Ukraine’s brain drain is 17 times worse than Russia’s
The country's high-skilled workers are leaving en masse
Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there has been much talk about Russian brain drain — that is, educated professionals fleeing the country. While the total number of emigrants is unknown, it may be as high as 900,000.
People have fled Russia for a number of reasons: to find work, to escape political persecution and to evade the “partial mobilisation” announced last September. According to a survey of 2,000 migrants carried out in March and April, 81% had a university degree — compared to just 27% in the population at large. Russian brain drain is real.
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Some Western commentators have gone as far as suggesting that we should encourage brain drain by fast-tracking visas for qualified Russians — in an effort to weaken Putin’s regime. The fewer educated professionals around, the less talent available to bolster his flagging economy.
Less discussed is the fact that Ukraine has also experienced brain drain, thanks to the ongoing refugee crisis. The UN reports that 47% of Ukraine’s eight million refugees have a university degree, compared to around 24% in the general population — which numbered some 41 million before the war.
Where is the brain drain more acute? Based on total population, percentage of citizens with a degree, number of migrants, and percentage of migrants with a degree, we can work out the following. Since the invasion began, the share of Russians with a degree has fallen by 0.3 percentage points, or 1.2%. By contrast, the share of Ukrainians with a degree has fallen by 5.6 percentage points, or 23%.
This means that Ukraine’s brain drain is almost 17 times worse than Russia’s. If encouraging high-skilled emigration is a way to “punish regimes we don’t like”, as Ed West puts it, what does this say about Ukraine’s future?
Perhaps high-skilled Ukrainians will return once the war is over. Yet there are reasons for pessimism. Ukraine was the poorest country in Europe before the war and will be even poorer afterward. Moreover, host countries have been relatively welcoming — with polls showing much higher support for Ukrainian refugees than those from other conflict zones.
So unless they’re summarily expelled when the war ends, high-skilled Ukrainians have strong incentives to stay where they are. And they can hardly be blamed. In fact, the country’s skill-shortage could worsen if married men decide to re-join their families living abroad, rather than the other way around.
What seems certain is that the longer the war drags on, the smaller the number of refugees who will eventually return. Bear in mind that some experts believe this “war of attrition” could last “months or even years”. How attractive a destination will Ukraine be for the highly skilled if it sustains years of fighting?
Hawks insist that from Ukraine’s point of view, negotiating now would amount to capitulation. Yet in many ways, Ukraine has already won. Delaying negotiations will surely exacerbate the various long-term problems the country faces, of which brain drain is only one.
Well, here’s a novel thought (well, novel for Mr. Carl).
Just after the invasion, the Ukrainian government put a blanket ban on Ukrainian male nationals of military age leaving the country. Women and children were free to go. This is why Ukrainian refugees are relatively popular in Europe – they really are refugees, unlike (for example) the young Albanian men who claim, unconvincingly, to be refugees from oppression.
Now, poor as Ukraine is, it does manage to educate girls. Some of them even manage to get university degrees (yes, really!).
So, a university-educated mother with small children is (according to Mr. Carl) a brain drain. Technically, that’s right. But when the war is over, she will want to rejoin her husband (if he’s still alive) and rebuild her life.
Will the Russians do the same? That depends, I suggest, on Putin’s life expectancy. We’ll see.
I’d say very (perhaps more) frequently he will want to rejoin his wife and children where they now are. We’re not necessarily doing Ukraine any favours by sucking out their lifeblood of young, educated people, into economies where they can be paid many more times serving drinks and cleaning houses than they can by doing jobs of economic or military importance at home.
Your use of the phrase “sucking out the lifeblood” in relation to the flight to safety of Ukrainians is rather telling, don’t you think?
We’re offering them a safe haven, not going out of our way to drain the Ukraine of talent.
This is totally planned – this destruction of Ukraine. The driving off of the young is all part of it. We are stealing their greatest asset. Young families. They are the future. In the West the perversity of the way Feminism has gone is to destroy the family, and thus we are demographically doomed. Stealing these amazing assets gives us advantage – but Destroys Ukraine, and that is the plan.
Enjoy your 15 minute pod city, and ‘Eat The Bugs!’ as the Great Reset is being ushered in by these wicked methods.
FJB and FBJ
In a world of demographic collapse this loss of the young woman and children is THE BIGGEST HARM we do to Ukraine!
Joe Biden and his creature Boris decided to destroy the West, and thus the ‘Old World Order’, and the tool they first fixed on was covid, and when it did not fully work – they chose making this WWIII. Ukraine is the chess board they chose for that – and it is utterly destroying Ukraine in the process. and the greatest harm they do is this loss of these vital citizens to the region.
I agree, losing children is the worst for the country. The polls say the most Ukrainian refugees are not coming back after the war ends. That means the children will not become engineers or skilled workers, at least not in Ukraine. In the long term it is much worse than immediate outflow of IT specialists from Russia.
If at all possible most Ukrainians will want to return and rebuild their country, they are the proud patriotic citizens of a free state and will see the potential rewards of renewing it
Almost half the refugees have returned already!
Don’t forget that along with Zelensky saying that men could not leave the country, 16-65 year old men were being conscripted. If you were a professional, would you stay in a Russian speaking areas of Ukraine (or any area) in order to take up arms against your neighbour.. I think not. They would flee over the Russian border and on to other countries from there. Thus the Ukrainian brain drain. I feel sure they will not return while the present government is in charge.
Factually and theoretically nonsense!
“Some Western commentators have gone as far as suggesting that we should encourage brain drain by fast-tracking visas for qualified Russians — in an effort to weaken Putin’s regime. The fewer educated professionals around, the less talent available to bolster his flagging economy.”
Hmm. Not sure I would agree. It has been the emigration en masse of Russia’s intelligentsia since the 1990s that has allowed its descent into kleptocracy and the strengthening of his regime. A larger middle class would be less cowed and more involved. The absence of a sizeable middle class has tended to correlate to abuse of power and the weakening of democracy.
”Some Western commentators”
Evil ones, sheer evil ones – and there is no shortage of those in today’s wicked progressive Lefty-Liberalism. Thay are as wicked as any genocide advocate because that is Genocide they propose!
Surely the author can see the difference between young Russian graduates leaving their homeland because of their leaders, and those Ukrainian women fleeing incoming Russian missiles? One is a brain drain, the other is a refugee. The Ukrainians immediate priority is simply survival, the educated workforce is a problem for the future whereas Putin has to keep some semblance of an economy ticking over if he is to avoid unrest in the major Russian cities
Far too simplistic.
According to Noah Carl’s statistics here, 27% of Russians have degrees and 24% of Ukrainians before February last year. Leaving aside the fact that these numbers seem rather high, I strongly dispute the notion that 25% of any country’s population are the sort of highly skilled workers that should be counted in any sort of meaningful analysis of “brain drain”.
I would suggest he redoes the calculation based on the top 5-10% (not all graduates are equal) and restrict the sample to subjects and disciplines where “brain drain” actually matter – i.e. scientific and technical ones.
Besides which, he fails to consider whether Ukraine or Russia will be a more welcoming and attractive location for foreign investment and the development of high-skilled industries after the wart concludes. We cannot yet know for Ukraine. The future here is not promising for Russia though.
Did you see Putins long speech on the 21st Feb ?
He announced, amongst many other things, a 150% tax rebate for any Russian company spend on Russian IT. He specifically mentioned Artificial Intelligence.
He sees the importance of technology specialists remaining in and supporting Russian companies. Time will tell if it will work…..
No. I have no desire to sit through long and boring speeches.
Of course it will meet all the buzzword bingo requirements.
I can tell you with certainty – having worked in technology for over 30 years – that the sort of people that work in high tech will not willingly work for regimes that do not allow free speech and thinking. And technical progress is not really compatible with being told what and how to think. This was, after all, why the Berlin Wall was built.
I do believe you but it might be not so common experience. I rare see IT engineers too much caring about “regimes”. Just the opposite, I see them as least politically engaged category. Also, I would think twice before hiring somebody brightly exposing his/her political preference. I does not help the job. Also, I am told that many Russian and Ukrainian IT engineers who left/fled/moved are actually keeping their jobs. Covid helped many to adopt the ‘remote’ model.
There sure were a lot of people working at Twitter and Facebook more than willing to censor speech and be told what to think.
Not simplistic at all. You would infer a nation of technocrats and then uneducated workers is superior to one where the same amount are uneducated, but the educated be diverse, and mostly not scientific.
I believe the opposite. As a true combat solider is the spear point, yet most military personnel are merely in supporting roles to the combat solider, as is the entire industry and other massive facilities.
Society must now days be based an a large pyramid base of generally educated, and the tip be the specialists.
Do you know why Britain led the world in the Industrial revolution? Yes they had good scientists – but the huge difference was they had created the universal primary school system earlier than anyone else. Free to all, giving literacy and numeracy and some concepts of history and Nation. This educated workforce swept all before it. In fact a nation’s rise in economic prosperity is almost directly correlated to the free education of children – is directly related to Literacy – then continued prosperity is based on wider and higher levels of education – in all areas, NOT just science.
You have the myopia of a technocrat – but it is a fallacy. The society prospers from broad education. ‘The Educated Workforce’ is the cornerstone to success.
There was not free and universal primary education in the period from 1760 to 1850 in the UK. For portions of this period, children were working in factories.
I believe the date you’re looking for for free primary education in the UK is 1891. About 100 years later than the Industrial Revolution.
For sure education is helpful – especially much later than the Industrial Revolution. But it was not necessary for working in factories. Nor was it provided.
Since you’re getting personal (which I would rather avoid), you might want to brush up your own education – especially British social history – before posting such obvious nonsense in public.
The comment about primary education is completely wrong. It was the wealth created by the industrial revolution that enabled universal free primary education to appear from the 1870’s
In Russia, you’re not allowed to leave and the country is not being bombed.
In Ukraine, they’re being bombed daily.
Best way to stop the brain drain from Ukraine is to defeat Russia.
Ukraine thinks it can defeat Russia because the USA is on their side but they should bear in mind that the American government is answerable to their electorate and spending billions on a small European country which, I would conjecture, most American citizens could not pinpoint on a map, is not popular,
Biden and Boris set out to destroy Ukraine – they got the Left on board because the MSM, Social Media, and education system are wholly owned – as is the Deep State – owned by the NWO-WEF evil, and so they are taking the world to economic destruction, and so to usher in the New World Order, and you know how that goes. You owning nothing, 1984, CBDC, ESG, and your phone being your chains – your prison warden, your master’s tool of your enslavement once the surveillance state gets fully there in about 8 years. AI will control you for the Elites – you are Property, not a citizen.
Your phone you think is fun and good and useful – it is your Master – more every day. Once all money is on it, all health records, all travel tickets, all permissions, all conversations, GPS, all traces of everyone you were close to, what you did……….
That Cell Phone is EVIL – it will own you. You do not own it.
You describe most things and people as evil, it causes the word to lose its impact somewhat. Much like when the online left call everybody a “fashist” after a while the word is just ignored
You’ve been having bad dreams again, haven’t you?
In 2015, John Mearsheimer predicted that Russia viewed Ukraine as a NATO member as an existential threat and would eventually “wreck” Ukraine rather than see the US and the West continue down that path. I write on the night of March 9-10, 2023, and in the last day Russia unleashed missile attacks all across Ukraine, targeting mainly the electric power system but other things as well. That is one form of “wreck.” But having 1/4 of the population become refugees is another.
William Burns, the US Ambassador to Russia 2005-08 and now head of the CIA, advised in 2008 that the entire Russian elite, without exception, would not stand for Ukraine in NATO. Not just Putin and a few hard liners; he found NOBODY of any persuasion who found that acceptable.
The “Time” article quoted near the end of this article is ludicrous. And many of the previous comments, here, are just whistling past the graveyard.
Rather than do a multi-thousand word exegesis that wouldn’t be read, anyway, I will just leave you with three historical points illustrating what war is really about and why you need to take the catastrophe in Ukraine more seriously than you do..
1) In the late 19th Century War of the Triple Alliance, conservative estimates are that Paraguay lost between 1/2 and 2/3 of its entire male population for no reason other than its pig-headed ruler. Credible estimates run to 69% of its entire population. The country never recovered and is still the most backward in South America. THAT is the direction Ukraine is headed if something doesn’t stop it.
2) I am writing on the 78th anniversary, to the day, of the first great USAAF fire-bomb raid on Tokyo in 1945. The official body count for that one night was over 85,000 but certainly closer to 100,000 died, and maybe more. One night, almost all civilians. And after a little more than 3 years of bitter war, neither the Americans nor the Japanese saw anything outrageous about it. The Americans thought it was a great accomplishment that vindicated the immense cost of the B-29 program, let’s do more. The Japanese did not think for a second about surrendering, and just doubled down as they prepared to defend Okinawa and then the Home Islands in what they understood might be national suicide.
3) In World War 2, the Soviet Union lost approx. 28,000,000 dead, about 1/3 military and 2/3 civilian, about 15% of its pre-war population. By comparison, the US and UK, with a combined population similar to that of the USSR, lost less than 800,000, about 0.5%. When the Russians talk of the Great Patriotic War, that is what they are referring to. And that came only a generation after similar losses in the combined World War 1 and Russian Civil War. They understand war in a way that few of us do.
We in the West have spent 30 years disarming ourselves, yet we embark on an insane program of threatening a great power with a vivid history and fear of invasion, as if it will not feel threatened and, feeling threatened, will not defend itself (by its lights). Our leaders talk casually about teaching them a lesson, about breaking up the Russian Federation, about reducing Russia so it will never again be a power, about forcing regime change–all after we have hollowed out our own militaries and economies to where we bicker for weeks and have diplomatic crises about providing a mere battalion of tanks.
This war needs to end, if that is possible, while there is still a Ukraine to save. And we in the West need to resolve never again to let our economies and militaries atrophy to the extent we let them do so from 1991-2022. And, not pick unnecessary wars.
Nonsense article, and mostly nonsense comments.
Some dreadful reaching here.
Disappointed in Mr Carl to hold such generic standard right wing opinions. Thought he was an independent thinker, but apparently not.
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