Brain Drain definition

Brain drain occurs when educated, professional workers leave a place or company in order to move elsewhere where they can benefit from better pay, working conditions, lifestyle and sometimes work-life balance. It is typically regarded as economically costly to the country or place the individuals are leaving.

Brain drain can occur on a sliding scale and may affect one company or an entire country, the latter in times of economic crisis when skilled workers move abroad to benefit from stronger economies that have more available jobs and provide a better overall remuneration package. Following Spain’s economic crisis in 2012-2013, Employment Minister Fátima Báñez said Spain is experiencing an "unprecedented flight of talent."

In terms of brain drain from a specific organisation, this typically occurs if staff dislike the organisation’s direction, its leadership, organisational cultureHR policies and other organisational elements.

Industries may also experience brain drain if employees perceive the industry as backward, lacking innovation or repressive with regard to rules and regulations. It may also occur from the public to the private sector and – much less commonly – from the private sector to the public sector.

Brain drain can also occur when people in less-developed countries go abroad in order to seek new opportunities or education, but then fail to bring these skills back to benefit their original country i.e. they choose to stay in the new country in order to benefit from the opportunities there.