Survey says brain drain from Israel has halted

Israel National Brain Gain Program works to bring Israeli Academics back home

Ben-Gurion University graduation ceremony (photo credit: DAVID NEWMAN)
Ben-Gurion University graduation ceremony
(photo credit: DAVID NEWMAN)
The number of academics living abroad has halted its increase and remained steady between 2012 and 2014, after an increase of 19 percent between 2010 and 2012, during the height of the social protests in Israel, according to a survey conducted by the Israel National Brain Gain Program and released by the Economy Ministry Monday.
The Israel National Brain Gain Program is a cooperative project between the Economy Ministry, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and the Planning and Budgeting Committee at the Council for Higher Education.
The program, which started its work in 2013, is headed by Economy Ministry chief scientist Avi Hasson and works to halt the phenomenon known as “the brain drain” – academics moving abroad for long periods of time – and bring them back to Israel.
The survey, which was prepared in partnership with the Central Bureau of Statistics, shows that in 2014, some 21,400 Israeli academics were living abroad for over three years, of which some 2,100 held doctoral or medical degrees.
Between 8% and 10% of Israelis who hold a bachelor’s degree in exact sciences (physical sciences, computer sciences, mathematics and statistics) and between 10% and 14% of Israelis who hold a master’s degree in those fields were living outside of Israel for over three years in 2014, according to the survey.
Moreover, some 20% of Israeli PhD holders in the fields of computer sciences, statistics, and mathematics were found to be living outside of Israel for over three years.
Hasson acknowledged the importance of living abroad as an academic, saying that “in a global world, moving abroad is an important step in developing a career and in scientific and technological professionalism.
Yet at the same time, we strive to return their brains to Israel and thereby benefit from the knowledge and experience accumulated abroad.”
The program has already registered more than 4,400 academics living abroad, Hasson added, and is partnered with more than 180 Israeli employers interested in absorbing them into their workplaces.
He also called the program the “center of communication for [Israeli] academia, taking care of absorbing scientists at institutions of higher learning.”
The program offers assistance to academics who wish to return to Israel, including job searches, bureaucratic help and more.
The program has launched an online “fast track” to deal with the National Insurance Institute and has developed webinars that address some of the difficulties of reabsorption into Israeli society.
Academics wishing to return to Israel also receive assistance in airfare for job placement interviews and have access to a website with information on moving back, a question and answer forum, information about scholarships and programs in Israel, a job board, and more. The program stays in touch with the academics abroad through meetings and a monthly newsletter.
Since its launch, more than 250 academics have returned to Israel through the program.