Brain drain: How to bring young Serbs back?

Last year, the president of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU), Vladimir Kostic warned that Serbia was ranked first in the world by brain drain, according to the report compiled by the World Economic Forum, and added that in 10 to 15 years there could be a serious deficit of available workforce with higher education.

In last night’s talk show, hosted by Olivera Kovacevic, at Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS), reputable guests – an academic, professor at the Faculty of Mining and Geology, and head of the Expert Team for Monitoring of Higher Education Reform, Vladica Cvetkovic, director of the Mathematical Gymnasium, Srdjan Ognjanovic, Jovana Arsic, young financial analyst at PJT Partners in London and president of the Singidunum University, professor Milovan Stanisic – discussed this very topic.

In 2007, 27,000 highly educated people emigrated from Serbia. Only seven years later, this number more than doubled to 58,000. Furthermore, there are currently 45,000 university graduates who are unemployed. When presented with this data, professor Cvetkovic said that we can divide these people into two categories – the university graduates who got a quality education and whose profession is in demand, and whose who received higher education of a lesser quality and who are more inclined to do any kind of job.  Cvetkovic also says that Serbian economy does not have a high enough capacity to take in all the university graduates and allocate them appropriate jobs.

When asked whether the growing number of privately-run universities with low learning criteria which are not immune to selling diplomas contributed to the aforementioned problem, professor Stanisic said that that was true to a certain degree but was inapplicable to the university he managed because their diplomas were recognized all over the world. As far as the countries that university graduates usually emigrate too, Germany, the US, Canada and increasingly Middle Eastern countries (Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates) top the list.

Director of the Belgrade Mathematical Gymnasium, Srdjan Ognjanovic relayed the experiences of his pupils saying that quite a few of them, when they graduate from a university, go abroad to continue their education and, because a lot of them are quite gifted, foreign companies recognize that and usually offer them jobs that no Serbian employer can match. Still, Ognjanovic says, despite the good working conditions abroad, many of them still want to come back and work in Serbia, for patriotic or other reasons.

A young Serbian financial expert living in London, Jovana Arsic confirms this and says that she is planning to come back to Serbia once she is ready to start her life again from a scratch. She adds that longer young people stay abroad, the tougher is for them to decide to come back.

When asked what the state should do to motivate young people not to stay and those who left to come back, professor Ognjanovic replied that we should look up to China which saw millions of young Chinese returning to work in the country from abroad because they realized that the economy was on the brink of the boom and were promised good jobs if they stayed and contributed to that economic wonder.

Contrasting that to Serbia, professor Cvetkovic said that, in order to appeal to young and educated people to come back, the state authorities need to create an environment that fosters transparent employment, and carefully select teachers and professors who educate the future workforce.

Jovana Arsic underlined that the Serbian job market was oversaturated, and, in such environment, companies were at liberty to offer the worst possible conditions because of the workforce being desperate to find a job.

In conclusion, professor Ognjanovic said that not everything was doom and gloom as seen in the Serbian IT sector which desperately needed more IT professionals. This was seconded by president of the Singidunum University, Milovan Stanisic who said that it was encouraging to see that the number of foreign students at Singidunum has been exponentially growing year-on-year.

(RTS, 25.05.2017)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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