Opinion: Israeli academics often cooperate with local colleagues and institutions even when living and working overseas, so they cannot be considered part of the so-called ‘brain drain’ and are in fact a source of strength for the country

Joshua Angrist, who on Monday became the laureate of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics, left the country some years ago due to low pay, according to him.

“I’ve had it,” he said in an interview once. “An economics professor makes the same salary as a literature professor.”

הפרופ' הישראלי-אמריקני ג'וש אנגריסט שזכה בפרס נובל בכלכלה
Joshua Angrist (Photo: EPA)


Thousands of Israeli academics and experts in various fields leave the country all the time because they can get better pay working abroad, especially in the United States. Many others, however, choose to come and work here.

Of Israel’s 618,000 university graduates between 2012 and 2018 — only 36,000, or 6%, have left the country.

Israel ranks 17 out of 34 OECD countries in the departure of academics. But the “brain drain” worldwide stands on average at 16%, indicating that the crisis is not so dire and that university graduates are not leaving in great numbers.

In fact, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, fewer and fewer academics are leaving the country.

But we live in a global village and Israelis with university degrees are moving back and forth all the time, contributing to mutual enrichment of ideas.

Some areas — especially technology, medicine, computer sciences and agriculture — are more sought after but academics from the departments of the humanities, including literature, are also offered lucrative positions.

Graduates of the Technion 2020 class
Graduates of the Technion 2020 class (Photo: The Weizmann Institute of Science)


Either way, the Nobel Prize being awarded to an Israeli is a great honor and Angrist joins a long and growing list of names that serves as a testament to the level of the country’s academic education.

Not only do graduates of past years stand out, but young Israeli researchers receive proportionately the most funding from the European Research Council (ERC).

Israelis lead the academic world in various fields and its export of knowledge often results in offers of lucrative positions for its scientists.

Therefore, labeling the departure of Israeli academicians for positions around the world as a so-called “brain drain” is wrong.

All countries invest large sums in funding to train their medical professionals, scientists and experts in many fields, and although losing any one of these brilliant minds is unfortunate, other graduates from Israeli universities are available to take their place.

הפרופ' הישראלי-אמריקני ג'וש אנגריסט שזכה בפרס נובל בכלכלה
2021 Nobel Prize winner Joshua Angrist and wife Mira (Photo: Reuters)


For instance, immigration from the former Soviet Union has yielded hundreds of thousands of university graduates who have injected the local economy and scientific community with vast talents.

In the past, anyone leaving the country would have been branded as a defector of sorts, but that is no longer the case.

In the global village, communities made up of Israelis living abroad, including academics, are a source of strength. They are often involved in cooperation with local research teams and maintain a strong connection to the country.

Angrist is also involved in joint ventures with colleagues in Israel, and although he is situated in the United States, Israelis should also feel proud for his Nobel Prize.

As reported by Ynetnews