The countries with the biggest brain drain

  • brain drain
Published 8 months ago

Brain drain is the phenomenon during which young, highly skilled, and competent professionals leave their home country for better professional and financial opportunities abroad. This international movement of talent is usually from developing or small nations where unemployment and political oppression are through the roof, or business opportunities are limited, to richer and predominantly democratic countries. We look at six countries that appear to suffer the most from the side effects of human capital flight.


brain drain in Greece
Ververidis Vasilis /

About 200,000 graduates have fled Greece due to skyrocketing unemployment rates, which at some point, since the beginning of the economic crisis, reached 50 percent among the youth. For a small nation of 11 million people and a grand dept of USD 270 billion, the loss of its educated workforce of under 25-year-olds is devastating for its economy and development. As per Endeavor’s study, Greece’s bachelor, master, and PhD degree holders are expatriating primarily to European Union countries. Of the total expat population, 29 percent have moved among other countries to the US and the Middle East to be employed in the computer science and engineering fields.


nigeria brain drain
bmszealand /

Taking into consideration the country’s low GDP, poor healthcare, and the history of a three-year bloody civil conflict in the late 1960s, Nigeria is a developing country with many priorities to tackle. However, Nigeria’s aspiring doctors and engineers have neither the patience nor the time to wait for reliable scientific opportunities in their country. Thus, the educated and ambitious youth expatriates to the US and Europe to not only earn more but also showcase and cultivate its talents. The result is a country drained of qualified professionals, of whom is so much in need to pick up and grow.


India brain drain

There are several reasons why India’s skilled youth is expatriating. First, the pay abroad for the same position as the one occupied in India can be up to six times higher. Then, is the desire for good quality education, which is scarce in India. Last but not least, in spite of India’s many available talents, there are not as many jobs available. More than half of India’s expat population has entered the competitive American job market and is specifically thriving in the technology and financial fields. Other popular expat destinations among professional Indians are the UAE and the UK. However, the country’s startup industry is growing, and it is expected to create more jobs in the future, which will attract local talent.


Finland brain drain

As surprising as it may be, young Finnish professionals, choose to leave Finland — a country which for many consecutive years has been ranking as the happiest in the world and one of the world’s strongest democracies, both of which highly contribute to good quality of living. However, the limited opportunities in this small country of about five and a half million people are creating a big wave of young, intelligent expatriates towards more vibrant European cities, or even farther away to the US, where the technology and finances are booming. For the time being, the government of Finland isn’t worried too much about the brain drain, as it believes the phenomenon will soon turn into a brain gain — when these internationally experienced and adaptable people return in Finland to apply their knowledge in their home country.


Vietnam brain drain
xuanhuongho /

Vietnam, the ninth-largest Eurasian country with about 92 million people, is one of the countries that have been severely hit by brain drain due to economic and social issues that haven’t been properly addressed. Corruption (which may include bribing) and poor working conditions push the young and competent people away from their home country. Older reports of seven years ago show that about 70 percent of international Vietnamese students didn’t return to Vietnam after graduating from a university abroad. This is a situation that remains, and the only way to be reversed is for the government to act on a strategy, as it did in the early 90s to reduce poverty.