The Way Back: Brain Drain and Prosperity in the Western Balkans

On 27 December 2017, the Skopje-based Institute for Strategic Research and Education published a study showing that 69 per cent of lecturers, assistants, and researchers working in Macedonia’s higher education system would consider leaving the country to seek new employment opportunities, and that 20 per cent of them had already applied for a job abroad. A study conducted in Macedonia in 2010 estimated that, during 1995-2000, the number of scientists and researchers in the Western Balkans decreased by 70 per cent.

However, it is not only professors and teachers who have stated their willingness to leave the countries of the region; a high proportion of doctors and other medical workers are also willing to move abroad. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the national medical workers’ association reported that around 300 highly qualified doctors left Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016. The number of doctors who emigrate may be even higher, given the fact that some of them leave the country immediately after completing their medical education – and so never register in official workplace statistics. Media outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina calculate that it costs an estimated 150 000 euro to educate a doctor, suggesting that the country spends more than 50 million euro annually on educating health workers who will leave the country.

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Alida Vračić

Alida Vračić is a co-founder and the executive director of Populari, a Bosnia-based think-tank specialising in European integration in the Western Balkans, politics, governance, civil society, and post-conflict democratisation.