Benefiting from Greece’s brain drain | FT Alphaville

Benefiting from Greece’s brain drain

There’s been plenty of anecdotal signs of a brain drain from Greece and the eurozone’s other peripheral nations.

But we’re finally getting some data to back it up (emphasis ours):

From 2010 to 2011, there was a 29% increase in the number of doctors joining the register from Greece, up from 282 to 365. The number of doctors who registered in the UK from Spain for the first time increased by 28% from 124 to 159.

Since 2009, first-time registrations for doctors from Spain have risen by 96% and from Greece by 55%. The average increase of doctors joining the register for the first time from the EEA was 16%, compared with an overall increase of doctors joining the register for the first time of 4%.

That’s from the General Medical Council’s annual report on the state of the medical profession in the UK, released on Tuesday.

The trend is hardly surprising, with Greece’s doctors haven’t been paid for about six months, according to reports in the Kathimerini.

The head of the national union representing hospital doctors, Dimitris Varnavas, told Kathimerini that the participation in the action was very high as medics are exasperated at seemingly endless state cutbacks. “In some hospitals, participation in the action has hit 100 percent,” he said.

Health Ministry officials insisted that they have given the order for the outstanding wages to be paid to doctors and attributed the delay to “the inability of other parts of the civil service to respond adequately.” Varnavas countered that the ministry is shirking its responsibilities.

It’s not just doctors. Foreign universities are seizing the opportunity to boost their faculties with Greek academics. From the Kathimerini also:

Albanian and Bulgarian universities are increasingly advertising for Greek professors to take up posts at their institutions, while, according to sources, other professors have used their sabbaticals in order to take up lucrative teaching jobs in countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where the salaries more than make up for the fact that they are not receiving a salary in Greece during this period.

This will have long term consequences. The foreign universities will take the best academics, presumably resulting in a drop in teaching standards in the country. That’s just one of many factors that is already spurring many young people to go to university abroad.

From The Economist, earlier this year:

The most destructive brain drain is of the young. Since 2008, ever more young people (mostly in their 20s) have gone, often to foreign universities. “When I left to study abroad in 2006 I was the odd man out,” says a young Greek lawyer. “Now I thank my lucky stars.” Greece’s archaic education system and strikes have held back those who pursued their education at home. Exams have been delayed or cancelled. Some students are a year or more behind in their studies.

And even when/if they graduate, employment prospects are dire. The youth unemployment rate was 55 per cent in August, up from around 41 per cent twelve months earlier. And those who have jobs, as we can see with the doctors and the academics, can’t even be sure of getting paid. Hence the young with the best prospects leave. The projection that the economy is to shrink by 25 per cent by 2014 is hardly helping.

While this is just a sad situation on a human level, it’s damaging Greece’s economic prospects now and for generations to come. The economy is already facing serious demographic problems, with the population ageing and its workforce set to start shrinking in about a decade. The emigration of its most educated elites, both young and older, is exacerbating all of these problems.

However, Greece’s emigres also demonstrate that some aspects of the European project are working well (ignore, for now, the monetary/debt side of things…).  The (mostly) free movement of labour is allowing those resources to be allocated more efficiently than they would have been in the pre-EU days. If the UK or Germany need graduates that Greece cannot usefully employ, it’s best all round if they can move to where they can work, use their skills and contribute to the economy.

As this Deutsche Welle report shows:

Related links:
The Mediterranean blues – The Economist
Hospital doctors and judges walk off the job – Kathimerini