Conservative website says next president must tackle Iran brain drain
In an article titled “A Note to the Future President: ‘Everyone Is Gone'” published on May 27, moderate conservative website Asre Iran suggested that the next Iranian president, who will be elected on June 18, should tackle the flight of human capital. “The crisis will enter a new phase if the future president does not take action [to stop] brain drain, ”the article warns, adding that the export of human capital could reach the levels of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Don’t face people with the dilemma of whether to stay or go,” the article says. “Many Iranian families have members or relatives who have emigrated and many of those who have stayed wish to leave the country and are grappling with the difficult question of whether or not to leave.”
Observers say the brain drain over the past decades, starting with the 1980-88 war with Iraq, has been encouraged by the lack of social freedoms in the clergy-dominated system, political upheavals, deterioration of the economy, and government repression. The increased pressure on Iran since US President Donald Trump imposed “ maximum pressure ” sanctions in 2018 is also cited as a cause of brain drain. The health sector has been particularly affected.
The economy has suffered tremendous damage since 2018, similar to the setbacks of the Iran-Iraq war and the revolutionary nationalizations of the 1980s.
The damage caused to the country’s economy by the flight of human capital was estimated at 150 billion dollars per year by the Minister of Science Reza Faraji Dana in 2014, which would represent 35% of the GDP. The World Bank more recently estimated $ 50 billion.
A report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2009, the year of a contested presidential election and street protests, ranked Iran at the top of the list of countries losing their academic elite with the departure of 150,000 to 180,000 specialists.
Iran does not publish regular statistics on the subject, but some officials sometimes cite relevant figures in interviews with the media. On April 28, the secretary of the Supreme Council of Iranian Cultural Revolution, Saeed-Reza Ameli, said that 54,000 Iranians are currently studying for a degree abroad. A general problem around the world with the “ brain drain ” is that students find better opportunities in the wealthier countries where they study – and according to Ameli, Iranians were the 13th largest foreign nationality in the United States and the fourth among doctoral students.
Ameli also said that 75% of the 1,000 students with the highest marks on Iranian university entrance exams still lived in Iran, although he did not quote the period he was referring to. He noted that “the enemies of the Islamic revolution are looking for our elite”.