EghtesadOnline: Iran’s human capital flight could be eased by reforming the country’s economic structure, a commentary for the Persian daily Donya-e-Eqtesad authored by Chairman of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Masoud Khansari reads.
According to Financial Tribune, excerpts of the article titled “Pain of Iran’s Economy” follow:
Iran’s educated young adults constitute a high percentage of the population who apply for immigration programs across the world.
Just a few months ago, a media report noted that 149 out of 150 Iranian winners of International Olympiads [internationally recognized contests for high school students in mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc.] have migrated to other countries over the years.
Migration is not only a social and humanitarian issue, but it is also a problem that affects the economy in many adverse ways.
First: Skilled workers who have remained in the country, either willingly or unwillingly, are always dwelling on the thoughts that they should have had followed in the footsteps of their family members, friends and acquaintances who have gone overseas, or what could have become of their lives if they were living in another country. Such mental conflicts lead to dissatisfaction with their current jobs and consequently lower productivity.
Second: Migration is basically an unfavorable socioeconomic phenomenon. The departure of an individual affects their family members and might prevent them from working on their plans or truly demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have. For a period of time, the family stays mentally and emotionally engaged with the newly immigrated member.
Third: Global economic environment is overwhelmingly competitive. When we send our skilled, educated youths to regional countries or Europe, we are in fact offering them production opportunities and strip ourselves of the same opportunities. Moreover, migration is not restricted to the academia. Imagine a carpet weaver or a designer leaving the country for somewhere else. The destination country enjoys the expertise of that highly-skilled carpet weaver and has the potential to produce while we have lost this talent and opportunity.
There are no accurate figures on the number of Iranians who have left the country for good, but nearly 5.5 million Iranian people are estimated to live overseas.
The International Organization for Migration said about 1.4% of the Iranian population migrated in 2015.
In the fiscal 2009-10, the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology announced that about 400 out of the 12,000 university students sent overseas by the government since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 have not returned.
Also, nearly 60,000 Iranian students are studying abroad. The ratio of the outflow of Iranian graduates to the total number of graduates is 15%. With as few as 50,000 Iranian immigrants four decades ago, according to the International Monetary Fund, Iran today has the highest brain drain rate among 91 countries and up to 180,000 highly-educated leave the country every year.
Over 250,000 Iranian engineers and physicians alone are living in the US. A report by the Iranian Immigration and Passport Police Office said that in the fiscal 2008-9, 15 Master’s graduates and four PhD holders left Iran every day.
These figures indicate migration has turned into a more serious issue in Iran’s economy. Elites, including Maryam Mirzakhani (a professor of mathematics at Stanford University who passed away recently) and Firouz Naderi (a scientist who spent more than 30 years in various technical and executive positions at NASA) have all emerged from the Iranian community and migrated to other economies. The question is could they realize their potential, if they had stayed in Iran?
Iran’s economic structure does not seem to help such people grow in stature. Many talented youths stayed in Iran but there is no sign of their presence in the economy, or at least they are not as remarkable as their migrated counterparts.
There is a group of Iranian young adults who leave the country to land a better job and have a better life. They would have stayed in the country if they were sure about their welfare and job security.
Sadly, Iran [and Iranians] have become overly politicized. This feeling has jeopardized peace and security, and intensified the issue of migration.
Both the economy and society will enjoy the fruits of a better economy, which is within reach by improving the business environment, reducing bureaucracy, eliminating restrictive regulations, streamlining taxation and banking systems, fighting corruption and improving competitiveness and transparency.
A society and its economy are intertwined, so their improvement should be simultaneous.
Social issues impact the economy and such a perspective turns the restoration of Iran’s economy into a national cause, beyond political and partisan differences.
To alleviate the pain of immigrants, we need to find a solution to rebuild the economy.