Brain Drain refers to the emigration of highly skilled or well-educated individuals for better pay or conditions, causing their places of origin to lose those skills and expertise (source). It’s been a problem for many different countries through the years. Think about India or other countries that lose great numbers of scientists each year, mainly to the US. You can look for videos related to these countries to see what happens. In any case, Brain Drain is a term I don’t like that much. I haven’t liked it since it started surfacing on the Greek media as a symptom of the crisis, etc. First things first, how do you call the emigration of highly skilled builders for better pay conditions? Is this a “Muscle Drain”? So, the term is kind of inherently offensive to the ones that emigrate to pursue more labor-intensive professions, isn’t it? Or is it only the knowledge workers that represent assets to an economy? I guess not.
On the other hand, using the term Brain Drain, kind of makes me feel like I am part of the stupid that have stayed behind. This is not really a problem of the term itself, as it’s a problem in its use by the local media. It’s usually assumed that only the bright ones leave the country, leaving back a pile of useless professionals that are somehow reluctant or cowardly to leave. On the other hand, you have some of the people that talk about Brain Drain, also advocating the openness of the European Union and the globalization of markets, professions, etc. I mean, what did you expect? Is it like the world is an open place, with an enormous labour market, but no one is allowed to access it? Is it like “we opened the door for you, but please, stay inside”..?
Did we just realize that skilled or less-skilled individuals seek a better life abroad? It’s been like that for years. I guess the problem is that the numbers are kind of spiking nowadays. OK, I get that. We are actually number 5 (!) on a recent survey. We also carried out analyses about the costs of training and educating an individual and how this money is thrown down the drain (or the brain drain), when someone migrates to another country.
But what happens with the brains that you attract? Isn’t this a struggle to attract all the talent at your side, to be able to capitalize on the educational costs spend by other countries to produce great scientists? Greece is not attractive I guess. It certainly isn’t for the knowledge workers at the time. Or maybe it can become. Maybe it’s like the Blue Ocean Strategy. Maybe Greece is a sea that used to be crawling with fish that migrated to other countries. So now, with less fish and less sharks, the waters are not that bloody from all the fighting. Maybe the sea is empty, or empty enough, to hold more fish. New fish. How about that for an approach?
In any case, I feel that all these numbers are just numbers with little if any meaning for anyone that is actually looking to turn things around on a country level. I would also have you know that many of the brains that already migrated elsewhere, were half-educated in the UK or elsewhere, paying with their money. And most probably, they were headed abroad after all. They needed to, since the amount of money spent on their private education, can only be earned back through some decent wage in another country. And it’s ok.
I am not the one to cry over spilt milk. I will get a mop, clean it up and go my way. I chose to stay and I am here. I don’t think that if I leave, the country will miss its Einstein (another great mind that represented a huge brain drain, albeit for political reasons). No one is irreplaceable. We have minds, we have people to do things. We are still enough to turn this thing around. Us. The ones that stayed behind. We are the residue that stays in the shower drain I guess (that’s gross, I know), but we are all the country has for now. And when the tub is filled up with water again, guess what. The residue will float on top… 😉
We can either mourn for all the lost scientists and brilliant minds, or we can work towards something more positive. I choose to feel proud that I managed to stay behind (cause this too takes some effort) and that I am still “alive” and kicking. I wear my “staying” as a badge of honor and not a sign of being a lesser scientist or a worse professional. I dismiss of the term Brain Drain, not as one that does not apply, cause it does. I just dismiss it cause of all the negative connotations it holds. I prefer to think that for each brain that’s drained (migrating), there’s another one that is gained (staying here).