Germany's record brain-drain

Jun 01 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The official line is that the German economy has turned the corner after years in the doldrums. But with the number of Germans emigrating rising to 155,290 last year - equal, to the levels seen in the aftermath of the Second World War during the late 1940s Ė the reality seems to be rather different.

What's more, as a report in the Independent highlights, the large part of this brain-drain is made up of skilled professionals fed up with Germany's sky-high taxes and stultifying bureaucracy.

Leading economists and employers say the trend is alarming. They note that many among Germany's new breed of home-grown "guest workers" are highly-educated management consultants, doctors, dentists, scientists and lawyers.

OECD figures show that Germany is near the top of a league of industrial nations experiencing a brain drain which for the first time since the 1950s now exceeds the number of immigrants.

More than 18,000 Germans moved to Switzerland last year, the Independent says, with 13,245 heading for the USA and 9,309 to Austria.

Claus Boche, a 32-year-old executive, left the west German city of Paderborn two-and-a-half years agoto take up a job with a Swiss management consulting firm. He now lives in Zurich. "Nearly everything is less bureaucratic and more go ahead than in Germany," he said. "I also pay about 40 per cent less tax. I have no plans to go back."

. . . . Thomas Bauer, a labour economist from Essen, was scathing about Germany's employment conditions.

"Germany is certainly not attractive when compared to other countries in Europe," he said. "The taxes are too high, the wages are too low and feelings of jealousy towards high-income earners is widespread. This is a special deterrent to the highly qualified."

In addition, as we noted last year, legislation that forces all German firms with more than 500 employees to reserve a third of board positions for workers representatives Ė and those with more than 2,000 staff to reserve half the seats on the board Ė has driven many businesses out of Germany altogether, with 30,000 registering themselves in the UK since 2002 to escape the costs of incorporating at home.