Turkey faces sharp rise in brain drain, 10K millionaires emigrated in last 3 years

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In the past three years, a total of 23,000 entrepreneurs and businesspeople in Turkey, including 10,000 millionaires, have joined the ever-growing number of people who seek a better future abroad, indicating a sharp rise in the country’s brain drain statistics, the Sözcü daily reported on Friday, citing a report by an opposition deputy.

Fethi Açıkel, a deputy from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), blamed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – which has been in power since 2002 – for the growing brain drain in a report titled “Large Brain Drain Triggered by the AKP.”

According to the report 10,000 millionaires have left the country in the last three years, making Turkey third worldwide in the loss of millionaires, following China and India.

“Despite government pledges to reverse the brain drain, large numbers of people continue to move abroad for a better future,” Açıkel said, adding that the number of people leaving Turkey had increased by 97 percent in three years, from 69,326 in 2016 to 136,740 in 2019.

“Turkey lost at least $220 billion due to citizens emigrating to 20 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]. This is an inevitable result in a country where democracy and freedoms are suspended. The AKP’s discourse on reversing brain drain is nothing more than a tale,” he added.

The report also revealed that the number of people between the ages of 20 and 35 moving abroad had increased by 70 percent in three years, making up 41 percent of people who left the country in 2019.

A large number of graduates from well-respected high schools in Turkey preferred to attend university abroad in 2019, the report said, stating that 52.6 percent of İstanbul High School graduates, 32.6 percent of Galatasaray High School graduates and 94.7 percent of German High School graduates went to Germany, the US, Canada and France for higher education.

Açıkel also referred to new incentives recently announced by Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank as part of an academic funding program launched in 2018 in a bid to encourage scientists who have moved abroad to return home, which included the government allocating up to TL 720,000 ($95,000) for researchers from abroad to conduct studies in Turkey.

“The government still evaluates the growing brain drain from an economic perspective. However, it’s not correct to think there are only economy-related reasons [behind Turkey’s brain drain],” the CHP lawmaker said.

After a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 followed by a systematic attack on academic freedom through the dismissal of professors from the country’s most prestigious universities and the cancellation of their passports as well as the shutting down of civil society and non-governmental organizations, Turkish citizens began to feel the seriousness of the political pressure.

According to the latest studies on Turkey’s ongoing brain drain, the rise of authoritarianism, religious nationalism, financial difficulties and the AKP government’s strict control over universities are the main reasons for emigration. Young people who do not want to live in “Erdoğan’s Turkey” are looking for a free and democratic country where they can find better working conditions and a higher standard of living, the reports also reveal.

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