EU wants to stop southern European ‘brain drain’

With the crisis and unemployment still raging in Southern Europe, highly educated Portuguese and Spanish are packing their bags to find opportunities elsewhere. A lot of them are heading towards the north (Germany, Austria, the Netherlands), but tens of thousands are leaving Europe altogether.

Between 25000 and 30000 Portuguese left for Angola in 2012, said Jose Cesario, the Portuguese secretary of state for emigrant communities to the BBC recently. This is the reverse image of the situation in the 1970′s, when hundreds of thousands of Angolans and Portuguese expats in Angola left the country to go to Portugal. The same is true for Brazilian immigrants.

Spanish graduates are going to Mexico in high numbers. Mexico’s immigration office, the Instituto Nacional de Migracion, reports the number of Spaniards granted work permits in the last quarter of 2012 alone at 7,630.

It’s not just workers, but businesses too. As we wrote recently, more and more Spanish businesses are expanding or relocating to Central and South America:

“Just a couple of years ago, there was no one in Mexico. The other day I went in to a bank in Mexico and there were three Spanish companies there, all of which had been working there for more than three months.” (Jesus Rodrigues, CEO of Realsec)

The exodus of young talent is called ‘the biggest brain drain since the Civil War in 1939′, and the EU is trying to stop it, to prevent the already scarce ICT workers to leave Europe.

Building up to the ‘Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs’ in early March, the EU is announcing a few initiatives that should make job mobility easier for ICT workers through unified certification across the EU, including:

  • a so called e-competence framework which will define the necessary competences for ICT workers and managers (e-CF)
  • an e-competence benchmark, an online interactive tool that gives ICT’ers the means to identify competences they need or lack

Of course, while it might be bad for the EU, moving to Mexico, Angola and other developing markets might actually make sense economically. Mexico’s growth for 2013 is estimated at about 3,5 %. Angola’s economy is growing at up to 8 to 10 % per year.  The EU GDP growth on the other hand is expected to come in at 0.1 % in 2013.


4 – 5 March: Conference in Brussels to launch the Grand Coalition for Digital Skills and Jobs.

[IB Times,,Euractiv][photo: Lord Jim, Flickr]

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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