effect. I hear you ll get the people you need but can the UK be sure that ones these counties know how much UK depends on these deals they ll let you do that? It may happen but it is very likely that it wont. For what ppl.want isolation is the best way forward!

    • avatar

      I had a good chuckle, David.
      +1 from me :)

    • avatar

      David, these deals are not what we depend upon. It’s what the status quo depend on. The banks even now are trying to blackmail our government into brexit negotiations on their terms or they’ll leave. . . . . . . Basically my opinion is this sort of political lobbying needs to stop. We bailed the banks out when they cocked up. Maybe it’s time to pay us back before you’re allowed to leave? Then you’re welcome to piss off as far as I’m concerned. That type of economics does not help the economy in any way shape or form. Immigration control is essential. Fact is there’s much disquiet across Europe about immigrants coming across in amongst asylum seekers so stop being such hypocrites by calling us buffoons for wanting to control our own immigration. If it’s stupid to want to control an important issue like immigration then anyone on the continent bemoaning the migrants from the middle east must also be stupid. Free trade and immigration are not linked. They have never been linked and to try to make me and the rest of my country think they are intertwined and we cannot have one without the other is a futile and pathetic idea.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      There are also plenty of buffoons who think everyone who voted for Brexit only did so because of immigration

  16. avatar
    Mihai Petru Ceuca

    Multinationals destroy local economies to sell their products, forcing people to leave for better pay or they hire them for lower wages, to produce cheaper and to close the more expensive factories, then they move to the next country, repeting the same scenario. All that for a handful of (rich) people ..

  17. avatar
    Magdalena Stefan


  18. avatar
    Deanna Jones

    It has to start from the top. A caring PM and government can do wonders for his country.I know of an island that produces some of the finest brain power, who have had to scatter to greener pastures because the government is so corrupt, the police force is no better and crime is rampant. It is NOT that the brain power does not want to go back,it is safety issues involved.It is very easy to say this must be done and that must be done……but who is going to implement change at the risk of being dispatched of?

    • avatar
      Ricardo Santos Marques

      No it does not, it has to start from you. By doing great things, by working hard, by being an example. People are always taking away responsibility from themselves because that’s just easy and putting it on other people! If it has to start from the top and you want change then reach the top, then you’ll be able to produce the change that you are talking about. Why are you doing no such thing? Because all of us can help change the world through example. Just don’t be in a hurry, it all does not change in a day.

    • avatar

      Really Ricardo? You think anyone can reach the top if they just try? Can I borrow you rose tinted glasses please?

  19. avatar
    Ricardo Santos Marques

    I actually think we should train people in adaptation instead of trying to mold people from a young age to aspire to one single job. Stop with the when I grow up I want to be a doctor, a firefighter, a fisherman… Teach kids to be more plastic.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      I disagree 100%, we need Doctors, Firefighters, Engineers etc…….what we don’t need is people who spend 4 years partying at university and graduate with a degree in flower arranging

    • avatar

      You may “disagree”, Paul but the future says you are wrong.
      I’m sorry you just are.
      Doctors WILL be replaced.
      Engineers WILL be replaced.
      It’s a matter of time.
      Very short time.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      See my earlier reply on why engineers won’t be easily replaced, I would also love to see how you replace a firefighter with a robot who can deal with blazing buildings, car crashes and getting cats from trees and all the abstract reasoning that is required in dealing with such activities
      People have been claiming that robots will take over from man and make him superfluous since the 1950’s and we are still nowhere near there yet. Current supercomputers still only have about 1/300 of the processing power of the human brain and that is only useful for logical operations , we are a very long way off machines that can be uniquely creative or can “think out side the box” , certainly not a “very short time” as you claim

  20. avatar

    What’s the best way to stop the ‘brain-drain’ of young workers?
    Close borders and tax migrants.

    Should destination countries somehow compensate the sending countries for the investment they have made in education and training?
    No doubt. It is like with air force pilots. They get education and healthcare paid for and then leave for big money in commercial aviation leaving the state (all of us) with the hole. It has to be stopped before there are no public services to anyone and the law of the jungle applies.

    • avatar

      The difference in coin value prevents this.
      If all of the EU had the Euro then yes but…

  21. avatar
    pro Europe = anti EU

    So not only should be accept an influx of Greeks and Italians causing wage suppression in my country, we should actually pay Greece and Italy for the “privilege”. I don’t think I’ve heard plans that were more stupid than this one.

    One of the things that should be done is to cancel existing free trade treaties and impose tariffs on products made in low(er) wage countries. Neoliberalism is a nightmare.

  22. avatar
    Cormac Begley

    The home-country needs to make itself attractive for young people to stay. This means free education, decent apprenticeships and real opportunities for employment afterwards.

  23. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    As long as the Euro is allowed to destroy southern European Nations people will leave.

  24. avatar

    We need more integration of European economies. We must have a common set of laws or minimally acceptable conditions regarding small companies. The minimum capital requirements, the brackets of social security contributions etc.

  25. avatar

    the best way to stop the ‘brain-drain’ ?

    You have the answer ☺. I just have the questions. What stopped east Germans jumping to the west? What stopped Albanians, Romanias, Bulgarians, Syrians, Iranians Somalians looking for a better future looking for hope? What ever in human history stopped people’s hope for a better future for themselves and for the people they love? If you honestly answer those questions to yourself and you have the great ability to use your imagination and be a Somalian dreaming of hope then you have the right answer.

    Peace and love my little baby peace and love.

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