Most of the kinetic damage Russia has taken in its war with Ukraine has occurred within the borders of Ukraine, but serious damage is being done as the best of Russia’s human capital flees for other countries to escape the war and its increased state control. In The Wall Street Journal, Georgi Kantchev, Evan Gershkovich, and Yuliya Chernova discuss the thousands of professionals leaving Russia, writing of the exodus:
Hundreds of thousands of professional workers, many of them young, have left Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, accelerating an exodus of business talent and further threatening an economy targeted by Western sanctions.
Those leaving the country include tech workers, scientists, bankers and doctors, according to surveys, economists and interviews with emigrants. They are departing for countries including Georgia, Armenia and Turkey. More are expected to follow.
A mid-March survey by OK Russians, a nonprofit helping people leave the country, estimated that around 300,000 workers had departed since the war started in late February. While precise counts of the number of people leaving Russia aren’t available, some economists have reached similar conclusions about the scale of the outflow. Around 500,000 people left Russia in 2020, according to Rosstat, Russia’s statistics agency.
“The people who are either leaving or planning to leave are highly educated and generally young,” said Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. “This is your most productive part of the labor force that is disappearing.”
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a top regional development bank, expects the Russian economy to contract 10% this year.
It added that people leaving Russia, coupled with reduced investment and trade, would result in lower long-term productivity growth. Spending on information technology is expected to drop sharply.
While Russia has encouraged dissenters to leave, it has also acted to stem the outflow of professional workers. President Vladimir Putin signed in March a decree granting a waiver from military conscription to people employed in the tech sector. Russian authorities are also offering tax breaks, cheaper loans and preferential mortgages to entice tech workers to stay.
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