AuthorBoc, Emil
  1. Introductory remarks

    The emigration of highly qualified people has been and still is at the center of the academic and political debates since the 1960s (Kone and Ozden, 2017, pp. 12-18). The debates first had a predominantly theoretical approach and proposed a balanced vision, which showed that, beyond the advantages of the countries of destination, there are advantages and disadvantages for the countries of origin. In the 1970s, the paradigm that was imposed in approaching the problem was one that emphasized the negative effects of the loss of human capital on developing countries. During this period, the Bhagwati tax was proposed which would allow the countries affected by the brain drain to receive financial compensation. This vision is still present in the specialized scientific papers and in the political public discourse. In the 1990s the problem has begun to be addressed in a balanced way, in terms of a negative and positive impact paradigm, and studies showed that there are/can be economic and social gains for the countries of origin, and under certain conditions there is an increase in the level of human capital. Recent empirical contributions have shown that the negative effects are generally limited (a limited effects paradigm) and that the gains from highly skilled emigration can be relevant if there are institutions in the countries of origin that can address the issue in terms of 'brain circulation' (via exchange programs and mobility fellowships) and development of networks of cooperation (and not just in terms of 'brain drain' vs. 'brain gain'). These gains include dissemination of knowledge, growth of foreign direct investment, growth of trade and sums of remittances to the sending countries.

    In connection to the brain drain, 'brain waste' processes (or 'deskilling') which refer to migrants whose skills are either underutilized or not utilized at all as well as processes of 'brain regain' have been documented (improved human capital). The debate is far from over and the issue is debated both at the academic and political level.

  2. Addressing the challenge in the EU

    2.1. An age-old problem

    The circulation of scientists and highly qualified persons has been the basis for the development of science since ancient times. Migration of educated people is more than 2,000 years old. Around 300 B.C., there was a brain drain from Athens to Alexandria, in the context of the policies promoted by Ptolemy I Soter. Later, the history of the first European universities is related to brain circulation and measures that tried to stop the brain drain phenomenon. In 1274, an edict published in Bologna stated: 'By this edict, we solemnly forbid any ecclesiastical or lay person, Bolognese or foreign, either personally or by messenger, letter or other means, to attempt to negotiate with ecclesiastical or lay persons, colleges, universities, regions, communes, or communal entities, the transfer of the studium of the city of Bologna to another place'. Other laws later advocated the same repressive approach (including the death penalty). Neither of them has proven effective: the Universities of Arezzo (1215), Padua (1222),

    Vercelli (1228), Sienna (1246), Pisa (1343), and Florence (1349) were founded after migrations from the University of Bologna (Dedijer, 1969, pp. 3-5).

    For thousands of years, European science has meant exchanging ideas and disseminating discoveries in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology, technique, and so on across the continent. European countries have benefited in the modern age from the circulation of ideas and brain circulation, managing to link scientific discoveries to technological innovations and thus to obtain important economic and social achievements.

    2.2. Freedom of movement--a fundamental value of the EU

    Within the framework offered by the European construction, any public policy regarding the brain drain phenomenon must take into account the foundations on which the European Union is built, and freedom of movement is a fundamental value of the EU. As stated in the Treaty of Lisbon, it represents one of the most important achievements of our Union:

    '1. Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Union. [...] 3. It shall entail the right, subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health: (a) to accept offers of employment actually made; (b) to move freely within the territory of Member States for this purpose; (c) to stay in a Member State for the purpose of employment in accordance with the provisions governing the employment of nationals of that State laid down by law, regulation or administrative action' (Article 45). The European model is based on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Thus, the EU cannot refuse a right that is acknowledged by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 'Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country' (article 13) and 'No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality' (article 15).

    The European model is based on social justice and solidarity. The free movement of goods, people, services and capital is possible only under the conditions of European solidarity. The social contract, as it can be understood from all EU programmatic documents, since the Treaty of Rome, is based on assumed common values: democratic institutions, human rights, social justice. And social justice is incompatible with mobility restrictions (Dumitru, 2012, pp. 9-11).

    Thus, mandatory service measures or measures of taxation prior to departure or programs of taxation after departure--which have been, are and are likely to be brought up by politicians in various countries--are illiberal and violate European treaties. Everyone is free to move voluntarily inside the European Union, but no one should be forced to leave the country due to poverty and other economic reasons.

    2.3. The knowledge economy--driver of intra-EU mobility

    The European Commission's regulated professions database provides evidence on the most mobile professions in the EU, showing that highly skilled people are among the most mobile (2012-2019 period, Country of qualification: All EU Countries; Host country: All EU Countries,, 16.08.2019): Nurse (65,568), Secondary school teacher (55,868), Doctor of medicine (52,975), Dental practitioner (14,309), Physiotherapist (13,947), Architect (8,460), Veterinary surgeon (7,772), Lawyer/Barrister/Solicitor (6,823), Nursing assistants and Health care assistants (5,354), Auditor/Accountant (5,267), Primary school teacher (5,228), Pharmacist (4,841), Kindergarten teacher/Nursery school teacher/Preparatory school teacher (3,551), Midwife (3,489), Psychologist (3,116), Radiographer/Radiotherapist (2,615), Fork lift truck operator (2,377), Engineer (2,199), Speech and language therapist (1,866), Child care worker (1,842).

    The knowledge economy is an important driver of intra-EU mobility and in particular of the mobility of highly skilled migrants and the regions where knowledge economy is developed are usually those that have developed physical and technological infrastructure, quality education system, cultural activities, medical care system, good connectivity among businesses and universities, to put it simply, good labor conditions and high quality of life. The knowledge economy is shaping the mobility of highly qualified persons: migration flows follow east-west, south-north and rural-urban patterns, and sending regions have an average GDP per capita that is 64% of the EU28 average, whilst receiving regions have an average GDP per capita that is 108% of the EU28 average (Busetti et al., 2017 apud Cavallini et al., 2018, p. 9).

    A study that considered 23 countries in the EU and Switzerland (Grecu and Titan, 2016, p. 65) showed that the 'country capacity to retain talent' index is strongly positively correlated with life expectancy' (0.922), 'quality of overall infrastructure' (0.654) and 'quality of the educational system' (0.729).

    According to a study commissioned by the European Committee of the Regions (Cavallini et al., 2018, pp. 11-12), in 2017, there were almost 17 million people who changed their residence within the EU, of which about one third (32%) were in the age group 15-34 years. Most people who relocated in the EU went to Germany and the United Kingdom, the most important countries of origin being Romania, Poland, Italy and Portugal. Of the people who moved in the EU and were of active age (15-64 years), a proportion of 25% had a tertiary level of education. Highly qualified people have very high employment rates and have favorite destinations in the northern areas of the Union (Sweden, Ireland, Estonia, Denmark, and United Kingdom). The highest number of highly qualified people moving within the EU came from Poland (576,300 individuals), Germany (472,700), and Romania (467,500).

    A World Bank study shows that Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are countries with high levels of external migration for health workers, while they have vacancies in their health sectors. The highly skilled workers in Romania have the highest emigration rate, 27% of the total of the highly qualified Romanians living abroad in 2017 (World Bank, 2019, pp. 63-65).

    A study on the movement of skilled labor showed that, between 2004 and 2016, the proportion of high skilled EU movers among the employed population in the EU tripled, to a total of 3.6 million in 2016. The benefits of high skilled EU movement were equally distributed among the Member States, because the largest mobility flows are from Central and Eastern European countries to the more developed countries (ICF, 2018, p. 3). The study shows that there are a number of factors that act on macro, meso and micro levels behind the individual migration decisions of skilled workers, factors...

To continue reading

Request your trial