Understanding the Ukrainian Brain Drain

Since the Revolution of Dignity, the representatives of Ukrainian youth have attracted a lot of attention worldwide. They are bold, smart and ambitious, but unfortunately, they often live abroad. They can be prominent engineers, hardworking farmers, fair lawyers – literally everything, but proud Ukrainian citizens.

Currently, Ukraine is experiencing a vast “brain drain.” Since the EU decided to grant Ukrainians 90 days of visa-free travel in the Schengen area (excluding the UK and Ireland) more than a year ago, more and more Ukrainians are considering the possibility of moving abroad. According to a recent study, 33% of respondents are willing to leave their homeland forever, and currently, 3 to 6 million citizens are already working abroad. In fact, 93% of them work in the field of manual labor. It means they are ready to do all the dirty and cheap work just in order to leave their homeland. The emigration of working-age people is a big issue for the country. This can only be combatted effectively, when we understand the real reasons for this phenomenon.


31.6% of respondents want to live in better economic conditions.

49% are not satisfied with their life.

Of course, financial reasons are the most important. No self-conscious human being would ever abandon a prosperous country with well-developed market, favorable conditions for small business and a wealthy population.

As always, statistics speak for themselves. The average Ukrainian salary amounts 8.7 thousand hryvnas (320 US dollars). With all the utility bills, taxes, and other expenditures, this is barely enough just to survive. Over all, the issue is clear: the bigger the GDP of a country, the better its living conditions. Indeed, Ukrainian GDP has increased by 3% in comparison to the previous year, but the growth must make up at least 10% to catch up with the results before the start of the conflict on the East of Ukraine (The government spends 5% of it on the war). In addition, it is no secret, that the economy of the country depends on foreign investments. Now, if Ukraine is such a fertile and ambitious land then why is it being shunned by most investors? Well, as long as this country remains riddled with corruption, nepotism, and business methods from the 90-s, Western companies will not risk investing. After all, who wants his office to be raided in broad daylight?


67% of Ukrainians think that education in Ukraine is useless.

Another major factor contributing to the unwillingness of Ukrainians to stay in the country is the poor quality of the education system. Pupils are not given a single opportunity to broaden their outlook, and they have to pay attention only to the preparation for independent testing. Civil activities and engagement in politics are not considered useful. Moreover, history is still taught with old Soviet books and, of course, by old Soviet teachers. This “uselessness” of education in Ukraine is proven by the fact that only 33% of Ukrainians consider it to meet the demands of modern labor market.

Educational methods like in Soviet Union, corruption like in Somalia and prices like in Great Britain – this is probably the best way to describe most Ukrainian universities. While the government is struggling with “decommunization” and destroying historical monuments, higher education in this fertile land is still a relic of communism, with 33% of all students claiming they have encountered corruption in their university. In addition, teachers are barely capable of making the process of studying productive. Mostly, they are just failed professionals with lack of practice, who have not found a way to apply their theoretical skills. Indeed, what professional would like to spend his/her time in corrupt university earning 7 thousand hryvnas (250 US dollars) per month?


As of December 2017, 70% of conscripts did not appear in military recruiting office.

Unfortunately, military service is a major concern among young Ukrainians. Since it is compulsory for all the able-bodied men, in the age of 20-27 years, many of them are seeking any possible way to avoid it. Actually, the problem here does not consist in fear or weakness of the conscripts, but the real patriotism, or to be exact, the lack of it. Although Ministry of Education and Science ratified many “conceptions of national-patriotic upbringing”, it is still complicated for Ukrainians to be patriotic, when 10 million citizens have abandoned their Homeland since Ukraine gained its independence.

It is not only the distrust in the strong-nation idea, but intolerable conditions in the military, which lead to such disappointing statistics. For instance, in Lviv, a sergeant unmercifully beat a young soldier for sleeping at the training. In fact, the sergeant was later accused of extorting money from him and other soldiers. And this is not the sole example of bullying and hazing in the Ukrainian army.

Moreover, the War in Donbass has been going on since March 2014, and as of September 2018, it is still in an active stage. There have been a lot of agreements and documents, signed by “western guarantors of peace”, such as Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, which included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Minsk agreements, aimed to deescalate the conflict, several UNSC resolutions, fulfilling of which is obligatory for all the members, etc. However, soldiers are still wasting their lives for the sake of oligarchs.


50% of workers have a job that matches their specialization.

While you can use your Ukrainian diploma as a beer mat, what really matters are your connections. Half – this is the part of young working people who have a job that matches their educational specialization. These statistics speak for themselves. The labor market in Ukraine is primarily constructed in such a way that either you get a position using connections with people of influence, or you are forced to live paycheck-to-paycheck and chose a job regardless of the education.

In conclusion, tough economic circumstances, low-level education, endless war, pervasive corruption and incurable nepotism are the main factors which force young Ukrainians to leave their homeland and to refuse to make it prosperous. Unless radical improvements in aforementioned problems are on their way and belief in powerful Ukraine is back, the process of national degradation will go on.

In spite of disappointing statistics, it is to be hoped, that Ukrainian youth is indeed capable of changing Ukraine into a better place for years and generations to come.

I was born in Kiev, Ukraine. Being a proud citizen and a politically conscious civilian, I do my best to make my country thrive and evolve. In order to do so, I am an active member of LDLU, the most promising liberal organization in Ukraine. And it is my passion to make my country and the world in general aware of the political situation in Ukraine and change it through hard work in LDLU. At the moment I am a pupil, but it is my hope and duty to study journalism in future.

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