Drivers of highly-skilled emigration from Southern Europe in time of crisis

Laura, Bartolini, Anna Triandafyllidou, Ruby Gropas, European University Institute, Florence, IT

There is a widespread perception that (intra) EU mobility is on the increase since the outbreak of the economic crisis. In particular, the concern is directed towards the ‘brain drain’ of young Europeans from southern countries where the economic crisis is still ongoing. Although existing data does not allow to distinguish at one time between native and foreign born and by education level, and in spite of the quality and comparability of official statistics on flows and stocks of emigrants, there is still evidence of differing patterns across Southern European countries. Emigration figures of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal vary significantly in terms of size of emigrant populations, of trend over the last decade and of the share of the highly educated involved. In this article, we complement official statistics with information from an e-survey on highly-skilled emigrants from Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal to investigate the reasons behind the decision to migrate. Is the mobility of those migrated since 2009 qualitatively different from those who left before the crisis? Our sample (6377 interviews) allow us to examine the characteristics of highlyskilled migrants from countries most hardly hit by the crisis in order to explore the ways in which the protracted economic unrest has impacted the reasons that have led them to emigrate. While the willingness to improve training or career’s prospects is shared by the majority of respondents, more contingent motives related to the worsening of general quality of life and employment conditions are determinant for those who left during the crisis. The relative deprivation in comparison with highly-skilled peers in other countries in terms of satisfaction with the type and level of employment arises as one of the major concerns for these young southern Europeans.