The European Politics of Brain Drain: A Fast or Slow-burning Crisis?

    Research output: Working paperResearch

    315 Downloads (Pure)


    This qualitative multi-method studymaps the politics of brain drain at the level of the European Union and follows the evolution of the issue over the last four parliamentary periods. By
    utilizing a novel combination of interviews with a content and network analysis of parliamentary questions, the article demonstrates how the politics of brain drain travel from the domestic level to the European through frames that connect the issue to problems and solutions at the Union-level. After presenting a statistical overview of intra-EU mobility flows, I conclude that the politics of brain drain are not adequately captured or addressed in the official numbers. Instead, I turn to discourse in order to analyze the prevailing interpretations of brain drain, why it occurs, and what to do about it. The analysis reveals that the uncertainty, controversy, and open-endedness of brain drain as an intra-European phenomenon lends itself well to multiple framings by actors in pursuit of preconceived political ends. This creates a space of opportunities within the Commission between laissez-faire and interventionist responses that vary in terms of the economic assumptions and political preferences brought
    to bear on the issue. Although the current balance is weighted in favor of a supply-side, employability logic towards brain drain, there is evidence of a schism within the Commission that presents an opportunity to productively engage with other understandings of the issue in pursuit of best practices.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationWarwick
    PublisherUniversity of Warwick
    Number of pages43
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    SeriesCSGR Working Paper Series

    Bibliographical note

    This working paper was funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 project on ‘European Legitimacy in Governing through Hard Times: The Role of European Networks (ENLIGHTEN)’. Project grant number: 649456-ENLIGHTEN.


    • Brain drain
    • European Union
    • Labor mobility
    • Parliamentary questions
    • Skills
    • Migration

    Cite this