Brain drain in Russia passes 10 million mark

Russia and other former Soviet states in Eastern Europe are continuing to lose their workforce to emigration, the World Bank stated in a report titled “Migration and the brain drain in Europe and Central Asia”.

According to the bank, 10.6 million Russian citizens had left the country by 2017 to work abroad, more than from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova combined.

In terms of the absolute number of emigrants, Russia is firmly in the lead among the 24 countries which the World Bank includes under Europe and Central Asia.

In relative terms, this is equivalent to a 7.4% loss in population (out of 144 million people). Excluding pensioners (35 million), the country has lost 9.7% of its current working-age citizens (workforce) and children.

Russia’s relative figures are significantly better than for other Eastern European countries according to the Wold Bank’s data. Moldova has lost 24% of its citizens to emigration, Croatia 21.9%, Lithuania 20.9% and Romania 18.2%.

For Russia, the balance of migration is positive overall: the number of arrivals (8% of the population) is one million above the number of departures.

However, there is a significant difference between the emigrants and the immigrants. The people migrating to Russia are primarily poorly qualified workers from Central Asian republics. Only 13-17% of them have had tertiary education, note experts from RANEPA ,the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation.

In contrast, there is an “intellectual migration” away from Russia. 70% of the emigrants have had tertiary education, which is significantly above the national average.

A survey by the Boston Consulting Group involving 24,000 respondents showed that 50% of Russian scientists, 52% of senior managers and 54% of IT specialists would like to work abroad. 49% of Russian engineering specialists and 46% of doctors are ready to join them.

Nearly two thirds of the potential emigrants (65%) are “digital talents”: artificial intelligence experts, scrum masters, user interface designers, etc. 57% of them are below 30 years of age. Among students (up to 21 years old), the proportion reaches 59%.

Among developing countries, Russian specialists show a marked preference for Germany, with 11.84% of Russian emigrants moving there. Another 7.25% are leaving Russia for Israel, and 2.07% for Switzerland.

If the brain drain is assessed using the recipient countries’ statistics, RANEPA calculates that 100,000 people are leaving Russia every year. This is more than seven times greater than the official figure cited by Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service (15,500).

Countries that are losing people are often tempted to make it harder for people to emigrate, but practice shows that such an approach is economically ineffective, the World Bank experts note. “Highly qualified workers are not always productive in low-income countries. Much of their productivity in high-paying markets is determined by the work environment and other transient factors. In addition, limiting migration will reduce people’s desire to accumulate human capital.”

In Russia, there is not much of this desire as it is: the difference in pay between a driver and a doctor is only 20% in Russia, whereas it is 174% in Germany, 261% in the US, and 172% in Brazil.

  Russia, Russian Economy