EghtesadOnline: Recent studies by the National Elites Foundation reveal a significant downtrend in the emigration of Iranian university entrance exam (locally known as concours after the French word meaning competition) toppers, and Science Olympiads.
The study surveyed 2,712 of the selected Olympiad students and 35,313 of top students who ranked between 1 and 1,000 in concours.
The average rate of emigration among top students of mathematics in concours decreased from 60% between the fiscal 2011-12 and 2013-14 to 38% among those graduating between the fiscal 2016-17 and 2018-19.
For top-ranking students of natural science, the emigration rate dropped from 10% to 7% during the same period, Financial Tribune reported.
The rate for students of humanities dropped from 20% to below 8%.
For the top rankers of mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer, astronomy and biology Olympiads, the emigration rate fell from 62% to 37%.
More than 4,700 of elite expatriates started cooperation with their home country in different fields since March 2014 when Vice Presidency for Science and Technology launched a platform to foster ties with Iranian elites.
They include 135 entrepreneurs who have established 93 knowledge-based companies, 340 who have been granted tenure at top Iranian universities and 170 who have been employed by universities as lecturers and visiting scholars.
About 500 expat PhD holders are working in postdoctoral positions. More than 2,000 lectures and workshops have been held by Iranian elite expats over the past four years in their home country.
Based on their socioeconomic status and motivations, Iranian emigrants can be divided into two groups: individuals who are educated and skilled, and unskilled or semi-skilled individuals who move abroad to advance their economic and professional standing.
As the first group includes emigration of large numbers of professionals, entrepreneurs and academics, it accelerates “brain drain or human capital flight”, terms used to describe the emigration of a country’s most educated and highly skilled for better opportunities in another country.
Among the factors contributing to the brain drain are economic well-being and better educational prospects abroad.
The inability of the home country to respond to its citizens’ needs, coupled with high unemployment rates and a general lack of intellectual and social security, also contributes to the brain drain.
The International Monetary Fund claimed in January 2006 that Iran ranks highest in brain drain among 91 developing and developed countries, with an estimated 150,000 to 180,000 educated people exiting annually.
However, a report by the Persian weekly Tejarat-e Farda claims that Iran ranks fourth among all countries when it comes to its share of educated, skilled emigrants in the world.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s statistics show Malaysia, the US, the UK, the UAE and Italy were the main destination of Iranian students in 2012. About 52,000 Iranian students were studying overseas in that year, constituting 1.5% of the international student markets.
There is scant statistical data by local institutions on Iranian economic migrants. The only available figures are those by Persian Gulf littoral states, which show 150,000 and 98,000 Iranian economic emigrants were working in Qatar and Kuwait in 2015, respectively.
World Economic Forum on Iran's Human Capital Index
World Economic Forum’s Global Human Capital Index for 2017, the latest available report, shows Iran ranked 104th among 130 countries and scored 54.97 out of 100.
The WEF Human Capital report measures countries on four key areas of human capital developments, namely capacity determined by past investment in formal education; deployment which is the application and accumulation of skills through work; development which is the formal education of the next-generation workforce; and continued re- and up-skilling of existing workers; and know-how, which is the breadth and depth of specialized skills used at work.
A country’s performance is also measured across five distinct age groups or generations: 0-14 years, 15-24 years, 25-54 years, 55-64 years and 65 years and above.
Among the four key areas of human capital development, Iran ranked highest in the development component at 54th, receiving high marks in the area of secondary enrolment gender gap, secondary education enrolment rate and primary education enrolment rate.
The country, however, failed to perform well on the deployment pillar where it ranked 128th due to low marks in its employment gender gap and labor force participation rate.
According to the WEF report, the working age population of Iran is nearly 57.1 million out of 80.3 million.
The country’s labor force participation rate is 38.3% and unemployment rate is 11.1%. About 34.4% of the Iranian youth are not in employment, education or training. GDP per capita is $16,010 and output per worker is $54,099.
Norway topped the global index, followed by Finland, Switzerland, the US, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, Slovenia and Austria.
According to the report’s Human Capital Index, 62% of human capital have been developed globally. Only 25 nations have tapped 70% of their people’s human capital or more.
With a majority of countries leveraging between 50% and 70% of their human capital, 14 countries remain below 50%.