Concern Over Human Capital Flight

Concern Over Human Capital FlightConcern Over Human Capital Flight

The flight of human capital, particularly highly trained and qualified Iranians to the developed countries has become a major concern.

Based on several studies, most of the immigrants seem unwilling to return home, Ansar Amini, senior researcher in political science and international relations, told the Persian-language weekly ‘Tejarat-e-Farda’ a sister publication of the Financial Tribune.

According to the 2012 US data, nearly 89% of Iranian doctoral students stayed back in the US after graduation. Statistics also show that annually 5,600 Iranians move to the US after enrolling in an academic program.

Figures indicate a significant increase in the number of students who left mostly for the western countries during the tenure of the previous government (2005-2013).

In 2006, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president, called for “a purge of the liberal and secular” university teachers from higher academic portals, forcing many prominent teachers and professors to resign or to retire. The measure led to a massive brain drain at that time, Amini said.

The issue of brain drain has also led to many socio-economic problems and put a heavy pressure on the domestic economy.

The flight of human capital obviously has many negative impacts on economic growth rates. Former minister of science, research and technology, Reza Faraji Dana estimates that brain drain costs the economy $150 billion annually with 150,000 highly skilled people leaving the country every year.

 R&D Funding Low

Amini said meager funding for research and development (R&D) is one of the reasons for the brain drain over the past four decades. Allocation of sufficient funds for research and providing scholarships and loans for higher education students can help curb the flight of skilled human resources that are needed more than ever before as the nation embarks on the arduous task of economic rebuilding after the end of crippling economic sanctions.

Some universities in the US and Canada pay a monthly allowance of more than $3,000 to students at higher education levels, but Iranian universities don’t offer such incentives due to, what officials always claim, “lack of funds.”

While annually a large number of skilled and trained Iranians leave the country in search of greener pastures, annually a large number of illiterate and unskilled people enter Iran from neighboring countries, in particular Afghanistan.

Afghans began migrating to Iran in unusually high numbers over the past 35 years due to foreign military invasions, civil strife, instability and rampant poverty. Most of them have the least specialized skills both in terms of literacy and familiarity with technology, so they take low-category jobs.

As most of them are not in an economically viable position, they accept low-paid jobs, which have a negative impact on the wages of the national workforce, observers say, a claim open to debate since 1980.

Entry of foreign labor into the domestic labor market as well as the regular flight of educated Iranians abroad are issues that relevant officials have talked about for long but without any effective results.