Brain Drain From Startup Nation Increasing, Especially Among Best Educated in High-tech

The phenomenon is particularly prevalent in the fields of computer science, engineering and math, even with people who completed only a bachelor’s degree

Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel
There are currently more than 300 Israeli startups in New York.
There are currently more than 300 Israeli startups in New York.Credit: Getty Images
Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel

The brain drain from Israel continues, despite official efforts to bring citizens back to Israel.

As of 2017, some 33,000 Israelis who received degrees in Israel had been living abroad for three years or more, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data. This works out to 5.8% of all Israelis who finished degrees in Israel between 1980 and 2011.

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The statistics show that people with doctorates are particularly likely to move abroad – some 11% of all Israelis who completed doctorates in Israel now reside overseas.

Statistics bureau data shows the number of educated Israelis living abroad has been increasing since 2003, and is up 26% since 2013. Fewer and fewer educated Israelis who moved abroad over the past three years are coming back to Israel, indicate the numbers.

Last week, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced there has been an impressive increase in the number of Israelis studying engineering and computer science, and stated that this was likely to contribute to the local economy. Yet it’s people in these very fields who are most likely to move abroad, particularly to the United States.

Some 25% of people who completed doctorates in mathematics at Israeli institutions are now living and working abroad, as are 20% of Ph.Ds in computer science, 17% of mechanical engineering doctorates, and 16% of doctorates in fields including mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering and aeronautical engineering.

The phenomenon is particularly prevalent in the fields of computer science, engineering and math, even with people who completed only a bachelor’s degree. These fields are particularly in demand in Israel’s job market, as the country tries to maintain its status as the “start-up nation.”

Yet 13.6% of people with a bachelor’s in computer engineering currently live abroad, as do 13% with a bachelor’s in math, 12% with a bachelor’s in computer science and 12.5% with degrees in information systems engineering.

The phenomenon is also widespread among people with degrees in music. Some 21.6% of people with a bachelor’s in music live abroad.

The same applies to Israelis with master’s degrees in high-tech related fields.

The Central Bureau of Statistics data indicates that 20% of graduates from the Weizmann Institute of Science live abroad, as do 11% of graduates from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. Some 8-9% of graduates from Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University live abroad.

The brain drain is exacerbated when Israeli academics move abroad in order to complete post doctoral studies, generally in the United States and Europe. This step is considered crucial for increasing chances for finding a job at Israeli or foreign academic institutions.

In 2017, 2,683 Israeli graduates moved abroad.

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