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Brain drain dulls Israel's tech edge, Minister warns

Posted: 26 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:brain drain Israel? R&D? leadership technological?

Israel is slowly losing its technological leadership and might "lose the global battleground" in technology, if it does not reverse the current brain drain and reduction in R&D budgets, forewarned the country's Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor.

"We must do more to reduce the brain drain and absorb skilled Israelis who live abroad, in the academy and in the industry. Israel leads in establishing startups, in the number of patents, in inventions and in technological breakthroughs", said Elyahu Yishai in a statement.

"We are a technological superpower but unfortunately we see a regression, which I associate with the reduction in the research and development budgets. There is also evidence of a massive reduction in research budgets in universities. We are now losing the future infrastructure of the innovative industry."

According to some estimates, more than 20,000 Israelis have relocated to foreign headquarters or sites of multinational companies.

Roughly, 25 percent of all academic lecturers leave Israel, according to Dan Ben David, director of the public policy department at Tel Aviv University. Ben David put the number at between 1.5 and 4 percent for European countries.

Striking finding
The most striking finding in a study cited last year by the Bank of Israel is the very high rate of emigration for new immigrants, who came mostly from the former Soviet Union. For engineers, there is a huge gap in the rate of emigrating from Israel between new immigrants and the other two groups. Engineers who are new immigrants left the country at a rate of 9.4 percent, while the rates for natives and veteran immigrants are 1.45 percent and 1.2 percent respectively.

According to a study last year by Israel's Shalem Center shows, in the period from 2000 through 2004, there was a sharp increase in the brain drain from Israel. In 2002, 0.9 percent of the researchers and professors left the country. In 2004, this rate rose to 1.7 percent. In 2002, 1.3 percent of the teachers left Israel and in 2004, this rate rose to 2.1 percent.

Yishai nominated Roi Madai from his ministry to prepare a plan that will fight the brain drain from the country.

Yishai said that in order to deal with brain drain, Israel should generate more technology drivers and continually nurture its work force.

The ministry intends to conduct a road show targeted at Israelis who relocated abroad and present specific jobs available. The ministry will also set up a Website for the expatriates that will enhance Israel-based jobs and research opportunities.

- Amir Ben-Artzi
EE Times Europe




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