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The Brain Drain, Romania's Solution?

This is the first time I've addressed the issue directly, but after somebody on my Facebook posted this article, I can no longer avoid it. I read the story with lots of interest and, I'm ashamed to say, a side order of jealousy. From an economic growth perspective Poland's doing well in Eastern Europe, and the brain drain reversal is just another example of what our northerly  neighbours are doing better than us. There's obviously a much bigger Polish diaspora, but let's keep in mind that many of those Poles are two or more generations removed from their homeland, making them unlikely candidates for a return. The four-million strong Romanian diaspora is younger, more fragmented, and still very close to the homeland -at least in spirit. I've no doubt that if conditions were different in this country, the rate of returning Romanians would increase exponentially.

What do I mean by 'conditions'? I often like to point out that the living standards in this country are as good as anywhere else on earth. The variety isn't what it is in New York, it's not as cosmopolitan as Toronto, nor is Bucharest as chic as Paris, but none of those things mean anything when compared to the satisfaction of living and working in one's own country. Of course, by 'living' and 'working' I mean building and contributing to the improvement of one's own country, not just getting fake tans and driving German imports. The point is, you're free to live however you want here, but what makes it truly exciting is the possibility of contributing to rebuilding it. You don't even need to be Romanian to participate, but it's probably a feel-good bonus if you are. There is only one reason that the post-communism rebuilding process has taken this long, and that's because the people who are best qualified to lead the effort don't live here anymore.

I've outlined the problem, now I'd like to outline the solution.

Let's say that Mihai (who will later become, Mike) emigrates to Canada with his family as a kid, kinda like me. And let's say that Mihai is brought up in a value-oriented system where the concept of graft is as outrageous as murder, and he learns that lots of hard work and determination have a way of paying off in the long term. And let's say he's been working since he was sixteen and by the time he's thirty he has over ten years of practical work experience in addition to a formal education. Let's say that he misses his country and is thinking of going back and...this is where the hypothetical story typically ends, because nobody in Romania is involved with helping Mike come back. The really sad part is that somewhere in Romania there's a company desperately searching for Mike. How do they meet? In today's reality, they don't.

In tomorrow's world, Mike meets his new employers online, through a hub where professionals introduce themselves to companies with a Romanian presence. The benefits are three-fold; well-meaning professionals get the opportunity to put their skills to work in Romania, companies attract highly skilled and 'western-minded' candidates with high proficiency in a language other than Romanian, and most importantly, brain drain turns into brain gain. It's not meant to be revolutionary because the concept isn't very different from the premise offered by a typical job search site, but it's specific in that Romanians interested in a return have a place to start whereas today they have nothing.

I just read Ronnie Smith's article about the brain drain. He aptly points out that it's Romania's biggest problem and suggests that the government isn't doing anything to keep talented professionals in Romania and even less about helping them come back. Unfortunately, some government intervention is needed to encourage young Romanians to stay, but as I demonstrated above, encouraging them to come back can easily be a private-sector initiative. Who cares about the government when the conditions already exist to attract foreign-based Romanians to return. Like the Google R&D center in Krakow, there are companies here (mostly foreign) that offer a great work environment and very competitive salaries (vis-a-vis the cost of living). Somebody who makes a salary of $2500/month here can live much more comfortably, and even build up some savings, compared to somebody with a salary of $5000/month anywhere in the West.

There one more thing. The brain drain issue has to be looked at from a big-picture perspective.That somebody leaves Romania isn't a problem, the problem is when they don't come back. I'd encourage every Romanian to leave, get some proper job/civic 'training' in another country, and to come back and make things happen over here. That's how you turn a problem into a solution. That's how we can change Romania.


  1. In primul rand, mulțumesc pentru blog în general. L-am descoperit de curând la sugestia unui amic german,ciudată întâmplare. Nu mă întind inutil, o chestie tehnică însă:ar fi util dacă ar fi activ link-ul de mailuri.
    Nu pot explica concret de ce, dar cand citesc ce postezi am mereu impresia că e vorba despre un strain care decide sa traiasca in Romania., de genul multor germani, englezi, americani etc care vad in Romania ceva interesant si au multe sugestii geniale si realiste, dar totul vine din perspectica unei alte mentalitati...ok...una care nu ar strica in Romania dar car enu poat efi adoptata asa cu heirupu

    Despre brain drain:

    -e o chestie tipic romaneasca sa ne comparam cu altiisi sa mutim putin de ciuda:) ceea ce e ok daca ne misca cat de cat intr-o directi ebuna...dar ajung iar la mentalitate...noi nu avem nici solidarinosc in background si nici tupeul cehilor de a spune nu europei cand vor sa spuna nu si nici nu ne mobilizam ca spaniolii sau portughezii in strada....daca o sa se intample candva mult asteptata revenire atunci din motive care tin cat d ecat de tipicul romanesc , sincer habar n am daca se va intampla. Pentru ca oficial, in vest, ne merge bine.

    -vorbind despre mentalitate, ai formulat foarte politicos, faptul ca diaspora romaneasca e fragmentata... nu cred ca exista o diaspora romaneasca,,,,cred ca e inventata in mod repetat la alegeri si de sarbatori si solidaritatea noastra e mai mult o o chestie nostalgic superficiala asezonata cu sarmale,tuica si filme retro si nu trece dincolo de gratarul din iulie si partyurile studentilor silitori si sentimentali de 1 decembrie, nu am intalnit inca alta comunitate care sa incerce mai mult sa se adeapteye la tara vestica in care a emigrat si sa uite tot ce a lasat in urma (ah da cu exceptia vizitelor in carpati din fiecar e vara).

    La capitolul solutii, in bunul stil romanesc nu prea am una clara :

    - poate ca totul ar trebui s ainceapa cu parintii tinerilor ce ies acum din liceu :) ultima moda este: ce as putea studia in Germania,. Anglia, SUA pentru a avea un salariu mare ? Liceenii astia nu mai viseaza despre ce job ar face cu placere in viata lor ci vor solutii pragmatice concrete, orice important e sa fie in vest. Asta pentru ca vestul e ditamai paradisul si pentru ca ei, parintii, nu au ajuns prea des acolo, dar macar asta micu sa primeasca o farama de paradis .

    -e cel mai bun lucru posibil sa te intorci acasa, dar nu intr-o alta multinationala cu un salariu genial pentru standardul d eviata local, ceea ce inseamna concret ca intre tine ca superreintors si restul lumii din tara ta e o prapastie sociala direct la tine acasa. Cred ca e o solutie atractiva pentru acei romani care au plecat din motive economice in alta tara si evita sa se intoarca pentru ca intoarcerea in RO pe un post la stat prost platit e vazuta de cei de acasa ca un rateu. Din fericire majoritatea sintem cam asa, asa ca atunci cand EON sau Siemsen sau alte companii fac outsourcing e binisor o vreme.

    - cred ca daca trecem de bariera stomac si salarii problema este : ce poti intr-adevar sa faci ca si job in Romania? Da sunt o mie de solutii pentru informaticieni, ingineri, management etc . La fel sunt o serie de joburi pe care daca ai stat prea mult afara, nu prea poti sa le faci, pentru ca si daca exista, exista formal (fiindca de ceva ani trebuie sa ne adaptam la e.u.) dar practic totul e stuck in a moment.Ma refer acum la toate initiativele legate de programe europene, sunt joburila acelea greu palpabile, despre care nu prea stii c esa i povestesti vecinei de la 2, dar prin care poti misca ceva in Romania. Asa cum s- a miscat in Cehia, Polonia, chiar in Bulgaria, prin care s-au schimat pe termen lung vietile unor oameni care au des operit ca dincolo d einchiderea fabricii e recalificarea si nu obligatia morala sa emigreze de dragul familiei. Daca esti lasat. In momentul de fata nu prea merge:) si tot dorul sau dragul de Romania e dincolo de ea.

  2. Hey Novac, thanks for pointing out the email issue, took care of it now :)

    Mi-e foarte greu uneori sa scriu despre posibilitatile in Romania. Imi dau seama ca pensionarii, bugetarii, taranii, si o mare majoritate a oamenilor le-ar fi greu si putin relevant sa imparta optimismul meu. Uni sunt 'lost causes' iar alti sunt 'borderline lost causes'.

    Dar in general, ei nu sunt cei care citesc ce scriu, ori ca nu pot ori ca nu le pasa. Vad ca e un pericol de a fi vazut ca si cineva care promovez o viziune elitista si ireala a situatii curente. Dar cred ca e nevoie de oameni educati si cu experienta vestica pentru a schimba tara asta. Nu pentru ca sunt 'mai buni', dar pentru ca inteleg ca e nevoie de munca grea aici. Deci e nevoie de oameni care le plac provocarile si care nu fac o treaba pe jumatate. In mare, ce trebuie e o alta mentalitate - una care cei care trec prin scoala si viata aici nu o invata...sau care o apreciaza mai mult cand vin inapoi.

    Idea de a aduce Romanii din diaspora inapoi nu e ca sa vina si sa faca un ban aici prin lucru la multinationale. Dar sa vina cu idei si energie pentru implicare in societatea civica stiind si ca daca vin inapoi nu inseamana necesar ca pierd standardul de viata la care s-au obisnuit.

    Ce-mi dau seama de cand sunt in Romania e ca imi pasa mult mai mult de ce vad in jur care nu-mi place. Fie mizerie, atitudine, etc...In Canada nu-mi prea pasa, dar aici, daca vad un gunoi pe strada de multe ori il iau de pe jos sa-l arunc. Daca cineva is face bine treaba le multumesc si incerc sa le dau cuvinte de incurajare. Nu zic ca-i mare lucru, da e ce simt in tara mea..

    Dorul de Romania e un lucru, dar dragul e ce face o diferenta.

  3. it's going down:


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