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20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain

In this piece, we are going to look at the 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain. If you want to skip emigration situation and its trends globally, and how immigration has contributed substantially to the U.S. economy, you can go directly to 5 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain.

Youth brain drain in the world, especially the Western Balkan Six countries (WB6) poses a significant challenge, with high rates of emigration affecting their economic and democratic advancement, potentially impacting their integration into the EU. Current strategies for addressing youth emigration focus on broader policy areas like youth employment and education but may not fully address the issue.

Conversely, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a substantial migration from Russia to Kazakhstan has created an opportunity for economic growth and brain gain in Kazakhstan. However, cautious policymaking in Kazakhstan could hinder capitalizing on this potential influx.

In the global context, attracting and retaining specialized talent is paramount for economic growth. Recent immigration policy changes, such as Ireland's expanded employment permits and the EU Blue Card enhancements, demonstrate efforts to facilitate foreign national movement. The introduction of remote work visas and visa waivers by various countries further showcases a concerted effort to attract and accommodate foreign talent, underscoring the strategic measures in place to address the complex issue of brain drain on an international level.

U.S. has been a focal point in context of emigration. In 2022, the workforce in the United States consisted of approximately 28.4 million immigrant employees, showcasing a notable increase of nearly 7 million from the 21.5 million recorded in 2010. Comparatively, there were approximately 129.4 million native-born workers in the same year. Among the various industries, the educational and health services sector employed the highest number of immigrant workers, totalling 5.2 million individuals, which accounted for 18.2% of all foreign-born employees.

This was followed by professional and business services with 4.3 million workers (15.2%) and construction with 3.3 million workers (11.7%). Notably, the construction industry boasted the largest proportion of immigrant workers in 2022, with an estimated 3.33 million individuals, representing 11.7% of all immigrant employment. Comparatively, 8.05 million native-born workers were employed in construction, constituting 6.2% of the native-born workforce.

A significant proportion of immigrant workers, accounting for 22.8% of the workforce, were engaged in the services sector. This category spanned various occupations, including automotive repair, barber and beauty salons, and religious organizations. Additionally, immigrant workers comprised 21.3% of the professional and business services sector in 2022, encompassing occupations in legal services, accounting, and veterinary services. Within the agricultural sector, approximately 468,000 immigrants were employed, representing 1.7% of the total immigrant workforce. In contrast, native-born individuals accounted for a larger presence in agriculture, with 1.82 million workers in 2022, comprising 1.4% of the native-born employed workforce.

Also, immigrant entrepreneurs have been integral to America's economic success story, with many of the country's largest and most renowned companies tracing their origins back to immigrants or their descendants. These "New American" businesses, ranging from well-known brands like Apple and Costco to newcomers on the Fortune 500 list such as Coupang and Lululemon, have consistently fueled innovation and growth in diverse industries. Recent analyses have shown that a significant percentage of Fortune 500 companies have immigrant or immigrant-descended founders, underscoring the enduring impact and entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants in shaping the business landscape of the United States. Namely, Apple Inc. (NASDAQGS:AAPL),, Inc. (NASDAQGS:AMZN) and Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSE:CL) are few companies consisting of immigrant-descended founders. Before we move to our list of 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain, let’s take a look at these companies one by one.

Big Companies with Immigrant-Descended Founders

The existence of the American computer company Apple Inc. (NASDAQGS:AAPL) can be directly attributed to the immigration of Steve Jobs' father, Abdul Fattah Jandali, as a political migrant from Homs, Syria. By allowing this Syrian refugee into the U.S., a pivotal pathway was created for the establishment of Apple, influencing the technology landscape significantly.

As of now, Apple Inc. (NASDAQGS:AAPL) stands with a market capitalization of $2.82 trillion. More so, Apple unveiled its fiscal 2024 first-quarter financial outcomes concluding on December 30, 2023. The company reported a quarterly revenue of $119.6 billion, reflecting a 2% increase compared to the previous year, along with quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.18, representing a 16% surge year over year. This underscores the profound impact that immigration has had on shaping the tech industry.

Moreover, the Cuban immigrant background of, Inc. (NASDAQGS:AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos further exemplifies how the origins of influential U.S. companies are intricately connected to immigrant contributions. Currently,, Inc. (NASDAQGS:AMZN) has a market capitalization of $1.82 trillion. In the fourth quarter of 2023, Amazon’s net sales surged by 14% to reach $170.0 billion, displaying notable growth from the $149.2 billion recorded in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSE:CL) was a small soap and candle company founded by the English Immigrant William Colgate in New York City in the early 19th century. Now, it has a market capitalization of $71 billion. Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSE:CL) manufactures and sells consumer products in the United States and internationally. In the upcoming fiscal year of 2024, Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSE:CL) is anticipated to report earnings of $3.47 per share on revenues totaling $20.02 billion, reflecting a 7.43% variance in earnings per share and a 2.9% shift in revenue. Projections for the following fiscal year indicate an expected increase in performance, with the company projected to earn $3.75 per share on revenues of $21.02 billion, signifying year-over-year changes of 8.03% and 5%, respectively.

20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain
20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain



To create our list of 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain, we referred to Fragile States Index, particularly focusing on the Human Flight and Brain Drain Index, which is capped at 10, where higher the index (closer to 10), higher the rate of brain drain in a country i.e. higher the number of skilled workers leaving the country. With this, let’s now jump onto our list of 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain.

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20. Sri Lanka

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.6

20th country on our list of 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain is Sri Lanka, which is currently experiencing a significant brain drain issue, with over 300,000 individuals choosing to migrate abroad since the country defaulted on its foreign debt last year. Factors such as high inflation, increased taxes, shortages, and limited opportunities have prompted professionals and laborers to seek better prospects overseas. The country's bankruptcy in the recent past hasn't helped the situation.

19. Fiji

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.6

Fiji is currently grappling with a significant brain drain crisis, with approximately 22,000 individuals having relocated abroad, with 16,000 departing on work permits. The Finance Ministry's permanent secretary addressed this issue at the National Economic Summit, emphasizing the ongoing loss of skilled personnel.

18. Chad

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.7

Chad has experienced significant brain drain as a result of prolonged instability and conflict. Many Chadians have migrated to countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and France within the European Union in search of better opportunities.

17. Mali

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.7

Mali's economy has displayed resilience despite challenges like ECOWAS sanctions, high food inflation, and cotton production difficulties, which has led to brain drain over the years, resulting in its appearance here in the list of 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain. The outlook for 2023-2024 poses risks concerning the electoral schedule and stricter financial conditions. The increased cost of financing, especially given Mali's high financing requirements, presents a notable risk. Tighter monetary policies have led to higher yields on Treasury bills and bonds within the WAEMU region.

16. Grenada

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.7

Despite facing the challenge of brain drain, Grenada's economy shows resilience and growth, with expectations to exceed pre-pandemic levels by 2023. The growth is propelled by the construction sector's strong performance and a steady rise in tourist arrivals, supported by successful initiatives to enhance airlift connectivity.

15. Syria

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8

Syria is facing a severe humanitarian crisis, with more than two-thirds of the population in acute need of assistance. The combination of factors such as the global economic recession, the impact of COVID-19, sanctions, and economic challenges in neighboring Lebanon has led to over 90% of the population living below the poverty line. The erosion of purchasing power, high inflation rates, and currency depreciation have further exacerbated the economic hardships faced by Syrians. Additionally, the conflict in Ukraine has impacted the cost of staple foods, leading to increased food insecurity in the country.

14. Cabo Verde

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8

14th country on our list of 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain is Cabo Verde, which is facing a significant brain drain issue, with more of its population residing outside the country than within its borders. However, since 2019, the Cape Verdean government has initiated a new digital plan to establish the country as a prominent tech hub in the sub-region, aiming to compete with tech powerhouses like Nigeria and Ghana in West Africa. This strategic plan seeks to address the brain drain challenge and propel Cabo Verde as a key player in the tech industry through innovative initiatives and investments.

13. Moldova

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8.1

13th country on our list of 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain is Moldova, which is facing a significant brain drain issue, as many young individuals have been compelled to seek opportunities abroad due to limited job prospects and low wages at home. Various global and regional crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have exacerbated the economic challenges in the country. The departure of talented young Moldovans has resulted in a shortage of skilled workforce needed for economic reconstruction, posing risks to local industries' competitiveness and growth. Moldova has experienced a significant loss of its student population over the past 16 years, further intensifying the brain drain phenomenon.

12. Guyana

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8.2

Guyana has been grappling with a significant brain drain issue, leading to an exodus of highly skilled individuals seeking better opportunities and higher pay abroad. The departure of skilled professionals has resulted in shortages in critical sectors like healthcare, education, and technology, leading to a decline in service quality and innovation. Reports indicate that a large percentage of individuals with tertiary education have left the country for more lucrative jobs. The World Bank's 2021 report highlights the need for Guyana to address the lack of opportunities and low pay for skilled professionals in order to retain talent and combat brain drain.

11. Haiti

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8.3

Haiti is the 11th country on our list of 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain, as it is experiencing ongoing emigration, fueled by historical challenges such as poverty, natural disasters, political crises, and insecurity. The country's struggles, including a massive earthquake in 2010, violent riots in 2018, and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, have contributed to a power vacuum and increased migration. Economic instability, exacerbated by widespread poverty, has further driven Haitians to seek opportunities abroad.

10. Micronesia

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8.4

A significant number of young Micronesians have been leaving their country in pursuit of better economic prospects, which are limited in the Federated States of Micronesia. President David Panuelo highlighted this issue in his state of the nation address, revealing that over 2,000 citizens migrated permanently in 2020, followed by another 2,500 in 2021. The trend shows a disproportionate loss of youth, with the average age of emigrating citizens ranging between 25 and 28, posing a challenge for the nation.

9. Afghanistan

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8.5

The Taliban have appealed to Western nations to halt the evacuation and resettlement of educated and skilled Afghans abroad, stating it is detrimental to Afghanistan. They claim improved security within the country, assuring the safety and freedom of all Afghans, including those affiliated with the previous government. Despite this, tens of thousands of educated Afghans have fled in fear of Taliban persecution in the past two years, prompting countries like the United States, Canada, and various European nations to accept Afghan refugees. This significant brain drain, including media professionals, has resulted in setbacks for free media in Afghanistan.

8. Albania

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8.5

Albania has been grappling with a significant brain drain issue, ranking among the top countries globally for emigration prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite being the only non-African country in this top tier, Albania has faced a resurgence in emigration over the past decade, affecting its population and educational system. This brain drain has led to a workforce crisis in various industries and sectors within the country.

7. Somalia

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8.6

Somalia, 7th on our list of Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain, continues to face challenges with brain drain as the number of diaspora academic returnees remains lower than desired. Despite an increase in the return of diaspora academics each year, the country still experiences a net loss of people according to World Bank migration data. The shortage of qualified and experienced academic staff in higher education institutions further exacerbates the brain drain issue in Somalia.

6. Eritrea

Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8.6

The prolonged conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia has resulted in significant loss of life and instability in the region. This historical conflict, coupled with the current political challenges and humanitarian crises, contributes to a dire situation in Eritrea. The country's issues, such as a dictatorial system and poor governance, further compound the challenges faced by its people.

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Disclosure: None. 20 Countries Facing the Biggest Brain Drain is originally published on Insider Monkey.