A new report to be released by Russia Direct on May 15 examines the problem of the Russian ‘brain drain’ and offers ten specific recommendations for how Russia can become more attractive to top-tier talent.

Experts argue that Russian economy needs young, well-educated professionals who are ready to work in an international environment. Photo: RIA Novosti

Opening up to the global market economy means new challenges for Russian policymakers. As Russian workers choose to migrate abroad in search of better career opportunities, the Russian government needs to re-think its strategies to attract and retain a highly trained, international workforce. In order to reverse the ‘brain drain’ trend and create a new generation of high-skilled workers, Russia can benefit by implementing best practices from the U.S., the EU and Asia.

The question of the ‘brain drain’ becomes increasingly important for Russia in relation to global workforce mobility and the global flow of talent. “The international affairs arena is increasingly a fierce rivalry for all types of resources – not only energy and mineral resources, but also talent,” argues Dmitry Polikanov, Vice President of the Russian Center for Policy Studies.

In the report, he also points out that, “Russia has not yet passed the point of no return and still has a chance to reverse the outflow of talent to other nations.” This might be possible by reaching a balance between the inflow and outflow of talent that, according to the World Bank, has an impact on about 35 percent of the total number of educated workers.

Over the past decade, the Russian authorities have started to undertake steps in order to improve the situation regarding the ‘brain drain.’ For example, funding for science and research has been increased, and new grants and competitions have been introduced for young researchers and innovators, encouraging their interaction with businesses and sponsors.

Moreover, as Polikanov writes, “More Russian universities are starting to invite foreign professors and participate in the international rating programs.”

One of the main government initiatives, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, is bringing together Russian postgraduate students and foreign academics with potential investors. In addition, Russia strives to introduce programs for facilitating the granting of citizenship as well as visa facilitation arrangements for foreign specialists and businessmen. The Russian government also offers national fellowships to foreign students encouraging them to obtain free higher education in Russian universities.

Meanwhile, Andrei Korobkov, Professor of Political Science at Middle Tennessee State University, compares Russia’s experience in regard to the ‘brain gain’ with the U.S. experience. In the report, he says that intellectual migration is one of the key factors that ensure U.S. economic and technological dominance. In addition, it acts as “an effective mechanism of ‘soft power’ by expanding U.S. political, economic, and cultural influence,” says the expert. In his opinion, “Without the development of policies to attract and collaborate with the world’s intellectual elites, Russia could fall hopelessly behind the leaders.”

Michael Spaeth, a Director and board member of Russia Consulting, and Sergej Sumlenny, the Head of Public Relations at Russia Consulting and Germany Consulting, explore the ways for Russia to succeed in finding the right personnel in a changing world. Looking at the question from a practical perspective, the authors point out that there are two major problems with the Russian market that need to be addressed: extreme workforce mobility and an educational system that no longer prepares high skilled labor for a global economy.

They argue that now more than ever, the Russian economy needs “young, well-educated professionals who are ready to work in an international environment, who fluently speak several languages, and who have practical business experience.”

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