Thursday, October 18, 2007


I always thought that the term "brain-drain" referred to the emigration of people with high educational and skill levels from poor nations to rich ones. But maybe I'm too narrow minded. The author of The Economist's Europe.view column takes a much broader view of this concept:

A new study by the Lisbon Council, an incisive Brussels-based think-tank, highlights some ominous trends. The ex-communist east of the European Union has backward industries, a dire demographic outlook and, for the most part, out-of-date universities. A brain-drain may be irreversible.

The study should be mandatory reading for the stubborn, complacent and squabbling politicians of eastern Europe. Only two countries are above the western European average: Slovenia, thanks to its wealth, and Turkey, because of its booming birthrate. For most of the others, the human-capital gap is large, and likely to widen rather than narrow.

(Emphasis is mine)

Well, I do suppose that, technically, death does represent an irreversible brain-drain, at least to those involved, as does being bitten by a zombie or prolonged exposure to reality TV shows.

But it does seem odd to equate more brains with more brainpower (what's the antonym of brain-drain? Brain-fill?). On that score, places like Afghanistan, Burundi, Mali and Yemen (see here) are top generators of human capital. Maybe the EU should invite them to join!

(Ed. By the way, Turkey's birth rate fell from 33.7 per 1,000 population in 1980 to 16.6 per 1,000 population in 2006 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, hardly the stuff of booms).