Human capital flight refers to the emigration of highly skilled or well-educated individuals.
Human capital flight phenomena in Europe fall into two distinct trends. The first is an outflow of highly qualified scientists from ‘Western Europe‘ mostly to the United States. The second is a migration of skilled workers from ‘Central‘ and ‘Southeastern Europe‘ into ‘Western Europe’, within the EU. While in some countries the trend may be slowing, certain Southeast European countries such as Italy continue to experience extremely high rates of human capital flight. The European Union has noted a net loss of highly skilled workers and introduced a “blue card” policy – much like the American green card – which “seeks to draw an additional 20 million workers from Asia, Africa and Latin America in the next two decades”.
Although the EU recognizes a need for extensive immigration to mitigate the effects of an aging population, nationalist political parties have gained support in many European countries by calling for stronger laws restricting immigration. Immigrants are perceived as a burden on the state and cause of social problems like increased crime rates and major cultural differences.
In 2006, over 250,000 Europeans emigrated to the United States (164,285), Australia (40,455), Canada (37,946) and New Zealand (30,262). Germany alone saw 155,290 people leave the country (though mostly to destinations within Europe). This is the highest rate of worker emigration since reunification, and was equal to the rate in the aftermath of World War II. Portugal has experienced the largest human capital flight in Western Europe. The country has lost 19.5% of its qualified population and is struggling to absorb sufficient skilled immigrants to compensate for losses to Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
Central and Eastern Europe
Central and Eastern European countries have expressed concerns about extensive migration of skilled labourers to Ireland and the United Kingdom. Lithuania, for example, has lost about 100,000 citizens since 2003, many of them young and well-educated, to emigration to Ireland in particular. (Ireland itself used to experience high rates of human capital flight to the United States, Great Britain and Canada before the Celtic Tiger economic programmes.) A similar phenomenon occurred in Poland after its entry into the European Union. In the first year of its EU membership, 100,000 Poles registered to work in England, joining an estimated 750,000 residents of Polish descent. Research conducted by PKO Bank Polski, Poland’s largest retail bank, shows that 63% of Polish immigrants to the UK were aged between 24 and 35, with 40% possessing a university degree. However, with the rapid growth of salaries in Poland, its booming economy, the strong value of the złoty, and decreasing unemployment (which fell from 14.2% in May 2006 to 8% in March 2008), the flight of Polish workers slowed. In 2008 and early 2009 people who came back outnumbered those leaving the country. The exodus is likely to continue, however.
Note: these numbers are from before the economic crisis and eastern europeans continues to invade us in very large numbers!
The rapid but small-scale departure of highly skilled workers from Southeastern Europe has caused concern about those nations developing towards inclusion in the European Union. This has sparked programmes to curb the outflow by encouraging skilled technicians and scientists to remain in the region to work on international projects.
Serbia is one of the top countries that have experienced human capital flight from the fall of communist regime. In 1991, people started emigrating to the closest countries,Italy and Greece, and with the passing of years began going farther, to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. In the last 10 years, educated people and professionals have been leaving the country and going to other countries where they feel they can have better possibilities for better and secure lives. This is a concern for Albania as well, as it is losing its skilled-workers and professionals.
Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain
Many citizens of the countries most stricken by the economic crisis in Europe have emigrated, many of them to Australia, Brazil, Germany, United Kingdom, Chile, Ecuador, Angola and Argentina.
There are a considerable number of people leaving the United Kingdom for other countries, especially Australia and the United States. In the 2000s, some 3.5 million people emigrated from the UK. Most of this emigration was to seek work in a more favourable economic climate. Many young university graduates are among those leaving, which has caused this phenomenon to be labelled the “talent drain”.