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Brain Drain: What It Is, How It Affects Italy, and Why Oliver James is an Exception to The Rule

12 January 2017


Coined by the Royal Society in reference to widespread post-war emigration, brain drain is the movement of skilled professionals from one country to another. Today, it is mainly attributed to the current commercial climate of Italy, where high youth unemployment, bureaucratic difficulties and poor career prospects have resulted in a mass exodus of those hardest hit: 18-34 year olds. 2015 alone saw some 107,000 people leave, joining the 4.6 million Italians already abroad – a figure that has risen 3.7% since 2014.

Politically, brain drain was largely swept under the rug until December 2016, when Giuliano Poletti, Minister of Labour and Social Policies, commented that “the country will certainly not suffer from no longer having them [the people]. The 60 million that remain are not all of the ‘gun’.” His conclusions were controversial, and, coupled with recent labour reforms, showed no concern for the long-term implications of brain drain. Engineers, doctors, scientists and carpenters continue to flock to the UK and Germany in their tens of thousands, and it seems little is being done to correct the issue.

But all is not lost. Rather than the Little Italy mentality associated with third-wave migrants, today’s diaspora is building strong international networks instead. Described as the ‘other Italy’, this unique culture of overseas trading creates domestic opportunities, as people are working to bring valuable industry back home.

Oliver James is a clear example of this process, with an Italian division comprising recruiters who all emigrated in search of employment. 2017 will mark their return to Italy, as they establish the Milan office armed with a wealth of insight, experience and contacts gained from their time in the UK. These consultants are part of a demographic increasingly leaving Italy, yet they’re keen to go back, believing the market is an untapped resource they must reinvest in.

Equally as inverse in nature is Milan itself, where, in a nation not known for financial stability, foreign companies are eagerly setting-up shop. This is thanks to its strong economic standing, attractive work-life balance and, above all, favourable business conditions. We can think of no better place to address brain drain, as Oliver James Italy takes its native talent home. 

To stay posted on the progress of our Italian team, contact Pietro Novelli, Manager, on +39 02 30578302 or

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