Georgian Brain Drain

I was thinking about Brain Drain phenomen. One major case of the brain drain happens when students from developing countries studying in the developed countries decide not to return home after their studies.

The brain drain is the large-scale emigration of individuals with technical skills or knowledge. It is normally due to conflict, lack of opportunity, political instability, or health risks. Although the term originally referred to technology workers leaving a nation, according to Webster dictionary the meaning has broadened into: “the departure of educated or professional people from one country, economic sector, or field for another, usually for better pay or living conditions”.

When I moved to Italy in 2007 for my masters studies I kept saying I would come back to Georgia after graduation. I would say I have a desire to work for my country, otherwise often all the educated people stay abroad after studies, “who should be in charge for my country if not us?” I repeated naively. So I did return to Georgia and every day since I recall one evening at my place in Italy with my Georgian mate. She is older then me, waaaay more experienced and educated (abroad). She tried to persuade me that soon these illusions of going back to Georgia happily ever after would turn out in an opposite way. I am a stubborn person, I should tell you, but she didn’t try much either. She was sure in what she was telling me. So every time I would come back home for a vacation I kept repeating about my comeback plans. But that was before I bought a one way ticket to Tbilisi. I hate complaining, especially when most of people around me don’t understand why is it so hard to come back. My few friends (who also returned back to Georgia) and I would meet up in the city and talk about things others didn’t understand. There’s nothing like returning to a place that hasn’t changed at all (I don’t mean roads and 24/7 electricity etc etc) and to find yourself who have altered yourself. It is a conventional wisdom that one gets to know himself better when abroad. So we kept cheering up ourselves saying country needs foreign educated young people like us, so at least this would fulfill us. Not saying anything about additional family and relationship factors that pushed us towards Georgia. So, I often ask myself, was my decision of returning right and reasonable? I mean at this point, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to live forever in a foreign country. One is certain, I will definitely do another degree abroad next year or another, otherwise sometimes (after returning) I have a weird feeling my brains and mind are frozen. I feel like I took  high speed and suddenly I had to slow down. Maybe its normal, speed, slow down, up, down, perhaps now I need such period so then I again speed up. In a search to engage with Georgia through professional development I spend days and night for last 3 month, but surprisingly I am not a desirable candidate for Georgian labor market for now. For now!

There is a reason I decided to write this post. I bumped into an article about so called Brain Drain problem in Georgia. I am glad there are some quality magazines in my country that pay attention to plenty of important issues like this. Article is in Georgian, so if you can read it go to this LINK of magazine Liberal. It reveals an interesting picture about a typical post-soviet country case were “brains flow away and never come back”. This article focuses on high percentage (over 70%) brain emigration in natural sciences and other vital fields. According to the article 70 percent of the emigrated Georgian population has higher university education.

There is a widely shared agreement that transition to democracy is an elite-driven process. I found extremely interesting research by my former professor and master thesis mentor at university of Bologna Andras Bozoki about this topic. “There was also a – less outspoken – agreement, particularly in the early 1990’s, that reliable democracy should not be made by the masses but be crafted by elites” (Bozoki 2002: 1). He assumes that if highly skilled persons and intellectuals are part of a political, diplomatic, scientific, cultural, managerial or military elite that is an invaluable driving force of social change in transition countries, the possibility of their emigration in large numbers will open new questions. In other words, if a large number of such elites emigrate, there will be severe hardships in implementing transitional reforms. This in turn would pose a significant problem to establishing competent and excellent governmental and professional elites. Some authors already claim that this type of so-called interactionist elite, which assures a more open, richer and diversified form of social co-existence, is missing in transition countries (Bozoki 2002: 16).

In other words VEDRAN HORVAT interprets this as most talent leaves a country because they belong to a parallel, invisible and unwanted intellectual elite whose perception of governance is based on meritocracy.

On the other hand, the present social elite in their domicile countries have emerged from the turbulence of transition often tainted with corruption and a wild, non-ethical capitalism which created an ‘oligarchic’ concept of state management that cannot be attractive. Under such circumstances, the reasons for emigration are primarily ethical. In this context, the brain drain phenomenon could be interpreted as avoidance of direct social conflict and some kind of silent revolution by those who want to be valued according to their merits and not ‘managerial’ capabilities that can be perceived as the base for implementing false-transition (Bozoki 2002: 14).

Another interesting point:

Their return to their domicile countries and (at least virtual) participation in the process of democratic transition—although perceived as a threat to the present elite—is necessary if further socio-economic
development and democratic consolidation is the goal. Still, one can share the opinion that “governments are often pleased to see potential critics leave rather than having them as a source of local criticism” (Olesen 2002: 11).
Brain Gain as opposite to Brain Drain needs specific policy agenda. The atmosphere must be changed to make it more favorable for intellectual work. Programs for science and technology should be established in order to provide direct assistance to basic and applied scientific and technical research in Georgia. I can recall 2000 when UK government in cooperation with the Wolfston Foundation, a research charity, launched a 20 million award scheme aimed at drawing the return of the UK’s leading expatriate scientists and sparking the migration of top young researchers to the united Kingdom.
So this is it actually. think about it.

3 thoughts on “Georgian Brain Drain

  1. Pingback: Georgian Brain Drain « Ad Astra Per Aspera central university

  2. Absolutely agree with the author.
    For Brain Gain, there should be established programs attracting and supporting national scientists and professionals to return and take part in Georgia’s socio-economical and scientific life. BUT!!! Nobody knows who we need in Georgia (I mean which professionals). Reason!!!: NO strategy of Economy development (I mean STRATEGY not CONCEPT), that’s why there can not be any strategy of national human resource development, which should be in support to national economy development. Logically, there is no data about labor resource demand and supply, and even more we should not have illusion of its prediction next 4 or 8 years.
    Ise ro megobaro vapaseb tqvens patriotizms da vimedovneb rom dges tqven ukve moaxdinet tvitrealizeba erovnul an tundac saertashoriso shromis bazarze.


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