Puerto Rico’s Brain Drain Problem

By: Antonio G. Santiago

The island is in crisis and in a year 15,000 people left the island to go to the United States. Panelists convened at a press conference about Puerto Rico’s “brain drain” problem and agreed that in order to keep youngsters here the salaries need to get better, that was said on October 31, 2013.

Panelists included Erwin Maldonado, a historian, who graduated from the UPRM and José S. Ortiz, a third year UPRM student of pure math with a minor in civil engineering.

Ortiz is an example of the many students that come from the U.S. to P.R. to study. He was raised in the U.S. but decided to come to study at the UPRM because it was cheaper than U.S. universities. “The money I’m saving now I can use later to get a masters degrees in the U.S.,” he said

According to the dictionary, the brain drain is the loss of skilled intellectual and technical labor through the movement of such labor to more favorable geographic, economic, or professional environments; it has many causes and is hard to just give one reason. Also there are numbers of effects it generated on the nation.

A reason that has caused the brain drain is the low salaries that are offered in the island, comparing them to the U.S. they double the amount. With that in mind the students know they have the opportunity to earn more money outside of P.R. Jose mentioned that in order to stay in P.R. the jobs should have better salaries than the ones they have right now.

For panelist Erwin Maldonado comparatively lower salaries are not the only reason why the highly educated leave the island. He claims that many leave because of the criminality rates in Puerto Rico without realizing that in places like New York City and Miami they might encounter a worse situation. “The only way to avoid criminality is going to a country side far from the city,” Maldonado said.

Ortiz talked how the university or institution the students come from influence when a company is hiring. He gave an example of how a company here in P.R. is going to give a job to a person that comes from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the one from the UPRM would go home hands empty.

Facing these various obstacles, many would think that creating your own business is an easy solution. Meanwhile Maldonado said “is not easy to do because before you earn a penny you have to pay taxes that are very expensive.”

One of the most worrisome effects of the brain drain is the exodus of medical personnel. Danica Cotto, a writer for Huffington Post, reported on April 17, 2013 that in the last five years the number of doctors in Puerto Rico has decreased from 11,397 to 9,950.

Regarding this situation and the general exit of workers, both panelists agreed that in order to keep young minds to stay here, the government should give an incentive to the ones who stay and work for their country

Not only is the exit of skilled young workers affects the economy there is also the effects on population, in the sense that Puerto Ricans are getting older according to the Statistical Institute of Puerto Rico, people leaving Puerto Rico tend to be younger and more educated than those who chose to remain. Thus, it is expected that in a few decades the median age of the population will increase into the range of seniority.

Thus, the population of the island would consist of old people and the youngsters who stay are not going to be well educated.Image

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