Setting: Cafe International Held on April 17th 2014

(Article and photos by Mark Koghee)

Slovenia suffering from ‘brain drain’

Is Slovenia losing its brain? Headhunter Dr. Alenka Stanič seems to think so. In a lecture at the Slovenian Dutch Business Platform (SDBP) in Ljubljana she said that there is an exodus of smart educated people from Slovenia and that this is becoming ‘really problematic’.

Stanič was invited by the SDBP to talk about her specialty; the migration of intelligent educated people, or as she calls it ‘brain circulation’. Stanič is one of the leading specialists in the recruitment of senior management for companies in Slovenia, Austria and Italy.

The fact that smart people move to find a good place to work, preferably among their peers, is nothing new. ,,It always has been happening and it always will be happening. Migration is in our genes’’, said Stanič who started her academic career in biology. But in Slovenia the headhunter has been noticing an increasing number of young people moving out of the country.

,,I already started to feel something was happening in 2003. The best candidates were asking me if I knew a way for them to go somewhere else. Now I see this group increasing exponentially. People of the age of 35, 40, with families, they are moving.’’ Stanič wasn’t afraid to admit that even she herself would leave. ,,If something interesting comes for me in for instance Turkey or Austria. I’m going.’’

This phenomenon, generally known as brain drain, is for Slovenia very bad. ,,It is becoming really problematic. The people that leave are the ones who are the most educated and committed, the smartest. We are losing the most potent part of the population.’’ And towards the many expats in the room: ,,Even though there are many of you coming, there are more smart people leaving.’’

The exodus of intellectuals could get worse. ,,Average people are now moving up to positions that demand more than being average. People have to make decisions they aren’t fit to make. And wrong decisions make the situation even worse because it makes more people want to leave.’’ Which made one the attendees say: ,,I would like to have a boss, but not an average one!’’

The same woman has been having trouble finding a job in Slovenia. She had been living and working in Austria and the US before. ,,I came back with a lot of knowledge but I don’t feel welcome here anymore. Now I want to go away again.’’ The woman said she had the feeling that she is being seen as a threat in Slovenia.

Stanič confirmed that this could be right. ,,The system here, everything, is made so that things can’t change. It’s not just in science but all over. Young people are a threat to this.’’

There was a lot of input from the audience which led to interesting discussions. One of the last questions came from SDBP-president Roland Korthouwer. He wanted to know what could be done to change things for the better. According to Stanič that is up to the government. ,,The government should acknowledge that knowledge is the key. Startups are currently the biggest new employers. The government should help them now and not keep on pumping money in NLB Bank and the bad bank.’’

Stanič gave China and Austria as good examples. ,,China we all know as the country where cheap low quality products came from. But in 10 years it will be a centre of science. The Chinese are planning to draw 80,000 PHD’ers from the US. They are systematically getting smart people to China.’’ Austria is another country that, according to Stanič has been ‘systematically putting money in knowledge’.

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