Right now, there’s few more pressing issues for businesses in Ukraine than brain drain — the problem of Ukrainian professionals leaving the country in search of better living and working conditions abroad.
The term “brain drain” was coined first by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society as European professionals emigrated to North America from a Europe ruined by World War II. Ukraine’s brain drain today is caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine, but it is also caused by a poor economy sapped by pervasive corruption.
As the population continues to shrink, from 45.5 million in 2013 to today’s 42 million, this national challenge — the outflow of an estimated four million Ukrainians working abroad — is hitting small local businesses as well as international conglomerates. That’s not only a problem for the private sector, but also for Ukraine’s government, which is failing to create conditions that will attract more investment to the country. With the brain drain worsening, companies now fear they won’t be able to hire a qualified labor force, as the Ukrainians with the top skills leave for other countries. In 2017, Ukraine saw one of its worst years ever for foreign direct investment, drawing in only $2 billion.
But the news is not all bad. Some hope that while many Ukrainians move abroad, some will come back with new experiences and knowledge, as well as send money. For example, this year Ukrainians working abroad are expected to send back home around $9 billion in remittances, about the same as last year, according to the National Bank of Ukraine. Moreover, the brain drain is an additional factor putting pressure on lawmakers to pass legislation to root out corruption, create a better standard of living, and make the business environment more attractive.
Others are taking up the challenge at home — such as Lviv’s IT Innovation Park, a project that has attracted $150 million in investment to bring IT professionals to the city. And even if the outflow of Ukrainian professionals continues, Ukraine can still open its doors to workers from other countries, who will bring more cultural diversity and experience to the country — a brain gain.
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