x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

European brain drain good news for Emirates

Euro Zone: Doctors, pilots and lawyers are among the young skilled workers fleeing the euro zone debt crisis for jobs in the UAE and elsewhere.

People protest in Madrid, Spain, one of the numerous countries that citizens are leaving to pursue job opportunities elsewhere. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
People protest in Madrid, Spain, one of the numerous countries that citizens are leaving to pursue job opportunities elsewhere. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

The Emirates has emerged as a beneficiary in the brain-drain from euro-zone nations as austerity and recession push young talent to relocate to the Gulf.

The influx of thousands of highly-skilled workers will act as a stimulus for the regional economy, while harming the competitiveness of the countries they leave, such as Spain, Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

The number of Spaniards in the UAE has doubled since 2008 to more than 2,200, according to the Embassy of Spain in the UAE.

"One of the main drivers for people seeking jobs in the UAE is the large number of multinational companies and projects that are active not only in this country but in the whole Middle East," said Rosa Vidal, the office manager of embassy's economic and comthe mercial office.

Many immigrants are fleeing the prospect of unemployment or pay cuts imposed by austerity in their homeland.

"All types of Spaniards are leaving the country but especially the youngest and most qualified aged around 25 or 26 years old," said Gonzalo Gaspar, a representative agent for the IE Business School in the Gulf.

"They're the lost generation as a lot of these people are leaving the country and may not come back."

Spain's economic problems have led to one of the highest unemployment rates in the euro zone, with about 24 per cent of people out of work. Estimates put the number of graduates who have left since Spain's troubles have worsened at about 300,000. The Spanish employment minister Fátima Báñez recently called the exodus an "unprecedented flight of talent".

Mariano Andres said he was seeing a growing number of Spanish pilots, doctors and engineers dining at Seville's, a Spanish restaurant he manages in Dubai.

"Emirates is opening new routes to South America and they need Spanish speakers," he said.

"A lot of Spanish pilots have left Iberia [a Spanish airline that is cutting pilots' pay]."

Greece, the epicentre of the turmoil ripping through the single-currency bloc, is also experiencing a talent flight.

According to a poll in January by Greece's Panteion University, more than half of university-age Greeks said they planned to move abroad. Some are choosing the euro-zone economic powerhouse Germany.

About 24,000 people left Greece last year to live and work in the country, almost double the number who did so in 2010, data from Germany's national statistics office shows.

More than 1,000 young Greeks are estimated to have left for the UAE during the past year or so.

"For 25 to 35-year-olds, it is not possible to get a job in Greece so many are leaving to look for alternatives," said Panos Psaltakis, 30, a Greek lawyer who relocated to Dubai from Athens.

The Irish government estimates some 3,000 citizens are now leaving the country every month, the highest rate since the potato famine in the 19th century. Canada, the US and Australia are popular destinations but many are also choosing the UAE.

To some extent the trend reflects a growing focus from Ireland's business community in the Middle East.

Membership of the UAE's relatively new Irish Business Network (IBN) has swelled to 300 in less than two years.

"We are definitely seeing more Irish companies land here," said the group's chairman, Brian King. "There are a lot of highly educated 25 to 35-year-olds arriving."

For Portugal, Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil and Angola have traditionally been popular with expatriates. But the UAE is becoming an attractive alternative, with as many as 1,200 Portuguese living in the country.

With the euro-zone crisis showing little sign of fading, the brain drain is likely to continue.

"The sadness is that Europe will have paid the education bills but will not benefit from the employment skills," said Chris Slay, a recruitment expert with the European Recruitment Agency.

* with reporting from Sean Cronin and Gregor Stuart Hunter

tarnold@thenational.ae

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