GIOVENTU » Brain drain to lead to Care drain?

Brain drain to lead to Care drain?

The “brain drain” is a well-known phenomenon in Italy which doesn’t seem to stop. In 2015, the last year for which data from Italy’s statistics institute ISTAT are available, 23,000 young Italians left the country, 15 percent over the previous year. Most of these people emigrating abroad are graduates looking for better career opportunities abroad, causing an impoverishment of the country’s human resources. The harsh truth to face is that Italy is literarily giving away its most qualified professionals and is not considered as an attractive option for foreign talents.  

The brain drain phenomenon deeply differs from any previous emigration wave. First of all, as already mentioned, it mainly involves highly qualified people, but the social change is broader, as for example, it is the first time that young people leave home, in most cases leaving their parent alone, where there are no other children in the family. In the past the family emigrated together or just one of the children left. The consequences on the long run will be dramatic: Italy has already the oldest population in Europe. The brain drain is likely to trigger a consequent phenomenon: the ‘care drain’ as the elderly will be left to fend for themselves.

Tracing back the history of Italian emigration, from 1870 to 1970, according to data of the “Italian federation of emigrated workers and families”, 27 million people expatriated in the first massive emigration flow, 7 million of them only in the post war period alone, their favourite destinations being Germany, France, Belgium and Switzerland).

From 1970 to 2005, the emigration flow continued but Italy became also a receiving country and the number of immigrants exceeded the number of those emigrated. 

With the great economic crisis which started in the US in 2007, spreading fast worldwide, Italian emigration rocketed, overtaking the number of people immigrating.

The two great emigration flows differed deeply. From 1870 to 1970 the poorest part of the population, with low literacy levels emigrated pushed by Hunger and despair.  

In the most recent emigration, according to the report on migration of the research study centre Idos, on behalf of the OECD, the number of Italians residing abroad reported in the Consular Registry office is 5 million and 200 thousand people and 50% of them have a diploma or a degree. 

A huge loss for the country in economic and cultural terms. A study recently conducted in the article "Quantifying the negative impact of brain drain on the integration of European science" written by Omar A. Doria Arrieta, Fabio Pammolli and Alexander M. Petersen points out that the lack of equilibrium of brain drain in Europe also negatively affects international collaboration in the field of science and research.

Giulia Lombardo

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