Mass flight of skilled workers after Ukraine invasion could hurt Russia’s economy for generations

Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine caused an exodus of highly trained young Russians (Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin via REUTERS) (SPUTNIK/)

The russian economy is losing its best and brightest workers to the mass emigration of young people that followed the decision to Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine in February of last year, something that could damage the country’s economy for generations.

“I don’t think the Russian authorities will admit it, but we have witnessed a massive brain drain”, declared Alexandra Prokopenkoformer adviser to the Central Bank of Russia, to the American npr.

own prokopenko he is part of a massive wave of young Russians who have fled their country. He now works in the German Council on Foreign Relations. His work continues to focus on the Russian economy, with new analysis and data being released every week.

Alexandra Prokopenko
Alexandra Prokopenko worked as an adviser at the Russian Central Bank (LinkedIn)

According to an estimate cited by the former official, more than 1.3 million Russians under the age of 35 left the Russian workforce just last year.

This massive loss of talent appears to be one of the biggest economic consequences of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. And it represents a huge problem for the country’s economy: without workers, many companies and businesses have to reduce your workforce or even close completely.

Among those who have left the country are workers trained with skills that are in high demand, such as engineering either programming computing.

Although even before the invasion Russia suffered from labor shortages, the problem deepened from her.

Now, there is a generation of skilled workers who have fled the country or are fighting on the front lines: around 200,000 Russian soldiers they have been killed or wounded while fighting in the Ukraine, with some estimates putting losses at 500 soldiers a day. The army also mobilized 300,000 troops last year and plans to mobilize hundreds of thousands more this year.

“Now it’s a full-blown demographic crisis,” he said. Oleg Itskhokian economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, to npr.

Impact on the economy

In 2022, the Russian economy remained strong despite harsh sanctions, thanks mainly to Russia being able to sell its oil to China and Indiaamong others.

But 2023 is a very different year for the Russian economy. European sanctions have gone into effect, so oil revenues have gone way down and now the war is costing Russia hundreds of millions of dollars a day.

Some oil wells in Almetyevsk (REUTERS / Alexander Manzyuk / file)
Some oil wells in Almetyevsk (REUTERS/Alexander Manzyuk/file) (ALEXANDER MANZYUK/)

The impact of the shortage of workers is also beginning to be felt: last month the Industrial production Russia plunged 5% from the previous month.

“2023 is the year of difficult decisions for Russia”Itskhoki said.

According to Itskhoki, Russia needs money right now, which means Vladimir Putin will have to raise taxes (probably on corporations) or force people to buy war bonds, or both.

That could erode support for the warwhich Putin desperately needs.

Prokopenko said she is in contact with many Russian compatriots who have left, most of them young skilled workers like her. She says the consensus is that As long as Putin runs the country, there is no going back.

“I would love to go back, but I don’t think it’s safe for me,” he says. “In Russia people can become prisoners for nothing.”

And that, Prokopenko and Itskhoki agree, is a big problem for Russia, both in the short and long term.

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