Systemic response to brain drain is needed

On the occasion of the International Youth Day, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) again points to unfavourable position of young people within Montenegrin society, who remain one of the most marginalized groups, and without systemic response by the state to the growing problems that young people face.

Due to this status in the society, young people are leaving Montenegro in search of better opportunities for themselves. However, there is no official data on the extent of this problem, nor on whether young people who left Montenegro did so temporarily or forever. This sends an additional message to young people that the Montenegrin institutions do not recognize this problem as a priority nor that they want to work towards comprehensive solution and retention of young people by providing them with equal opportunities for personal and professional development.

CGO - Neophodan sistemski odgovor na odliv mozgova

Data from the Youth Study Montenegro 2018/19 indicate that 50% of young people want to leave Montenegro in search of better future, which is also in line with the previous CCE 2016 survey, meaning that this negative trend is stable. For a quarter of them, this desire is strong, while the same percentage of young people have a moderate desire to leave the country for more than half a year. Among those who have a strong desire to leave Montenegro, there is significant number of highly educated, i.e. those who belong to the most educated part of the young population (one third of postgraduate and doctoral students). Given the unfavorable basis for quality youth development, this information is not surprising, but it should raise overall concern.

The high youth unemployment rate in Montenegro is one of their key problems. Consequently, unemployment makes it difficult to integrate into society and young people become a group at serious risk of marginalization, social exclusion and poverty. In 18 to 29 year-old age group, the unemployment rate is 38.75%, with employed young people mostly working on fixed-term contracts, while the percentage of those with permanent employment is quite low. The trend of deprofessionalisation of work is highly notable, so young people in high percentage do not work in the profession for which they were educated, or work in jobs that require a lower level of qualifications than those acquired through formal education.

The functioning of the society contrary to the principle of meritocracy and disrupted system of values ​​are also recognized by the youth. Although highly valuing professionalism and education, young people see links with powerful figures, personal links as well as political party membership as the most important channel for access to employment.

Problems of an economic nature, such as better standard of living, employment opportunities and higher salaries, and in part better education opportunities, with noting of nepotism and links, represent main reasons why young people most often want to leave Montenegro. The most desirable destinations for young people to leave Montenegro are USA, followed by Germany and then Italy in third place.

Gathering reliable data and creating a database containing number of young people who have left the country, intensity of youth migration, characteristics of those young people, followed by motives that set them off and what can bring them back, i.e. what can stop the brain drain we are witnessing, is the first step in systematic monitoring and resolution of this major problem. At the national level, there are two registers for the collection of migration data in Montenegro, but none focuses on the collection of data on emigrants from Montenegro. Managing youth migration should be an integral part of strategic state documents and action plans, but also a much more substantive issue, with the involvement of many stakeholders in order to find a solution. From regional perspective, the brain drain tendency puts Montenegro at the top of the list of countries that are most affected by this phenomenon, and this requires due diligence from institutions and society itself.

Also, it is necessary to create conditions for keeping the most educated young people, i.e. young people who, through their expertise, can help the recovery of different segments of society, through investment in science and education.

The long-lasting problem of disbalance between education offer and labor market needs must be urgently addressed, through better communication between educational institutions, enterprises and other sectors of society and development of joint plans to formulate strategic response to this problem.

Finally, and crucially, an effective fight against corruption and nepotism in education, employment and promotion and prevention of political employment are needed, as this is precisely what discourages high-quality young people.

By the UN General Assembly resolution 54/120, 12 August is proclaimed as the International Youth Day  and it commemorates the efforts of young people in shaping contemporary society. Also, this day is conceived as an opportunity to recognize the potential of young people and their activism in contributing to the communities they belong to. The subject of this year’s International Youth Day is the transformation of education.


Milos Knezević, PR / Programme Associate