Any Smart and Educated People Left in the Middle East?

Saudia Arabia's Kingdom TowerSaudia Arabia's Kingdom Tower


While it has long been known that there is a serious shortage of educated talent in much of the Middle East, a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit has painted a gloomy picture of the region’s ability to attract and retain educated workers.

View From Egypt's Tower of CairoView From Egypt's Tower of Cairo

It’s not surprising that some countries in the Middle East, such as Yemen or Syria, have a huge problem with emigration when it comes to their educated workers. High unemployment, low salaries and strict government control over the population apparently don’t equate to a desirable place to live. In Iran, where official statistics state that unemployment is only ten percent (most economists estimate that figure to be twice as high) approximately 150,000 people emigrate each year, which represents over one-sixth of new workers capable of joining the labor force each year. More problematically, those who have the opportunity to emigrate tend to be the most educated members of the population, creating a shortage of skilled employees and university professors.

Global Talent IndexGlobal Talent Index

What is surprising about this report is that two countries in the Middle East, each with a stable and growing economy, are ranked in the bottom five of the thirty countries in the newly developed Global Talent Index (GTI). The countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have both been identified by Goldman Sachs as countries with promising outlooks for investment and growth. For these two countries the news isn’t all bad. Both states are projected to move up in the rankings in the next five years, with Egypt overtaking Brazil and Turkey in overall rankings.

The U.S. is ranked number one on the GTI with the U.K. coming in second.

The GTI study was conducted by Heidrick & Struggles, as U.S. based company, you can order a free copy here.



Guest Blogger

Sep 29, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

Any Talent Left in the Middle East

Little talent exists any place in which life is illegal.

Sep 29, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

I like this blog, it was

I like this blog, it was interesting. Thanks.

Sep 29, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)


this was a juvenile and thin entry. Most of the developing world is faced by the threat of "brain drain". There are an incredible number of highly innovative Arab, Iranian, Turkish and Armenian scientists, doctors, intellectuals and engineers. That they immigrate tells us a story less of the impoverishment of their native countries than it tells us of the massive (hoarded) resources of the developed world, which simultaneous support authoritarian and highly corrupt regimes, who syphon off economic aid and capital development. The same can be said about South America to some degree but certainly Africa. Of course, the Arab world is singled out for ideological reasons. That you lived in Cairo does not make you an expert. 

Sep 30, 2007
by Michelle
Michelle's picture

I think the fact that this

I think the fact that this author wants to focus on Middle East innovations speaks volumes about the fact that he agrees that there is alot  going on in the Middle East.

You say "Of course, the Arab world is singled out for ideological reasons."  No, the Arab world is being featured on our website as we think that too much about the news about the Middle East in most news sources is on the bad news and we decided it's important to  think of the Middle East area as  another area of interteresting area of inventions, innovations and ideas. 

In his defense, having lived in Cairo does give him more crediblility that those who have never been in that region. 


Oct 1, 2007
by grahamms


People speak about the Middle Eastern "brain drain" as if it is an obvious phenomenon.  Despite all of the news emanating from that region, I have to admit that this is the first time I have heard of the trend. I appreciate you including a link to the original report.

Oct 1, 2007
by Lee Nunley (not verified)

RE: juvenile

While I appreciate your commments, I must say that I am somewhat confused by the critical nature of your post. The article was not meant to explain the occurance of brain drain in the Middle East, there are plenty of well researched articles on the phenomenon and I do not claim to be an expert. The article was meant to increase awareness of the phenomenon and give interested readers the opportunity to read a new and innovative report on an economic reality, and then draw their own conclusions.

The report is significant because countries with large reserves of resources, such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, have long drawn on other states' human capital resources, in order to extract local resources. Recently, these countries have also attempted to increase their native human capital, so it is counter-intuitive that a country like Saudi Arabia would rank so low on the GTI.

I hope that this post explains the intent of the article, which is meant as a first stop in an interested reader's exploration of the subject.

P.S. The word you were looking for in your post is 'emigrate' not 'immigrate', they mean different things.

Oct 2, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)


Wow, you hit someone in a sensitive area.  I read your posting twice trying to figure out why "juvenile" would take such offense to the article but couldn't find anything that should cause such a negative reaction.  Seemed to me like your (blogger) are just trying to inform a population with limited knowledge of middle east topics about a serious issue in said region.  I found the blog well written & informative, Thanks!Wink

Oct 3, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

middle east

  I found your article to be very thought provoking, and would like for you to open up more dialog about that region..  I know everyone will not agree with your obervations, but at least you've put forth a subject which sparks some lively conversation, and just maybe some individual ''thinking''!!... thanx

Jan 21, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

Sharia law, women considered

Sharia law, women considered to be worth less than half that of men, beheadings and other barbaric treatment that is sanctioned by the majority of these governments. This is the basis for the brain exodus. There is an exception however, the nation of Israel. "Imagine"!