MINES Saint-Étienne

Brain drain: why do some choose to return back to France?

According to the latest report published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 31 December 2017, up to 1.82 million French people work abroad. Among all of these expatriates who choose, for different reasons, to settle in other countries, some are researchers, scientists, engineers, computer scientists, etc. These profiles are clearly highly sought after by French companies to strengthen their position and business model. Fortunately, as others leave for highly attractive destinations like Silicon Valley, others decide to return home. Let’s find out why!

An attractive ecosystem and a good quality of life

After several years of expatriation, going back to France is often an opportunity for returning expatriates to showcase the experience acquired abroad and to bring new ideas and concepts to be implemented in their homeland. While some choose to set up their own business, others prefer to join an existing structure. Support for business creation and project owners (incubators, competitiveness clusters, open innovation, etc.) are among the main reasons why French expatriates decide to return home. In this regards, the draft PACTE law, that was recently adopted by the Assemblée Nationale, and which is due to be voted on in its final form next year, will include several measures to facilitate the process of setting up a business. This should encourage more French expatriates to invest in their home country.

The many years spent far from the country, often in another context, completely different, for example, in cultural, linguistic, and environmental terms, encourage many French people to return home to get back to the rhythm of life they have always known and to which they are best adapted. France has what it takes to seduce, and is even among the best countries in terms of quality of life, cultural and gastronomic offerings, biodiversity and landscapes, infrastructure, etc.

Coping with the brain drain

Deputy LREM Cédric Villani, in charge of the AI mission, admitted that “one of the most painful parts that had to be faced” when writing the AI report was the phenomenon of the flight of French talent abroad. And to explain that this is an issue to which a large part has been devoted on improving the working conditions of French brains in laboratories. To deal with this brain drain, the report recommends that researchers’ careers be upgraded, in particular by doubling their salaries at the beginning of their careers.

But for the Cédric Villani, the flight of French AI experts cannot be explained by the pecuniary criterion alone, but also by the better working conditions than those offered by French laboratories in terms of administrative procedures, recruitment, purchase of equipment, etc. While President Emmanuel Macron wants France to become a leader in AI, Villani revealed that the country’s strategy in this area will focus on four priority economic sectors: health, transport, defence and the environment.