Refugee Crisis

How to Halt the Brain Drain

refugee scientist-thomas koehler-photothek net
Professionals are desparetely needed in their home countries.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The Middle East is losing its best and brightest, as highly skilled refugees flee to Europe.

  • Facts


    • In Romania, 40 percent of young professionals want to leave for the West.
    • A new industry of head-hunters connect them with employers in E.U. member nations.
    • Violence in Syria and Iraq has forced an estimated 20 to 25 percent of highly qualified professionals to leave their homeland.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

Large numbers of academics in Bucharest don’t dream of success in Romania, but of moving to Western Europe and Germany, in particular.

“If you talk to university graduates with a knowledge of German, it quickly becomes clear that hardly anyone wants to stay in Romania,” said Sven Irmer, head of the Bucharest-based Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a German foundation associated with but independent of the center-right Christian Democratic Union. “Many academics who started with German companies want to continue on to Germany.”

The reason for the brain drain is obvious. College graduates earn five to eight times as much in Germany or Scandinavia compared to their Southern European homeland.

Mr. Irmer cites a senior physician in Bucharest as an example. The professional, who also teaches, earns only €800, or $877, including his teaching activities. With such a huge pay gap, it’s not surprising the well educated are fleeing Romania in droves. And there is little chance low wages will rise quickly, despite promises of an increase by the transitional Romanian government.

“The brain drain in Romania is not going to let up,” Mr. Irmer said.

Despite strong economic growth in the European Union member state, the broad majority of well-educated citizens is not sharing in its benefits. Indeed, the minimum wage in Romania is barely above €1, or just over $1, an hour.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.