Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia has faced the exodus of a specific part of its population: workers in the technology industry. An exodus of tech brains in search of safer and more secure places to work. Because for many, aged under 27, they are likely to be called up for military service.
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According to an estimate relayed by the Associated Press (AP) on Thursday, up to 70,000 IT workers, frightened by the economic and political situation in Russia, have left since the start of the conflict in Ukraine five weeks ago. And many more should follow. The extent of this brain drain was unveiled last week by Sergei Plugotarenko, head of the Russian Electronic Communications Association, an industry lobby group.
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“The first wave – 50,000 to 70,000 people – has already left”Sergei Plugotarenko told Russian MPs during a parliamentary committee on the future of the country’s IT industry, relayed by AP. According to the lobbyist, only the high cost of international flights prevented an even more massive leak. Before predicting that there could be another 100,000 tech workers leaving Russia in April.
An exodus to the countries of East and Central Asia
A part, provided with visas of the European Union, settled in Poland or in the Baltic countries like Latvia and Lithuania. An exodus that is not encouraged by these countries which fear security problems, espionage and cyberattacks from infiltrators hidden among the refugees received.
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But most of these “technological brains” have gone into exile in countries where Russians do not need visas: Armenia, Georgia and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. A curious snub since, in times of peace, millions of workers from these economically fragile countries emigrate to Russia.
But Russian tech companies with international customers have no choice but to leave Russia where their accounts are frozen and transactions impossible. An opportunity for host countries to develop a new sector and diversify their economies.
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Moscow is trying to stem this leak
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This brain drain has not escaped the attention of the Russian authorities. This week, Russia introduced a law to eliminate income tax by 2024 for people who work for information technology companies. Russia also announced on Tuesday that it was granting a reprieve from military service for young people working in the high-tech sector. Companies in this sector have until 1East May 2022 to establish the list of their collaborators under the age of 27 for whom they want to obtain such an exemption, according to a press release from the Russian government.
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Students from around sixty university specialties are also concerned, subjects covering fields as varied as mathematics, cartography, robotics, aeronautics, shipyards and nanotechnology. “It is important not to slow down the pace of development of the high-tech sector in our country despite the sanctions”Prime Minister Mikhail Michoustine noted in the statement. Difficult if skilled labor leaves Russia.