Turkey loses the best and the brightest, adding to brain drain

The number of students who graduate from Turkey’s leading high schools and prefer universities abroad has been increasing, the weekly Gazete Oksijen reported on Jan. 19.


122 of the 124 students who graduated from the German High School, 133 of the 166 students who graduated from the Istanbul Erkek High School, and 74 of the 75 graduates of the Austrian High School chose to study in universities abroad last year.


Moreover, 62 percent of Robert College graduates and 35 percent of Galatasaray High School graduates went abroad after graduating. In Galatasaray, this rate was 3.3 percent in 2020.


Galatasaray High School Principal Professor Reşat Dabak said, the students who preferred to study abroad “think they will receive a better education, and their desire for freedom is also effective.”


As the Turkish government cracks down on dissent, coupled with a deteriorating economy, more and more young people are seeking new lives abroad.

Polls conducted in recent years indicate the Turkish youth are increasingly unhappy to live in the country, saying that they have lost hope in the future of their country.

In recent years, Turkey has been witnessing an increase in its number of emigrants, with migration becoming an exit strategy for the youth from everyday struggles.


TurkStat, the government’s statistics bureau, said 139,531 Turkish citizens left the country in 2022, compared to 103,613 in 2021. Those aged 25 to 29 formed the biggest group.


The numbers are a significant increase from 77,810 Turks who left in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak.



Sociologist Besim Dellaloglu attributes some of the exodus of the “uppermost educated layers of society” to a democratic erosion. “I do not have the impression that this migration will be reversed without decreasing polarisation in Turkey,” he said.



Most likely to leave are medical professionals and IT specialists, Dellaloglu said, but also highly trained individuals from all sectors.


A report by the Turkish Informatics Foundation paints a grim picture, revealing that approximately 12,000 highly productive academics have chosen to seek greener pastures abroad, leaving a gaping void in the country’s academic landscape. Further exacerbating the situation, the Turkish government has dismissed over 7,000 academics in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt, a move that has drawn widespread criticism for curtailing academic freedom.


Sven Koksal:  Consequences for Turkey’s Economy and Society

When a country’s best engineers, doctors, researchers and entrepreneurs leave, they take their skills, ideas and experience with them. This directly depletes the country’s human capital – the knowledge, talents and productivity of its workforce. A smaller pool of qualified talent negatively affects economic growth and innovation.

Educated, high-earning professionals contribute significant tax revenue through income and social security taxes. As these individuals leave Turkey, the government loses out on tax income which could have funded public services and social welfare programs. Less revenues strain government budgets and make generous social policies less feasible.

Brain drain shrinks the workforce talent available to fuel productivity, entrepreneurship, and global competitiveness. Turkish companies struggle to recruit top talent locally so they cannot maximize output or rapidly expand to compete internationally. Turkey’s potential slips away overseas.

Turkey’s ambitious 2023 economic goals depend on evolution from labor-intensive fields like agriculture to high-tech, knowledge-intensive sectors. But reaching the innovation capacity to transform its economy is harder with declining human capital. Turkish startups and R&D lag as creators and thinkers leave rather than bring cutting-edge ideas to Turkish companies.



Various press sources, PA Turkey

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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and www.paraanaliz.com and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.