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The growing brain drain in Spain and Europe

The Swiss company Adecco, one of the biggest HR companies in the world, estimated that in 2 years, around 150,000 Spanish people have abandoned their country in search of new opportunities and professional horizons.

According to Adecco, one out of two Spanish citizens would leave Spain in exchange for a job with similar or even a slightly lower income than the one they had in Spain.

By January 2013 the total number of Spanish people that live abroad rose to 1,931,248, which means that close to 4% of the total Spanish Population is living outside the country. In nearly 70%, the profile of these emigrants is that of working age, between 18 and 50 years old.

The main reasons for the increase in Spanish juvenile emigration are: the lack of professional opportunities in Spain, and the increasing demand of high-qualified professionals in Argentina, Brazil or the United States. Out of all the Spanish emigrants, just 34% choose Europe as their destination, a fact that is surprising if you compare it to 10 years ago when Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom where the most popular destinations.

Investigators, doctors, biologist, engineers, architects and developers are among other professionals in high-demand that try to escape from unemployment, achieve a decent salary and accomplish a good balance between life and work.


Another important issue to this growing emigration trend is the internationalization of the strongest Spanish companies such as INDITEX (Zara), BBVA, Santander or Mapfre among many others. Actually, the IBEX 35 companies from Madrid’s Stock Market generate more than 50% of their income outside of Spain.

Saul, Nuclear Physicist and Spanish Emigrant

ImageA PhD in Nuclear Experimental Astrophysics, Saul, after 5 years of experience in Spain could not find a job that would allow him to succeed in Spain, which is why in 2012, he decided to consider offers in the United states. He finally moved to Michigan, where he has been this past year, and describes the experience as the best thing he could have done in terms of all the resources he has to continue his investigations. Nevertheless, he declares that he would like to move back to Spain if he could have decent and respectful working conditions.

Best-known and most recent case is Diego Martinez Santos.

He has recently been recognized as the best European Experimental Physicist by the EPS Image(European Physics Society). Not even such prestigious award has been enough for him to go back to Spain, where he has been rejected alleging that his resume was “not good enough”.

Diego says that he does not want to live in Holland forever, so he will continue trying to go back to Spain, even after having received interesting options all over the world.

More evidence of the exodus of thousands more, is the case of Daniel Hernando, a young Spanish Education Graduate who lives in China. Before moving to China, he spent close to a year looking for a job in his country to no avail. He affirms that he is not completely happy about having to move to the other side of the world, leaving family and friends behind, but that he did it as it was the best option for him to grow professionally and develop his teaching career. He also says that if he could go back to Spain to a job with similar conditions, he would, but it is not something that is likely to happen nowadays in Spain.

Yet another case is Juan Jose, a Spanish Computing engineer that emigrated to Germany, and declares that his only options in Spain were to be an Intern for over a year, working over 10 hours a day and shameful conditions. In Germany he has a steady job with good working conditions for Mercedes Benz.

Here we have seen 4 examples of how Spanish young professionals have to go abroad in order to find opportunities, but it is not only them four; 100,000 young professionals have left Spain in the past years due to the Economic crisis and the lack of recovery signs in the short term.

ImageNevertheless, we like to think that there are possible solutions and actions that can be taken in order to recover the Spanish economy and start creating jobs again. These solutions should not only come from the government, but also from the people. Spanish citizens have to be capable of having a positive attitude towards the situation that they are going through. It is not easy, but they have to roll up their sleeves and try to start again from a different, positive, and hopeful perspective. When the environment around is not supportive and fertile, you have two choices: move to a different one or stay and try to make it better. If that environment is your country, your home, you do not want it to see it falling apart. So, hopefully those young brains will soon be able to go back and contribute to a new growth with their innovative, bright perspective.

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