Home Art How the brain drain impacts society – DW – 06/25/2023

How the brain drain impacts society – DW – 06/25/2023

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It’s 8:30 a.m. Gjakovaone of the most picturesque towns in Kosovo. As she opens the door to the Opportunity language school on the outskirts of the city’s bazaar, Eljesa Beqiri, 32, smiles broadly.

Although she is a qualified journalist, Beqiri has never actually practiced this profession. Instead, she works as a coordinator at the language school, where she organizes German lessons. She is one of the few young people in Gjakova – and even in Kosovo – who does not want to go abroad.

Almost all students in the school have are considering emigrating to Germany or in another German-speaking country. The main attractions are the salaries paid in Germany as well as the country’s social security and health systems, all of which are much better than in Kosovo.

Beqiri organizes German courses at a language school in Gjakova. Most of the school’s students want to emigrate to GermanyImage: Vjosa Çerkini/DW

Beqiri is single and lives with his mother and younger brother in Gjakova, a town of 40,000 inhabitants in the southwest of the country. His other brother emigrated to Germany Seven years ago. His father’s six brothers live there.

She is more than happy to stay at home: “I would never go to Germany because I like speaking Albanian and that’s where my friends are,” she says. “I like the mentality here. I have friends everywhere I go in Kosovo. And anyway,” she adds with a wink, “I don’t want to marry a German.”

Low wages in Kosovo

The average monthly income in Kosovo is only around €300 ($330). For most young Kosovars who still live with their parents, 300 euros is barely enough to live on. They can’t afford to go on vacation or get sick. If an operation or major medical treatment is necessary, the whole family participates.

Although she is a qualified journalist, Beqiri has never actually practiced this profession.Image: Vjosa Çerkini/DW

Beqiri once depended on support from his brother in Germany. But for three years, she has been earning a lot of money at the language school and, with the income of the other members of the family, who all have jobs, they have been able to live comfortably. “In Germany, Kosovars think that money grows on trees and they just have to harvest it,” she says, summarizing the students’ opinion of Germany.

The vast majority want to leave

Every year, around 340 people take courses at the Opportunity language school and almost all of them want to emigrate. A small number remain in the country and use their German skills by working in call centers for companies like the Hamburg-registered Bambus Group, which provides customer services in the telecommunications sector in 36 languages .

Emigration takes a heavy toll on business in Kosovo: many stores in Gjakova have closed in recent years as owners moved abroadImage: Vjosa Çerkini/DW

The pretty old quarter of Gjakova is full of shops, cafes and restaurants. Some businesses in the pedestrian zone have already closed their doors. Signs indicate that new tenants are welcome; the former owners have obviously emigrated. Beqiri fears that if things continue like this for ten years, the rest of the shops in the old neighborhood will also close their doors.

Few prospects for nurses in Kosovo

Arlinda Ramaj also comes from Gjakova and is typical of the people learning German at Opportunity. She is 27 years old and a registered nurse. There are very few opportunities for nurses in Kosovo, which does not have an adequate healthcare system. She is learning German and hopes to soon move to Germany to work as a nurse. “I am attracted by the higher standard of living, opportunities and higher salaries. If I could find a well-paid job here, I would stay,” she says.

Arlinda Ramaj is a qualified nurse who wants to move to Germany to workImage: Vjosa Çerkini/DW

His brother has been living in Germany for a year, where he works as a waiter in a restaurant. Even though he trained as an accountant in Kosovo, Ramaj says he is satisfied with his work and his income. Ramaj’s sister, who is currently preparing for her final exams, wishes emigrate to Germany later too.

Emigration on the rise

Lirim Krasniqi, co-founder of Germin, an NGO interested in the Albanian diaspora, knows emigration well. “I could talk about it all day,” he says, stating everything there is to say on the subject.

According to the Kosovo Bureau of Statistics, 15,000 to 20,000 Kosovars left the country every year ten years ago. Over the past five years, this figure has increased and is now estimated to reach 30,000 per year.

Kosovo loses vital skills

“The economic impact is huge, because most of the migrants are young, aged 24 to 35. Kosovar businesses now see that there is a shortage of skilled workers here,” Krasniqi said. “That’s why salaries have increased. But in the long term, Kosovo is losing the most vital part of its society. The health sector is the hardest hit, especially because of the time needed to train staff. “

No future: young people in Kosovo

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The Kosovo government does not have a strategy to deal with emigration. Countries like Germany are looking to recruit workers and are opening their doorsparticularly to young people from the Balkans. Berlin has just reformed the law on qualified immigration,

How can Kosovo react?

Kosovo cannot compete with what Germany has to offer in the short term. Its university graduates study to protect themselves against unemployment, says Krasniqi, who adds that “Kosovo needs to reform its education system so that graduates have a chance here too.”

He also has an idea on how to respond to the brain drain: “Germany should pay Kosovo compensation for the training that skilled workers receive here. This compensation could take the form of investments.”

Some come back

Not everyone emigrates for good; some remain absent for only a few months or a few years. Vlora Ramadani is 33 years old and works at the Opportunity language school. She teaches German 11 hours a day, Monday to Saturday.

All his students are determined to emigrate. They are among the 30,000 people who dream of success in Germany. But after 11 years in Germany, Ramadani is happy to be back in Kosovo. “I like the easy way of life here. I don’t need a car, everything is nearby, I can walk wherever I need to go. In Germany, everything is hectic. It’s work, work, work. work,” she said. said.

She and Beqiri earn a good living because there are so many young people in Kosovo who feel the opposite and are determined to emigrate.

This article was originally published in German.

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