Worrying report: Will an Israeli brain drain spell demise of start-up nation?

Israel’s best and brightest are heading to greener pastures, a recent study claims.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

A disturbing new study released on Thursday finds that the talent that has earned Israel the moniker ‘start-up nation’ is heading for greener pastures.

“An increasing number of highly educated Israelis” are going abroad, writes Prof. Dan Ben-David of Tel Aviv University in the report.

Israeli academics, high-tech engineers, and physicians are going to America and OECD countries, where their skills are highly sought after and they don’t face the high cost-of-living that plagues Israel. “Household final consumption prices in Israel are 28 percent higher than in the U.S. and 66 percent greater than the OECD average,” the study notes.

The report finds that between 1995-2005 and 2006-2016, “the number of Israelis receiving American citizenship or Green Cards exceeded Israel’s population growth by a third.”

“The total number of Israeli physicians practicing in OECD countries (other than Israel) was 9.8 percent of all physicians in Israel in 2006. This share rose to 14 percent by 2016.”

The number of Israelis in  top U.S. economics and computer science departments is the equivalent of two new Israeli departments in each field. Israelis in top U.S. business schools amounts to nearly three and a half Israeli business schools, the report adds.

The study finds that these numbers are especially significant as they come from the group most important to driving Israel’s thriving economy. Although there are nine million people living in Israel, the report asserts that a remarkably small number – less than 130,000 – are keeping Israel’s economy, healthcare system and academia “near the pinnacle of the developed world.”

The paper says that “While only 2.7 percent of all employee positions in Israel are in high tech manufacturing fields, these nonetheless accounted for 40.1 percent of Israel’s entire exports in 2015.”

Ben-David says, “The fragile size of this group means that emigration by a critical mass out of the total – even if only numbering several tens of thousands – could generate catastrophic consequences for the entire country.”

He partly blames Israeli government policies for driving away Israel’s best and brightest and says that “a sharp pivot in national budgetary priorities is needed,” including devoting more to education and infrastructure.

The emigration numbers, he says, “should ring alarm bells in all of the corridors that determine Israel’s national priorities.”

The report, titled “Leaving the Promised Land – A look at Israel’s emigration challenge,” was released under the auspices of the Shoresh Institution, which Ben-David heads.