HOW CAN THE SERBIAN DIASPORA CONTRIBUTE MUCH
MORE TO THE DEVELOPMENT AT HOME COUNTRY?
Abstract: This article analyzes the existing contribution of the Serbian diaspora to the
development at home country, and features of its major effects as a partner in the process
of economic development. No doubt, the spiritus movens of the contemporary and future
economic and social progress is and will be the economy of ideas and creativity. The key
factors of this new economy are education, research and innovation. To achieve
competitiveness in an increasingly global economic environment it is necessary: the
adequate supply and quality of the workforce in the field of research and development. In
the last two and a half decades, Serbia's brain drain was quite massive. Thus in the Serbian
diaspora there are reputable scientists and successful managers in all fields. Diaspora, the
people link between countries, can be the source of cooperation. Consequently, the most
important is the question of whether and under what conditions Serbia’s brain drain can
be reversed to brain gain. The author argue that the diasporas and migrants could play a
crucial role in the development of home country, by presentation of their different
experiences. Engaging the Diaspora in the development of home country largely depends
on the home country. Talents remain an important component of countries’ and
businesses’ long-term competitiveness. In support of this thesis, the author presents the
most significant and most successful examples of good practice, arguing that this
experience can be used in Serbia, of course, taking into account some of its specificities.
The question: how they develop, retain and attract talent should therefore remain high on
the agenda of policymakers and business leaders for the foreseeable future of Serbia.
Key words: diaspora and development, Serbian diaspora, remittances, social remittances,
hierarchy of diaspora impacts.
* University of Belgrade, Faculty of Economics, Serbia
ГЛАСНИК Српског географског друштва 96 (2), 65-82
BULLETIN OF THE SERBIAN GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY 2016
Original scientific paper UDC 314.74 (=163.41)
Received: October 27, 2016
Corrected: November 21, 2016
Accepted: December 16, 2016
Serbia is traditionally emigration country. The intensity of emigration in general depends
on historical, economic, demographic, political, social, ethnic and psychological factors.
The reasons why migrants leave their home countries are commonly referred to as ‘push
factors’. Paired with the push factors are the so called ‘pull factors’, those criteria that
make a destination country attractive to a prospective migrant.
Historically, the emigration of knowledge workers has been viewed as a loss for the
source countries and a net gain for the receiving countries. Inadequate responses have
included restrictive contracts and attempts at repatriation. However, the reasons why
highly skilled knowledge workers emigrate are complex and vary between source
countries (Mahroum & al., 2006).
The term "diaspora" (Greek for scattering or sowing of seeds) is used (without
capitalisation) to refer to any people or ethnic population forced or induced to leave their
traditional ethnic homelands, being dispersed throughout other parts of the world, and
the ensuing developments in their dispersal and culture. The academic field of diaspora
studies was established in the late twentieth century with regard to the expanded meaning
of diaspora (Mahroum et al., 2006).
The migration debate has moved from the focus on brain drain versus brain gain of
the 20th century to brain circulation. When individuals with high skills or high potential
moved to another country to study or to seize the employment and entrepreneurship
opportunities that clusters offer, it was traditionally seen as brain drain for one nation
and brain gain for the other. The new context of talent mobility leads to a different
paradigm, by which all parties (country of origin, country of destination and the
individuals themselves) stand to gain in a process best described as ‘brain circulation’. To
the extent that these internationally mobile people maintain ties to their country of origin,
both countries benefit because of remittances (currently bigger than global aid flows),
diaspora investments, the acquisition of know-how and experience via networks, and the
innovativeness and entrepreneurship qualities acquired through mobility by successful
returnees. In today’s world of innovation, mobility develops talent: the global mindset,
the networks, the innovative capabilities that characterise creative talent cannot be fully
developed if such international mobility and brain circulation is not encouraged (Lanvin
and al., 2015).
According to British scholar, John Salt, the first countries to introduce measures
aimed at recruiting foreign highly skilled workers were Australia and Canada in the
1980s, and the US in the 1990s. European countries made, until some years ago, no
systematic efforts at brain gains in the global migration markets. But this has now
changed. A number of European countries have implemented measures and schemes
targeted at the highly skilled (Salt, 2002).
The events of the 1990’s have accelerated emigration from this region. The civil wars in the former
Yugoslav republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, and conflict in Kosovo and Metohija have
had the greatest impact. The subsequent international isolation of the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia, with sanctions by the UN Security Council, a three-month NATO bombing in 1999, and
the catastrophic decline in living standards, lead to general poverty.
In the introduction we define the subject of research and key concepts - knowledge as
a key factor in development, knowledge management, and loss of human capital in the
form of "brain drain". Next, we outline the basic objectives of the research. The main goal
is to answer the question: How to network professionals who live and work in Serbia and
those in the diaspora in a common project that could be entitled "Serbian national
interests are above all"? Its starting premise is that the Serbian academic diaspora
represents a very significant resource for the development of the homeland, but it
primarily the responsibility of the home country to use this resource for in its economic
development. The author proposes a series of measures and recommendations aimed at
the "inclusion" of human capital from the diaspora in the economic and social
development of the homeland.
Last year’s Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI 2014) identified as one of its
key messages that "openness is a key ingredient to talent competitiveness". It also
underlined that "technological changes will affect new segments of the labour market".
Recent events, particularly in Europe, have shown that demographic, political and
economic disparities (Lanvin et al., 2015)
The research is based on the following main premises:
(a) the new Serbian diaspora is numerous, world-wide, with the main destination
regions being North America and the European Union;
(b) this diaspora has increased greatly during the last two decades;.
(c) the diaspora is disproportionately composed of professionals and skilled workers;
(d) the education of experts is very expensive so that Serbia is losing its most valuable
(e) state authorities have not paid sufficient attention to these expatriate talents.
The main institution in Serbia that deal with diaspora issues is the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. Unfortunately, the Ministry for the Diaspora was abolished in 2012 and
was replaced by the Office for
Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the region. However, the Office was
abolished as well in 2014. This very fact testifies that the government is not paying
enough attention to the Serbian diaspora.
During the work on this paper, the author was faced with a number of methodological
difficulties, pertaining to documentation, statistical materials, and resources. This is
because the Serbian Statistical Institute does not have its own statistical data on the
emigration. Therefore, researchers usually use statistics of the major immigration
countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia, as well as the EU. Unfortunately, the
statistics of these countries are not always clear or accurate when it comes to immigration
from Serbia. The main reason for this is the disintegration of the country, an ongoing
process that had several cycles. Until 1992, the Republic of Serbia was one of the six
republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). During the period 1992-
2006 Serbia went through several changes in its statehood status. After the disintegration
of the SFRY in 1992, two former republics, Serbia and Montenegro formed the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). In 2003, its statehood status changed once more with the
formation of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. In June 2006, Montenegro
became an independent state after a referendum, and Serbia likewise declared its
independence on the 5 June, 2006. In February 2008, Serbia’s Autonomous Province
Kosovo and Metohija declared its independence. These changes in the statehood status of
Serbia have resulted in some confusion in the immigration statistics of many countries
(Tab. 1 and 2).
The relevant data are collected from both national and international publications and
According to the latest information from Ministry of Foreign Afairs, provided by the
diplomatic and consular missions of the Republic of Serbia abroad, even though the
census of the entire Serbian diaspora has never been attempted, it is estimated that
overall, Serbia has a diaspora of 3.5 million people. Of this number, about a million and a
half are citizens of Serbia, a considerable number of them having dual citizenship,
meaning that they also have the citizenship of their country of immigration (MFA 2016).
Serbia’s diaspora has been estimated between one million and million and three hundred
thousands of persons, this means those persons born in Serbia (UN, 2013; 2015).
According to the OECD data, emigration from Serbia is growing up, since 2008 (Interna-
tional Migration Outlook, 2016). In fact, OECD shows that in 2014, emigrated from
Serbia only to OECD countries 58 thousand people, compared to 27 thousand in 2007.
Thus, in 2014, Serbia was on the 29th place in the world among the 50 countries with the
largest emigration. However, there is no available data on the number of those who
returned to Serbia.
Miodrag Kreculj (2016), who lives in Germany, has recently announced the own
research results provided from the project "List of Serbian diaspora in Europe" (EU
countries, Switzerland and Norway), as follows: 670,514 nationals of the Republic of
Serbia, of which 588,410 in EU member states and 82,104 in Switzerland and Norway.
Most of them were in Germany (220,908) and Austria (186,807). People who emigrate
from Serbia mostly going to Germany, almost 70% of those emigrated in 2014. They also
go to a smaller number to Austria, Switzerland, and Sweden. From overseas countries in
the first place are the United States. The US attract from Serbia high percentage of
professionals (Tab. 3).
Many researchers have tried to determine the extent of the Serbian diaspora and its
distribution in countries throughout the world. There is no consensus among researchers
about its size. However, there are fewer differences among researchers about the
distribution of the Serbian diaspora in the main countries of immigration. In this case, the
target group is the Serbian academic diaspora.
To get a more realistic picture, it should be presented one relevant estimate.
According to Filipović (2012), 71% of scientists who had completed undergraduate studies
in Serbia subsequently completed their PhDs in the USA, Canada and Western Europe,
the largest countries of immigration. This means that Serbia had invested a lot in their
undergraduate education, preparing them well for graduate work at the doctoral level.
Filipović claims that he possesses a database of 7,000 Serbian scientists with PhDs degree
who work and live all over the world.
The largest number of PhDs live in the United States - 2,400 (about 39%), then
Canada (15%), United Kingdom (10%), and Germany (7%). The rest are in Australia, the
Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, France, Slovenia, Italy and Spain, and a few of them are in
China, Japan, Poland and Greece. The greatest number of "our" PhDs in the diaspora
work at universities (40%) and in business (44%). Regarding the gender structure, the
majority among those who hold Ph.D. degrees are men, while women represent 40%, a
similar gender distribution as in Serbia.
Tab. 1. Foreign population in Germany by country of birth: from Serbia and Montenegro,
2004-2015 (on 31st December)
Serbia (with and
(1)Before 2004 the citizenship of Serbia and Montenegro was identic with the former Yugoslavian;
since August 2006 the citizenship of the successor states Serbia and Montenegro is demonstrated
and since 1 May 2008 the citizenship of Kosovo* is proven separately.
(2) Territory of the former Yugoslavia: 31.12. 2004 = 974,612; 31.12.2005 = 963,001.
Source: Statistisches Bundesamt, 2012: 26-39, and 2016: 30/37.
Tab. 2. Persons obteining lawful permanent resident status in the USA by country of birth - from
Serbia and Montenegro, in fiscal years 2004-2014
Source: Office of Immigration Statistics (2016), Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2014,
Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security.
Tab. 3. Persons obteining lawful permanent resident status in the USA by country of birth – from
Serbia and Montenegro, in fiscal year 2014
Serbia and Montenegro
Under 18 years
18 to 24
25 to 34
35 to 44
45 to 54
55 to 64
65 and over
Broad class of
relatives of US,
Leading st. of
Source: Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2014, Washington, DC: Department of Homeland
The diasporas and its members can be important agents of development. Govern-
ment adopted a Strategy of cooperation with migrants and expatriates; however, govern-
ment has much to learn a deeper engagement with the diasporas, its members and
constituent organisations. The diasporas should be involved in discussions on develop-
ment strategies, voluntary remittance schemes and sustainable return. The policy-makers
have to encourage the flow of remittances, to reduce the costs which migrants have to pay
to send money home, and to improve the investment climate in Serbia so that remittances
can be used productively and in ways which reduce poverty (Pejin-Stokić & Grečić, 2012).
In order to reduce the rate of emigration and incentives for returning workers from
abroad, especially highly educated and professionals, as well as to maintain the current
level of immigration, the government of Serbia should effectively implement the adopted
strategies and the policies and undertake a series of measures to achieve the set goals.
The Government should improve the quality of data on migration issues, by establi-
shing a special institution for the continuous monitoring and data collection in the field.
The institution should be financed through the state budget. The government should
create an environment, through different policies, that encourage and support contri-
butions by migrant diasporas to development.
At national levels the government should: (a) synchronize the admission policy for
universities with the needs of the Serbian economy (less enrolled and better learning
outcomes); (b) matching supply and demand of labour, including measures of active
labour market policy, reduce unemployment, encourage internal mobility of labour;
information sharing and counselling; target groups – unemployed and returnees;
At the regional and local level authorities should: (a) stimulate equal regional
development, by credit and fiscal policy; achieving a more balanced regional development
has already been announced as a priority objective in the Republic of Serbia; the
implementation of such policy has been very slow; (b) synchronize the push-pull factors
of internal migration; (c) strengthen the regional chambers of commerce and offices for
cooperation with the Diaspora; in accordance with regional and local development plans,
authorities should initiate specific return programs of professionals from abroad by 2020.
The national migration policy is based on achieving the goals set out in the adopted
strategies, as follows: (a) completion of the economic and social reforms; (b) acceleration
of economic growth and development in Serbia, i.e. achievement of an annual rate of GDP
growth of over 6%; (c) further improvement of investment climate, with special emphasis
on fighting corruption and crime; (d) speed up the process of European integration,
fulfilment of all conditions for the EU accession; completion of all necessary educational
reform, in line with the European standards.
Diaspora contribution: Hierarchy of diaspora impacts
The starting point in discussions about the diaspora possible greater contribution to the
development at home country, it is the research results of the former World Bank expert,
Yevgeny Kuznetsov (2013), shown in the Figure below.
The figure illustrates a hierarchy of Diaspora impacts, starting from remittances at
the base of the pyramid to institutional reform at its pinnacle. In the established
perspective, diasporas are viewed as a source of tangible help and resources (remittances,
philanthropic contributions, investments and, recently and the influence of India
example, of technological and organizational knowledge) and that tends to exclude the
discussion of a country’s talent abroad in incremental institutional development. It is
clear that an improved institutional context would then be supportive of further and
deeper diaspora engagement and initiatives. The focus is thus on a virtuous cycle
characterized by the following: (a) no institutional preconditions for diaspora
involvement are specified ex-ante; (b) first movers from both the home country and
diaspora can act in an imperfect institutional environment, and (c) their actions results in
improved conditions for subsequent diaspora contributions (Kuznetsov, 2013).
Fig. 1. Hierarchy of Diaspora Impact (Yevgeny Kuznetsov, 2013)
Migrant remittances and their use
The Serbian Diaspora sent to home country over 3.4 billion US dollars in 2016 (Tab. 4). A
year before (2015), migrants’ remittances represented the equivalent of 9.2% of the
Serbian GDP. The amount of remittance income is influenced by a whole set of different
factors (Russell, 1992):
• The number of workers;
• Wage rates;
• Economic activity in the host country and in the sending country;
• Exchange rates;
• The relative interest rate ratio between the labor-sending and receiving countries;
• Political risk;
• The facility of transferring funds;
Development and Reform
(2) Donations (including collective remittances)
and Innovation Networks
• Marital status;
• Level of education of the migrant;
• Whether accompanied or not by dependents, and
• Years since outmigration and household income level.
All these factors affect the total pool of remittance income, the decision whether or
not to remit, the amount to remit and the uses of remittance incomes. Factors that affect
migrant workers` choice between the formal banking system and informal channels in
remitting their earnings include: individual socioeconomic characteristics of their
household members, levels and type of economic activity in the sending and host
countries, differential interest and exchange rates, and the relative efficiency of the
banking system compared with informal channels. There are no official sources that can
reliably indicate the total number of the Serbian Diaspora in the world.
Tab. 4. Migrant Remittance Flows to and from Serbia, 2007-2016 (US $ million)
Migrant remittance inflows
Migrant remittance outflows
(a) Estimates. According to the World Bank staff, . "the global growth of remittances to
developing countries is projected to remain modest at about 3.5% over the next two
(b) Source: World Bank, Annual remittance data (updated as of October 2016).- estimate
Remittances are sometimes so substantial that they reshape the economy of
emerging countries (Evans & Rodriguez-Montemayor, 2015). They are worth 10% of GDP
for some countries in Central America and the Philippines, while India alone received
US$70 billion of them in 2014 (and for high emigration regions such as Kerala
remittances can represent 36% of the local economy). Tanle 5 shows that the main
sending countries are Germany, Switzerland and Austria, which account almost 40% of
the total inflow of remittances.
The problem is how the remittances are used. Most of them are spent on consumer
goods such as food, clothing and health care. Funds are also spent on building or
improving housing, buying apartments, buying land and agricultural machines, tractors
etc., and buying durable consumer goods such as cars, washing machines and TV sets.
The remittances from abroad have caused an inflation of housing prices. Generally only a
small percentage of remittances are used for savings and what is termed "productive
investment" for e.g. income and employment-generating activities such as small
productive business firms.
Tab. 5. Bilateral Remittance Inflows to Serbia by the Main Sending Countries in 2013, 2014, and
2015 (US $ million)
The main sending
Source: World Bank, Bilateral Remittances for 2013 using Migrant Stocks, Host Country Incomes,
and Origin Country Incomes, October 2015 Version; October 2016.
Donations and investments
Today, with the global knowledge-based economy increasingly relying on science and
technological skills and generating international flows more than ever before, the
Diaspora issue has become even more crucial. Members of the Serbian Diaspora used to
invest in the country and participated in various ways in economic life, educational
system, and cultural events of Serbia.
One general attribute of the whole Serbian Diaspora is their high degree of
integration into host societies. Members of the Serbian Diaspora are characteristically
known for being hard-working, law-abiding, and talented (Grečić, 2013). Serbs have a
reputation for being easy to integrate, especially through mixed marriages. They typically
choose to keep their Orthodox religion. They have not developed reputations as members
of organized crime or for taking part in serious criminal activities. Serbs have made
outstanding contributions to societies in which they have integrated. Scientists like Nikola
Tesla, Mihailo Pupin, and others become famous world-wide. There are also politicians,
judges, and journalists of Serb descent in many American states. In the fields of science
and technology, many professionals who were born in Serbia or are of Serb origin work in
the United States and in parts of Europe (Germany, United Kingdom, France,
Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and other countries). There are also very rich
businessmen of Serbian origin whose fortunes are estimated to be in the range from half a
billion to a couple hundred of million dollars.
Regarding donations in the Republic of Serbia, there are no precise figures. Members
of diaspora donate money to the facilities of public good. However, rarely publish how
much and where they had donated. Few are as Milomir Glavčić from Canada who
donated money for the construction of various facilities in and around Kraljevo.
In case of Serbia, there is no experiance with collective remittances (Serbian HTAs,
there is no). Perhaps the most-studied form of Diaspora engagement is the Mexican
"Home Town Association". Residents of the same town or village in Mexico typically
migrate together to the same locality in the United States. The Home Town Associations
they form serve the dual purpose of providing social support to the migrants and
economic support to their places of origin.
Therefore, in order to maximize the developmental impact of remittances to Serbia,
the World Bank advisers have suggested that Serbian Government consider the
systematic establishment of hometown associations – HTAs (De Luna Martinez at al.
2006). In addition to attracting remittance flows into the financial system, one of the
most important challenges for Serbia is to create an enabling environment to leverage
remittance flows by offering migrants a wider range of opportunities to invest in Serbia.
This could include providing complementary financing to acquire real estate, creating
mechanisms to channel funds to finance small infrastructure projects back in hometowns,
encouraging migrants to become shareholders in privatized companies, and launching
funding programs for the establishment and development of small and medium-sized
enterprises by migrants returning to Serbia. One of these types of program exists in the –
corridor. It is called the "3x1" program. Under this program, community remittances are
channeled hospitals and schools – and every dollar sent back from the migrants, is
matched by three dollars from the federal state and municipal governments, to fund
project and foster development impact of remittances (Jose De Luna Martinez at al.
The former Ministry of the Diaspora, along with the Regional Chambers of
Commerce. had estimated, couple years ago, that three-fourths of green-field investments
were the result of mediation by the Diaspora. Estimates of the former Ministry of
Diaspora (2012) show that the Serbian diaspora invested about EUR 550 million into the
economy of the Republic of Serbia; opened about a thousand small and medium
enterprises, which employ about 25 thousand people. More recent data are not available.
After 2000, when economic reforms were implemented, the annual GDP growth rate
was relatively high, and the Serbian diaspora became interested in the Serbian economy.
The former Ministry of the Diaspora, along with the Regional Chambers of Commerce in
Užice, Leskovac, Zaječar, Sremska Mitrovica, Kragujevac, Subotica, Požarevac, Novi Sad,
Zrenjanin, Sombor, Pančevo, Niš, Knjazevac, Kraljevo, Valjevo, and Kikinda) have formed
sixteen "Centers for the Diaspora" in these cities. The former Serbian Minister for the
Diaspora, Ms. Milica Čubrilo, presented the project "Economic partnership with the
Diaspora at a regional and local level" on February 27, 2008. An integral part of this
project was the formation of a network of sixteen "Centers of the Diaspora" within
regional chambers of commerce. The largest number of firms founded by members of the
Serbian diaspora were regional chambers of commerce in Kraljevo-Čačak (72 firms) and
Novi Sad (28 firms, which employed about thousand workers).
Since the crisis of 2008, the situation has changed, and investment by the Serbian
diaspora has declined. This suggests that members of the diaspora have no trust in the
home country, and almost do not invest capital in the Serbian economy. The main
problem was and still is the investment climate: a relatively unstable economic situation
and complicated administrative procedures in Serbia.
Knowledge and innovation networks
Knowledge and human resources are the basis of every society. They are a central
element of vitality and a condition for social survival. For development to be based on the
quality of human resources are needed stronger links educational and research system
with all other sectors, to resources that exist and that are produced through higher
education and research were effectively used.
Knowledge is a prerequisite for the progress and prosperity of society. The term
"knowledge" can be defined in many ways. For our purposes knowledge can be defined as
"familiarity with someone or something, which can include facts, information,
descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the
theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with practical
skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); it can be
more or less formal or systematic" (http://oxforddictionaries.com ). The term "knowledge
management" (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization
"to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and
experiences" (Groff & Jones, 2003). Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge,
either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices.
More recently, other fields have started contributing to KM research; these include
information and media studies, computer science, public health, and public policy.
According to the famous scholars, Jatinder Gupta and Sushil Sharma (2004), "knowledge
management efforts typically focus on organizational objectives such as improved
performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned,
integration and continuous improvement of the organization". KM efforts overlap with
organizational learning, and may be distinguished by a greater focus on the management
of knowledge as a strategic asset and the sharing of knowledge.
Today, with the global knowledge-based economy increasingly relying on science and
technological skills and generating international flows more than ever before, the
Diaspora issue has become even more crucial. Serbia is lagging behind other countries of
emigration in terms of partnerships with the intellectual diaspora.
Institutional development and reforms
Migrants bring a set of social and cultural tools that can help them adjust to their new
lives. Studies of evolutionary institutional change suggest useful approaches for
understanding how these resources are transformed into social remittances. Evolutionary
change is shaped by the structure of already existing institutional arrangements which
enable and constrain subsequent choices (Levitt, 1998).
A similar design process occurs in social remittances evolution. Migrants interact to
varying degrees with the host society. They make sense of their experiences using the
interpretive frames they bring with them. Just as institutional actors` choices are
curtailed and facilitated by routines and norms already in place, so the new behaviors and
views that migrants adopt are also a function of how things were done at home.
Therefore, social remittances represent a potential tool with which practitioners and
planners can promote better outcomes. But they are also seen as crucial for the
performance levels of national economies: a higher education level of the workforce will,
according to this view, produce higher economic growth and employment. Since growth
in today’s societies and economies is to a much higher degree than in earlier ones driven
by innovation and knowledge, such investment is seen as more important today than
ever. Since people constitute capital, or rather their knowledge and skills do, this capital
can be said to have left the country when they have emigrated. Lost for the country of
origin, it is acquired by the destination country. From the point of view of the country of
origin, the earlier investment in the education and training of the emigrant appears as
useless spending (Kelo & Wachter, 2004).
The question is how to mobilize highly skilled diaspora in this matter? The help of a
network of professional service providers and investors and an ‘overachiever’ diaspora-
member constructing, with support of her own problem-solving networks, a project with
her home country’s institutions. Its focus is on first generation ‘overachievers’ – diaspora
members that left their home country and achieved extraordinary success in their new
country of residence (Kuznetsov, 2013)
Talent Migrants in Focus
Many high-level officials and managers in developing countries have been trained in
Europe or the US, bringing knowledge, norms and values that can be used to improve
local institutions – and we highlighted the importance of management practices earlier. It
is often people who have lived abroad who do the most to increase the quality of basic
education, to fight against corruption, and to break down oligarchic or bureaucratic
barriers that handicap the development of a nation or city. On the role of talents in the
development of economy and society have been written numerous studies and, even the
second decade of the 21st century has been called the decade of the fight for talent.
US migration expert of the Greek origin, Demetrios G. Papademetriou, was in right
track when he wrote, inter alia, the following: "Talent – what it is, how to keep it, where it
exists, and how to attract it – has become a preoccupation for all developed and emerging
economies, as well as many developing ones, because it lies at the heart of economic
growth and competitiveness" (Talent in the 21st Century Economy, 2008). As Human
capital becomes the ultimate resource, economic success requires growing, attracting,
retaining and rewarding talent (Papademetriou, 2015). In fact, while European nations
struggle to manage massive inflows from the Middle East and Africa, a parallel challenge
in unfolding: what to do about the scores of people leaving (mostly professionals)?
Why Focus on `Overachievers`? By definition, overachievers have already gained
status in life. Therefore, when they look at their home country for new professional
opportunities, they have the luxury of sharing status, reputation, professional and
financial resources’ with their home countries, rather than seeking to enhance their status
as it might be expected from diaspora members at early stages of their professional
careers. Focusing on the first generation implies that, for practical purposes the person in
question remains part of a home country, sharing the same social networks and
idiosyncrasies associated with shared experiences of going to the same school and
university (Kuznetsov, 2013).
According to Kuznetsov`s opinion ‘overachievers’ are similar to venture capitalists in
a number of ways. First, they tend to undertake ventures in their home countries in spite
of obstacles such as poor investment climates and corrupt governments; they often have
unusually long planning horizons and "above usual" capabilities that allow them to
become first movers.
Some thoughts on what the Governments can do?
Politically, it is perhaps safer for governments to pursue policies that encourage
repatriation rather than discouraging emigration. A major challenge for the Government
of the Republic of Serbia in terms of achieving the brain gain concept, is the following:
how to retain talents in the country and how to attract those from abroad? The answer to
this question should be sought in overall social and economic development.
In the case of Serbia, there institutional controls that imply a broad representation of
social interests and the existence of objective rules and regulators (as opposed to control
by a dominant party or parties that is based on the narrow interests of lobbyists and
informal rules of economic behavior). As a result, there is a large gap between formally
established economic institutions and substantive economic behavior, which was far from
desirable standards. There is thus a need to implement institutional pluralism in order to
achieve sustainable economic development (Araoz & Araoz, 2004).
Under modern conditions, management efficiency increasingly depends on the
ability to quickly establish partnerships for using information flows, new technologies,
migration flows, and thus enhance the potential of an organization.
Investing in education and a quality educational system is, according to World
Economic Forum experts, the most important indicator of the state of a country`s human
capital. The World Economic Forum rightly argues that quality higher education and
training are particularly crucial for economies that want to move up the value chain
beyond simple production processes and products (WEF, 2015). In particular, today’s
globalizing economy requires countries to nurture pools of well-educated workers who
are able to perform complex tasks and adapt rapidly to their changing environment and
the evolving needs of the economy. This measurement instrument measures secondary
and tertiary enrollment rates as well as the quality of education as evaluated by the
business community. The extent of staff training is also taken into consideration because
of the importance of vocational and continuous on-the job training—which is neglected in
Serbia’s major long-term competitive advantage lies in the sphere of knowledge,
educational reform, basic research and the application of innovations, as well as in the
development of new information and communication technologies. New and well-paid
quality jobs are one of the most important goals of the National Strategy on Economic
Development. It is very easy to conclude that today a company can still operate if its
ownership structure changes, but not if the central information system is deleted or
Like many other developing countries (China, India, Mexico), Serbia is poised to
enter the developed world in which the creation of a knowledge society will be the key to
its future success in the global marketplace. This success will be predicated on Serbia’s
ability to be more creative and innovative, i.e. not just to be a follower of other knowledge
societies, but also one of its leaders, thanks to the effective tapping into the enormous
technological and knowledge potential of its people. The outmigration of high level
human resources is a long-standing phenomenon that has given rise to a sizable academic
diaspora, a potentially important resource for the country. Serbian society of the future
must become a knowledge society with a rapidly developing information and
communications technology. Only in this fashion, i.e. by using knowledge as a key
resource will it acquire an internationally competitive profile that can create wealth and
improve the living conditions of its citizens. This knowledge society will rely heavily on
knowledge workers, both traditional professionals like doctors, scientists and engineers
and "knowledge technologists" like IT technicians, lab analysts, and manufacturing
experts, who need to have a foundation in theoretical knowledge acquired through formal
education (Araoz & Araoz, 2004).
Innovation, a knowledge-intensive endeavor, requires creative people to put
knowledge to work. It also needs a favorable environment. Innovation is crucial for the
economic competitiveness of countries and companies alike. However, innovation is
made up of a complex set of processes that are strongly rooted in contextual factors. In
this respect, a favorable cultural environment is a necessary precondition of innovation
(Elvira Vieira et al., 2013)
There are a lot of factors that affect the success of the partnership with the Serbian
innovators in the diaspora. The three most important are: (a) the identification of the
partners in the diaspora for undertaking innovative efforts; (b) the existence of a strong
political and stakeholder commitment, and (c) a strong focus on results, outcomes, and
Diaspora innovators can thus become key agents for bringing in knowledge and
stimulating attitudes favorable to innovation (Araoz & Araoz, 2004). They are particularly
qualified for this purpose since they can speak the local language, fit into the predominant
culture – if made culturally competent- and use preexisting networks of family, friends,
former fellow students, and colleagues to transmit new attitudes, values and knowledge.
This is often in contrast to foreign expatriates who would have an uphill task and less
motivation to do the same.
The most important challenges faced by Serbia in terms of the cooperation with
innovators in the Serbian diaspora, are the following: How to improve the data base and
the analysis of migration patterns of the highly skilled? How to link migration data,
analysis and evidence-based policy- making with the goal of enhancing scientific
cooperation with diaspora innovators and those in Serbia? Who will collect and organize
official data and what will be the source of information on the size and distribution of the
scientific diaspora, their networks and associations, FDI and like?
The ability to generate new knowledge, ideas, innovation and technology is a prerequisite
of human capital formation and a key indicator of national wealth in the modern world.
Experience shows that most members of the Serbian diaspora have achieved remarkable
results in the educational and professional fields, and it would be very wise to provide
them with a chance to share their knowledge and invest in their country of origin, it. The
main goal of state policy must be to keep the best students in the country. Serbia requires
specialists from abroad in all sectors – economic, educational, cultural, social etc. In fact,
Serbia needs creators, good organizers, managers, in a word: a group of elite leaders.
In concluding this paper on relations between the Serbian academic diaspora and
economic development of the homeland the following seven broad points can be made.
First, an important lacuna in the diasporas and development literature is the absence
of high-quality data. The household survey is among the main data sources used in
diaspora research. Such data are lacking for Serbia, and there are no relevant methods
that can help us estimate the total size of the Serbian diaspora, the remittance flows to
Serbia, and the like.
Secondly, because of the poor quality of the data, assessing the economic impact of
the Serbian diaspora is a challenging issue. The national statistical service should make
the collection of quality data its priority.
Thirdly, Serbian migrants worldwide send remittances to families back home. The
potential poverty-reducing impact of remittances has been widely discussed, but until
now empirical evidence on the topic has been scarce. More attention should be given to
these questions: Why don’t members of the Serbian diaspora invest more money in the
Serbian economy? Why don’t Serbian experts invest in science and technology parks in
Serbia? Why don’t Serbian institutions engage more scientists from abroad on research
projects in Serbia? Why does Serbia invest only about 0.5% of GDP in R & D? Why
Serbian firms don’t invest, or invest so little, in R & D?
Fourthly, previous investigations have shown that the Serbian academic diaspora is
willing to engage in all forms and modes of cooperation with the home country, the
intensity and forms of which will depend largely on the policies of the home country.
Fifthly, it was shown that Serbia has no clear national strategy on cooperation
between Serbian the academic diaspora and home institutions in the field of R&D and the
economy more generally: it has neither a Return of the Qualified expatriate and
immigrants program, nor a Talent Return Program.
Sixthly, it was also shown that Serbia has no research institution devoted to the study
of migration, and thus no serious research results on the topic. The expansion of the
migration database and the higher quality of relevant data are thus key issues for Serbian
researchers. A special tasks for Serbian social science would be to provide analytical and
empirically informed studies on the topic of Brain Drain and Brain Gain, and policy
proposals about strategies to reverse brain drain.
Seventhly, in order to maximize the developmental potential of the academic
diaspora, a diaspora policy roadmap should be traced. Countries that have successfully
attracted their scientific diasporas usually have well-funded and wellstaffed organizations
to promote their engagement. Clear political engagement at a high level is linked to
success, yet it must be combined with political legitimacy and recognition from the
The results of research in the field of academic diaspora also suggest the conclusion
that economic and social development in the Republic of Serbia can generate incentives
for professionals to migrate and increase the prospects for retaining and attracting
talented individuals from the scientific diaspora. It has also shown that current thinking
is still tentative and the available evidence too sketchy with regard to the links between
migration and development.
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КАКО СРПСКА ДИЈАСПОРА МОЖЕ МНОГО ВИШЕ ДОПРИНЕТИ
РАЗВОЈУ СВОЈЕ ДРЖАВЕ?
Резиме: Србија је традиционално земља емиграције, чији интензитет у великој мери зависи
од историјских, економских, демографских, политичких, социјалних, етничких и
психолошких фактора. Број и карактеристике нашег становништва у иностранству представља
још увек непознаницу услед недостатка одговарајуће методологије, а самим тим и квалитетних
података. Не постоји сагласност међу истраживачима о броју наших држављана, који живе и
раде ван граница наше државе. Према проценама Министарства спољних послова око 3,5
милиона наших грађана борави у иностранству, од чега 1,5 милиона има држављанство
Републике Србије, док 2 милиона има двојно држављанство. Укључивање дијаспоре у развој
државе порекла у великој мери зависи од саме државе порекла. Миграције талената и
високообразованих лица представљају важну компоненту дугорочне компетиције држава и
бизниса. Допринос дијаспоре се може сагледати кроз хијерархију инвестиција становништва
који живе и раде у инострантсву: дознаке, донације, инвестиције, стварање мрежа знања и
иновација и институцијални развој и реформе. Главна, дугорочна предност Србије управо
може бити у сфери знања, реформе образовања, основног истраживања и примени иновација,
као и у развоју нових информационих и комуникационих технологија. Нови, квалитетни и
добро плаћени послови су један од најважнијих циљева Националне стратегије за економски
развој. Резултати истраживања који третирају академску дијаспору такође указују на закључак
да економски и друштвени развој у Републици Србији може произвести разлог за
професионалце да мигрирају, али исто тако и повећати изгледе за задржавање талентованих
појединаца из научне дијаспоре.
firstname.lastname@example.org (аутор за кореспонденцију)
*Универзитет у Београду, Економски факултет, Београд, Србија