Migration is an ongoing process. In 2017 about 260 million people were living outside of their country of birth. Countries are especially affected by migration of well-educated professionals, scientist and intellectuals, who should be the leaders of economic and social development therein. They represent an important part of the human capital, as their country invested a part of the gross domestic product (GDP) into their development and education. This type of lost potential is called “brain drain”.

Most often, brain drain manifests itself as migration from developing to developed countries. To study this phenomenon, we can look for example to Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to available official data from the State Agency for Statistics, the total number of persons originating from Bosnia and Herzegovina and living abroad is at least 2 million, which makes it 53 % of the total 3.791.622 people living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The results for EUROSTAT states that since 2004 about 20.000 citizens emigrates from Bosnia yearly. Indications are showing, that this trend is increasing.

Edna Hasagić-Ajanović wants to redefine the world of self-developing migration.

While researching for this paper we have come to conclusion that this topic is not researched enough. Despite the alarming numbers, the possible effects and the attention on this topic, the state is not offering any concrete solutions. Especially not a long-term strategy. No tools have been developed. Besides a few studies without specific follow-up actions, there is no genuine interest in this research as most of the studies are funded by foreign embassies and development agencies. Local government is lacking appropriate actions. The main cause for high emigration from B&H is not only unemployment and low living standard but also a lack of opportunities for self-development and general injustice in the society. 

Considering all mentioned, is the phenomenon of brain drain a problem?

If yes, can and how could it be solved?  

There is no problem if people migrate to other countries looking for opportunities to fulfil a better education and self-development. In a different environment they can develop more and faster than they would have in the country of origin. By meeting other cultures, they are also becoming open-minded and could approach situations from different angles. All countries rely on incoming know-how in this matter in promoting flexible opportunities. The problem lies in the low rate of return of youth with experience abroad. They do not come back home and bring that experience with them! 

The solution lies on creating an effective mechanism to attract youth with experiences abroad to bring these experiences back to the home countries and to effectively utilize them. These mechanisms should be problem based and have long lasting support to achieve full effect. To achieve comprehensive effects several approaches should be utilised in parallel:

  • decreasing barriers to promote the return of people abroad; 
  • changing attitude toward mobility as a solution for efficient gaining of know-how;
  • maximising the effects of gained experiences. 

Decreasing Barriers – Increase Funds

To decrease barriers to promote the return of people abroad several actions could be applied. Specialized funds could be set to motivate and create possibilities for continuing professional development of established professionals in B&H. A process of diploma and title validation acquired in other countries, with appropriate evaluation could be improved to be more efficient and remove unfair treatment, especially for partial achievements such as semesters abroad. Enabling part-time and remote engagement of professionals abroad could enable collaboration and contribution of established professionals abroad to countries of their origin and prepare to position for a full relocation back. These measures could motivate more established professionals to return to their home country.

Redefine Mobility

Also, the attitude toward mobility should be changed. Mobility should be considered as a efficient and fast solution in gaining know-how which could accelerate the development of the whole country as well. Actions for raising awareness of the positive effects of migration and decreasing negative campaigns should be arranged. It should be recognized that it is also a big problem if people do not move from their surroundings and do not expose to new ideas. To foster mobility could be formalized as a criteria for professional development in academia.  

Sharing knowledge

To maximize the effect of mobility, knowledge sharing should be facilitated. Feedback from these people should be spread widely. This would improve the knowledge and the motivation of people. Especially when returnees can be treated as a source of wealth with different ideas, concepts and experiences. Besides that, a long-term cooperation with institution abroad must be established.

By applying these approaches, brain drain can be turned from a burning problem into fruitful solution and spark the overall country development! It is an opportunity which should be materialized effectively.

What is your view? Comment and let us know:

Edna Hasagić-Ajanović

Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina. President of the LC Sarajevo of The European Law Students Association (ELSA) with 200+ members between 2016-2017. Two Erasmus+ Experiences at the Karl-Franzen-University of Graz (Austria). Speaking Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, English and German.