Retaining its most valuable resource? Western Balkan countries lose up to 2.46 billion euros annually due to youth emigration

31 August 2021

Retaining its most valuable resource? Western Balkan countries lose up to 2.46 billion euros annually due to youth emigration

The Western Balkans countries have a long history of emigration but trends in recent years we have shown increasing numbers of young people leaving and based on many reports the levels are among the highest in the world.

While there have been many causes attributed to this complex phenomenon there has not been research into the costs that these countries incur due to youth emigration.

The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) partnered with the Institute for Development and Innovation to develop a new methodology to estimate the economic losses that are generated both in terms of investment in education as well as potential loss in GDP growth due to youth emigration. 

The most direct cost that society faces is the loss of investment spent on education. Depending on the level of education countries invest in the education of individuals for 8, 12, 16 or 20 years and with emigration those educations investments become costs and losses.

On the contrary these costs actually become investments in the receiving countries which obtain educated individuals who have been educated on the expense of the country which provides the immigration flow. The decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) due to the decrease in consumption, which is one of its main components, is another more significant negative consequence of emigration.

The results from the research show that the education of an individual in the Western Balkans, through eight or nine years of primary school, four years of secondary school, and higher education studies that lasted five years on average and finished in 2018, cost an average of around €25,000. The costs for a four-year secondary school education that ended in 2018 (including primary as well) costs an average of around €14,500, whereas the cost of an eight or nine-year primary education was on average around €9,600.

Depending on the educational level and number of estimated departures from the countries, the total education costs of young people who leave Western Balkan countries in one year vary from an estimated €840 million to €2.46 billion.

The findings of country-level reports and this regional overview aim to support policy and decision- makers in understanding the costs associated with youth emigration and the short-term and long-term financial and economic implications and costs of migration. Country-level presentations in all six Western Balkan countries have been held in the last two years at which WFD presented the findings to relevant stakeholders.

We hope that these regional findings will also provide valuable insights for governments, policymakers, political parties, the media, civil society, international donors and the business and entrepreneurship community. They are designed to support and contribute towards efforts to minimize migration costs and generate a discussion on policy development that could reverse the negative migration trends, costs and effects.

To read the full analysis please download the study on The Cost of Youth Emigration in Western Balkan Countries.

Country level studies for AlbaniaBiHNorth MacedoniaMontenegroKosovo and Serbia are available by following the links to each country.