As Greece tries to come to an “honorable agreement” with austerity-loving eurozone finance ministers, let’s not forget who stood to gain the most from the financial crises in southern Europe. Just a few years ago, The New York Times reported on how a “robust Germany … desperate for educated workers” had “begun to look south for the solution.” Lo and behold, a few years of austerity measures and intense amounts of suffering later, countries such as Greece and Spain found they’d experienced the departure of thousands of skilled professionals. And where are these workers now?

According to 2014 stats, they’re propping up the economies of Germany and the U.K. But the fact that these countries have taken advantage of the dwindling job markets in the south of the continent doesn’t seem to have made an impact on bailout negotiations that continue to insist on austerity, austerity, austerity.

Or perhaps the wealthier countries in the European Union have realized that stronger Greek and Spanish economies may mean the professionals they lured away from their homes will want to head back. That would certainly explain why certain eurozone finance ministers continue to play dumb regarding the pernicious effects of harsh economic policies imposed on southern European countries.


One of the most damaging aspects of Spain’s economic crisis has been the departure from the country of university graduates and highly skilled professionals. With jobs hard to come by and research and development funding slashed in many industries, anecdotal evidence suggests many people have decided to make the move elsewhere…Figures show just 6,558 foreign workers applied to work in regulated fields including education, medicine, nursing and law in Spain from 2003 to 2014. Some 84% of these applications were accepted, meaning a net gain of 5.508 professionals, with Germany and Italy being the two main sources of those professionals.

By contrast, some 18,408 Spanish professionals registered to have their qualifications recognized in other European countries. It’s not known how many of these workers who had their qualifications recognized overseas went on to practice their profession abroad, but the figures do reveal a negative balance of 12,940 people.

That’s higher than any other country in Western Europe, and behind only Poland, Romania and Greece. The professionals most likely to seek to leave Spain were secondary school teachers, nurses and doctors…The United Kingdom was by far and away the most popular destination with 55% of applicants choosing that country. Germany and Italy both received 10% of all applications.

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—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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