Policy Interventions in Outflow of Iranian Talent; The Case of Iran
Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs

Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs
Open Access

ISSN: 2332-0761

Research Article - (2018) Volume 6, Issue 4

Policy Interventions in Outflow of Iranian Talent; The Case of Iran

Roudgar I1* and Kanagasundram T2
1Policy Studies, University of Technology, Skudai, Johor, Malaysia
2University of Technology, Skudai, Johor, Malaysia
*Corresponding Author: Roudgar I, PhD, Policy Studies, University of Technology, Skudai, Johor, Malaysia, Tel: 0060176075283 Email:


The main objectives of this study are examined the key policy factors in cultural, economic and political conditions that contribute to Iranian talented people migration. The principal aim of this study is to propose ideas that can contribute to specific changes in public policies, to curb further outflow and may encourage Iranian expatriates to return to their homeland. This study, however, examines in depth the policy interventions related to the migration of talented Iranians. Interviews were conducted on highly educated Iranians living in six industrialized advanced nations to obtain their views on reasons for their migration. A predominant theme emerging from the study is that unfavorable political conditions have been the key reason for the migration of talented Iranians from their homeland.

Keywords: Talent outflow; Political events; Public policy; Immigration policy

Introduction to the Study

Globalization has resulted in an accelerated movement of people, trade, investment, and knowledge and the mobility of well-recognized talents. Many talented people are disillusioned with socio-cultural, economic, and political conditions and they do not have the patience to wait for a change in government policies. This is a significant contributing factor to outflow of talent which contributes to social capital flight. According to the Financial Tribune (2018) well-qualified and talented Iranians continue to go abroad for higher studies or to seek better living standards. The most popular destinations for the students were the US (38%), Europe (36%), Australia (15%), Eastern Europe (9%), and East Asia (2%). The outflow of Iranian talented people began over the past few decades and is increasingly growing annually. Many existing government policies perhaps serve to discourage the educated class in developing countries like Iran from staying back; these policies actually encourage them to emigrate elsewhere to seek out better opportunities. Previous studies on talent migration have focused on the individual behavioural intention of the people. This study examines in depth the policy interventions related to the migration of talented Iranians and some policy changes needed to curb further outflow of the people. The principal aim of this study is to propose ideas that can contribute to specific changes in public policies, to curb further outflow and may encourage Iranian expatriates to return to their homeland. The main objectives of this study are as follows: to examine the key policy factors in cultural, economic and political conditions that contribute to Iranian talented people migration.

This study consists of 7 sections. After introduction, we review the background to study in second section. In third part, study provides the literature review of the phenomenon and presents a review of previous studies in Iran. Next, study provides research methodology and research design as well as methods of data collection and analysis.The empirical evidence and analyses of findings are given in fifth section. At the end, conclusions of study and implications of the findings - policy and managerial, as well recommendations are presented.

The main limitations of this research include the following: lack of reliable statistical data in Iran and destination countries related to Iranian ‘brain drain’, complexity of the topic, highly sensitive nature of the topic, unavailability of documents, and distribution of candidates across the world.

Background to the Research

The mass flow of Iranian talent began in 1975, and is growing annually. The outflow of the talent is estimated to cost the country over $50 billion each year in economic losses [1]. Meanwhile, Iran’s Minister of Science, Research and Technology (Reza Faraji Dana) stated “every year, about 150,000 educated people emigrate from Iran, equalling an annual loss of $150 billion to the economy” [2].

The review of the migration reveals that there have been six important typologies of migration and two phases of reducing the movement under political events. The Table 1 shows the typology and history of departure of Iranian talented people from the beginning to date.

Period Political Events Situation
1975-1979 The Shah dissolved all existing political parties Brain Drain started
1980-1988 Islamic Revolution (1979)
Cultural Revolution (1980-83)
Iran-Iraq War (1980-88)
1989-1997 State under President Hashemi Rafsanjani Reduced
1997-2005 State under President Mohammad Khatami Reduced
2005-2013 State under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Continued
2013-2018 State under President Hassan Rouhani Continued

Table 1: The typology of Iranian talent departure over the past few decades.

Iranian ‘brain drain’ began in 1975 and is increasingly growing annually. The second huge wave of the outflow of Iranian talent came during the Islamic Revolution [3], and lasted until the Post-Cultural Revolution in 1983. The term continued during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), in which a number of socialists and liberal people, as well as those who were pro-previous government were the first to leave, followed by young men who faced military service and the war [4].

For the Post Iran-Iraq war, in the Construction State for the period of 1989-1997 to enhance the coordination performance and legitimacy following the repatriation policies adopted during the government of Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the country witnessed reduction of the educated and talented people through migration [5]. Then, under Reformists State (1997-2005), the outflows was reduced and the country also witnessed a small number of talents and educated move to Iran [2]. The fourth wave of Iranian ‘brain drain’ began in 2005, and it is growing after the presidential election in 2009. In fact, the postelection government clampdown intensified the desire of many educated Iranians to leave the country [2].

In May 2014, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani emphasized on more tolerance and stated that honouring Iran’s best university researchers and talents is a means to national power and wealth and they do need knowledge so that they can attain development; to attain innovation, invention, and scientific discovery [6]. Rouhani censured the current conditions of the country, which contributed to the outflow of Iranian talented and educated people. Nevertheless, this situation is still ongoing in 2017 under President Hassan Rouhani’s State.

The current political situation has negatively affected hundreds of talented people, most of whom are doctors, scientists, engineers, physicists and chemists. The government at that time did not escape from the repercussions. Hence, the research questions emerge - Why do the talents and professional educated leave their country and going abroad? What distinctions exist between ‘top-down’ government policies and goals of the talented people in Iran?

Literature Review

The concept of ‘drain’ in the dictionary, refers to cause the gradual disappearance of region’s wealth, something consuming resources and providing nothing in return, and where no pore water exists in the soil … etc. The term ‘brain drain’ is synonymous with the movement of talented people where the outflow of expertise is strongly in one direction [7]. The term also entered into the terminology of social science literature and was the focus of much discussion and theorizing [8]. From the first time when the term ‘brain drain’ was coined and entered into the literature of the social sciences. This has been happening for over a few decades.

After World War II many highly skilled people migrated from the UK to the USA. This was a period of unprecedented globalization [9]. The outflow of British scientists was reported as brain drain and was published by Royal Society of London in 1963 [10-13]. The theoretical debate was introduced to the development of the literature in as early as the 1950s by Hirschman, Myrdal, Perroux, Wallerstein [14]. The authors noted that the phenomenon’s movement was between South and North. In contrast, several studies have filed and different viewpoints about the phenomenon and cited, some regions to have social-political factors which had a significant impact on human capital movement. The authors also conclude as a policy issue, international migration has moved from the realm of low politics to the realm of high politics in the Post-Cold War.

Around the 1960s to 1970s scholarly debates the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon was in agreement that it might contribute to political and economic instability in the global system. For instance, ‘overflow’ model, introduced by Baldwin [8], shows that the ‘brain drain’ constitutes a problem of disturbing dimensions. Less developed countries cannot use the human capital, so talented people migrated to advanced nations. Similarly a study by Kao and Lee noted in some areas there is a glut of professionals; so skilled-labour migration refers to ‘overflow’ of professionals [15]. Thus, the outflow of brains relies on an expertise’s pool and contributes to job opportunities.

At the time, several scholarly researches noted the need for ‘brain taxation’ or ‘income taxation’. The authors debate that the industrial countries might give tax to LDCs due to lost education investment by ‘brain drain’ scientists and professionals who move from sending regions to DCs [16-18].

Portes and Borocz disagreed with the model of ‘overflow’ by Baldwin (1970) for international migration and coined a new model of ‘supply-demand’. Based on this perspective, push-pull has two dimensions: supply and demand and these dimensions have two characteristics that are relevant to the origin of talented people in sending countries and the process of adoption [19]. In contrast other studies highlighted that political climate and religious conflict had a significant impact on talented people migration [20-22].

Commander, et al. cited that ‘brain drain’ is a ‘curse or a boon’ and contributes to government policies [23]. The study argues that raising public-policy dimension in developed countries positively affects professional immigrants and has impacts on the health care systems in the regions. The model ‘panic and panacea’ by Davenport noted, that migration particularly by an educated person is an individual decision [24]. As Davenport argues some of push factors or panic in the home (source) country is effective.

Mattoo, et al. cited some of talented people who cannot find any jobs in their country with their educational qualifications and move to other countries for employment, but can work in line with other professions, known as ‘brain waste’ [25]. The connections reduce the ‘brain drain’ in favour of ‘brain circulation’. Egger, et al. argue that the process of expatriate return or brain circulation will bring direct investment to the countries of origin, facilitating transfers of technology, and ushering in needed institutional reform that can help in development and growth [26].

From a top-down perspective nonstop improvement trend for developing technology and industrial economy has successfully prevented ‘brain drain’ and have developed technical knowledge in cases of Japan and Korea [27]. Other study by Solimano and Avanzini noted that the public policy has a significant role to play in the process of reversing the brain drain phenomenon [28]. The authors conclude that the sending countries with some policy change can help to reduce ‘brain drain’ and promote the return of the talent. In the top-down approach policy makers should intervene in some policy culture in the local state. For example, Ohno quoted, lack of coordination among cabinet members in statue and gaps in budgeting and execution also weaken the intensive training [29].

Political corruption is also one of main push factors, which are an obstacle to reversing ‘brain drain’. For instance, Amsden cited that a national commitment to reduce or even eliminate political corruption is an important key factor to reverse the brain drain problem [30]. Amsden argues such a policy commitment would also promote confidence and economic gain can be made through legitimate activities and channels. There would also be a need to include greater respect for rules of the law and democratic principles. In this way many developed countries can aim to simultaneously restore confidence in the public sector whilst promoting innovation and creating fair competition in the private sectors [30].

The pull policy and red carpet is an increasing level of human capital in advanced countries. The brain gain or ‘brain hunting’ includes a series of policy actions that are required to prepare a host country to accept elites, entrepreneurs, innovators and talented people [32]. The authors argue in this age of globalization and competition, the USA is the top on the list of ‘brain gain’ obtaining a visa has a significant role to play in this process. Most of previous studies indicate that US immigration policy is an important pull factor so as to attract talented people [24,33,34].

Consequently, in connection to global talent mobility from the topdown approach, issues such as political corruption, political instability, technology policy, and level of democracy have an impact on talent migration.

Reviews on the growing tendency to outflow of Iranian talent

Iran had an Islamic Revolution in 1979. The revolution ideology was embedded within and co-constructed by anti-imperialists, anticapitalists and anti-Western Culture [3]. The main characteristic of the Islamic Revolution was being against the Western Courtiers, particularly America, and a change from the previous cultural and political approaches, which had remained in the country. Iran has a high level of higher educated people and the Iranian youth have power over the use of modern technologies and social networks [35].

In March 1975, the government dissolved all existing political parties and established a single party called the Iranian People's Resurgence Party (in Farsi; Rastakhiz). The Shah in a speech had said that whoever who does not agree with the Party should leave the country. As a result, a number of politically active people and university professors left the country [36]. Meanwhile, some previous studies had shown that before the Islamic Revolution, Iran witnessed an overflow of a large pool of professionals particular to the USA in the 1970s [10,12,37].

In fact, the massive outflow of Iranian talent is begun after the Islamic Revolution (1979) and had greatly increased when the government closed all universities during the Cultural Revolution period (1980-83). These political events in Iran had a significant impact on its educational system, particularly among many talented people who faced problems with purification, ideological cleansing and retirement [38-40]. The authors highlighted the ideological criteria and the new policy implications to secular students and professors who opposed the remodeling of Iran’s new education system according to Islamic ideals and beliefs. Due to the challenges, a huge number of talented people migrated to the West, particularly to the US.

As mentioned above, Iran’s Cultural Revolution changed the traditional policies of higher education and dismissed many professors and teachers who were believers of Marxism, Liberalism and other ideologies apart from Islam [41]. In the process, many new political as well ideological criteria and rules were designed and established in the educational systems in Iran. The new perspective brought about a new situation, which influenced the talented people and drove them overseas. Consequently, we witnessed some struggle between students and policy makers in Iranian universities [41].

A comparison between two different language policies in Persian and foreign language shows that previous regime, the Pahlavis’ (1925-1979) efforts were made to purge Arabic elements from the Persian language, but these efforts achieved no practical success. On the contrary, after the Islamic Revolution, the Arabic language attracted special attention from the policymakers, and was taught and propagated as the main foreign language in the country, with the hope of abetting religious traditions [42]. For example, the first British Council representative was appointed to Iran in 1942. During 1979 the remaining provincial institutes and the Council representation in Tehran were closed. At Shiraz University, also, students had to pass a two-month intensive English course before starting their academic education in their respective majors [42]. This blocked their own access to new resources for the process of teaching and learning the English language and for knowledge and research from all around the world [43].

Theocracy versus globalization by the Iranian government in the context of social, economic and foreign policy changes brought about many challenges for the country in the world’s system [44]. A related study by Chaichian focused on how the link between mainstream religion and politics can further reinforce ideological gaps in Iran [45]. Chaichian concluded the gaps in beliefs between socio-cultural aspects and authority and a combination of both formal religion and politics in the society (ideological tendency) has had an important effect on the phenomenon. Similar study indicated that political climate, economic instability, religious persecution, pressure on women, and ideological perspectives can be a central push factor of migration in developing countries [46].

As mentioned earlier the last wave of the outflow of Iranian talent began after presidential election in 2009 as a result of fraud controversy and instability in the political climate of Iran. In this phase more than 20 times the rate of previous years and many extremely accomplished young people were trying to come abroad [45]. The Iranian government’s perspectives in context suppression of democracy, hostile attitudes towards Western educated people in the academic area, and the remodelling of education policy were the main causes for talented people migration [36].

By reviewing previous studies identified that the outflow of Iranian talent is similar to the African countries’ problem in the context of unrealistic policies, low salaries, poor working conditions, political instability, level of democracy, and levels of freedom [47]. The causes of the outflow were such as career dissatisfaction, quality of work life, limited job opportunities, less satisfying social and higher education policies, budget decrease, and the lack of institutional similarity with the Pacific area [48]. It is the sum of causes, which are unlike other countries in terms of theocracy, foreign policy challenges (West Clash), higher education policy, level of research capacity, and social freedom. Furthermore, Islamic Republic of Iran is richer compared to many others, according to a study based on underground resource and petroleum deposits [41].

Kober highlighted that Iranian young do not see a future for themselves in their country and seek opportunities elsewhere and the outflow of talented people to foreign countries, especially to American universities, has brought many challenges for the development of S&T; rather than international sanctions for Iran’s leaders [49-51].

Research Methodology

The strategy of this study was to understand in greater depth the Iranian talents situation this phenomenon through policy interventions. The scope of this study covers a qualitative approach to a descriptive, single case study, which allows for an in-depth understanding of the outflow of Iranian talent. In-depth interviews were research technique that involved conducting intensive individual interviews. A semi-structured and open-ended interview was used in the data gathering instrument and purposive sampling to obtain insight into the phenomenon in this research. Eighteen open-ended main questions and twenty-nine open-ended sub-questions were involved. The interview questions were piloted. Then, participants employed and ethical issues considered. All interviews were conducted, manually transcribed, coded, and analytical method applied.

We investigated to address Iranian expertise by social network such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Research Gate, and Web Site. Then, we invited about 130 Iranian educated to interviews. Some of the primary candidates disregarded to the request and did not answer. In this stage some of the candidates due to travel, seminar and other works did not join in this conversation. The interview questions were piloted among several Iranian expertise in Europe and North America.

The sample source was involved in assembling of the participants who demonstrated knowledge and life experience in Iran and destination countries. They were volunteers, and protected their demographics and any other information were helped them reached informed, consensual decided to participated. In this study saturation samples considered three key factors that guide the sampling methods in qualitative research, appropriateness, adequacy, and transparency concerned with the richness of information. All ethical issues considered, particularly what informed consent.

In order to participate in this study, the individuals have to be of Iranian nationality, talented, and should have been residing overseas over the past few decades. Data were collected by purposive method and face-to-face individual interviews; the respondents consisted of Iranian expatriates living in Europe, North America, and Australia. An alternative or supplemental choice for data collection in this research is by individual interviews via Skype. The time allocated for each interview was around one hour in via Skype and one and half hour for each face-to-face individual interview.

In this investigation, after 12 interviews, the initial analysis sample yielded, respondents reached ninety-six percent of the all codes of the research questions. Nevertheless, the interviews continued to obtain new key themes and issues were identified same ideas and responses within these interviews. Therefore, 14 respondents were participated and fully reached research questions and purpose of this study. They have been living and working in overseas between 3 and 35 years at the time of data collection. The people employed by sex, age, occupations, and country of residence in six major industrialized countries such: Australia, Canada, United States, United Kingdom, German, and French.

After completing the interviews, manually transcribed the text of each interview by writing the answers and responses to each question. Then, the transcriptions were coded for analysing. About 62 primary codes were grouped into 7 main classes and each code text segment was re-read. As this was done, a record was kept. In this study, triangulation has been used to deepen the understanding of the issues and maximize their confidence in the findings of the qualitative data. Generalizability, reliability, and validity in interview investigation are intended and the findings are verified. Finally, empirical evidence and analytical process of the findings of study are organized.

Results and Discussions

The following sections provide the findings and discussions of this study. The presentation will first describe, among other, the key reasons for outflow of Iranian talented people and the impact of government policies on such migration.

Interviewees’ respondents related to top-down influence of existing Government policies

This study has examined a variety of policy evidences from the topdown approach/policy interventions that drive talented people to migrate. Strong evidence around 12 per cent has emerged to indicate that political pressure clearly influenced talented people movement. Evidence indicated that level of civil rights (10.81%) that exist and led talented people to migrate. Furthermore, there is some important evidence such as level of research capacity, and ideological criteria’s in university, workplace, and society contributed to the outflow of talent from Iran. Evidence has also emerged to indicate that disregard of professional qualification, gender discrimination, tension in international relation, and cultural restriction resulted in the migration of talented and drove them overseas.

During the 1970s, Iranian educated had become disillusioned with the rule of The Shah so a number of politically active people and university professors left the country. During the 1978-79, the people came back to country and participated in the revolution. Iranian political activist (Leader of Leftist Party) elaborated Pre and Post Islamic Revolution. He stated that:

At first in 1975, The Shah (Iranian King) in his famous speech said; “you will be prisoned or have to leave Iran”. The Islamic Revolution was happening in 1978. At the same time, 20, 000 Iranian students were studying abroad, particularly in Europe and the USA. Nevertheless, during the revolution which happened in 1978, they went back to Iran to proceed and succeed with the Revolution. But, during 1983-1984 about 3 thousand members of my own political organization left the country due to the political conditions”.

The Table 2 illustrates the ranking and the percentage of research evidence evaluating top-down perspective that influenced the Iranian talented people’s decision-making and led them to migrate. The numerical ranking values were descending order and arranged smallest to largest by Microsoft Excel Worksheet.

No. Sub-factors Codes Marks Rank PER
1 Political pressure 5.14 63 1 12.16%
2 Level of civil rights 5.15 56 2 10.81%
3 Ideological criteria in the universities 5.4 49 3 9.46%
4 Research capacity level 5.8 47 4 9.07%
5 Ideological criteria in the workplace 5.10 45 5 8.69%
6 Disregard of professional qualification 5.11 42 6 8.11%
7 Gender discrimination 5.22 35 7 6.76%
8 Ideological criteria in the society 5.2 33 8 6.37%
9 Tension in international relationship 5.20 28 9 5.41%
10 Cultural restriction 5.1 21 10 4.05%
11 Inequality for further education and research grant 5.5 19 11 3.67%
12 Lack of copy right’s law 5.7 16 12 3.09%
13 Religious court 5.3 14 13 2.70%
14 Single-side policy 5.6 12 14 2.32%
15 Freedom speech 5.16 12 14 2.32%
16 Freedom of thought 5.17 10 16 1.93%
17 Media freedom 5.9 9 17 1.74%
18 Research budget 5.12 7 18 1.35%
*Max Marks for any questions= 98 518   100.00%

Table 2: Ranking of respondents feedback on Top-down” approach encouragement of talented people migration.

Table below shows strong evidence has emerged to indicate which Top-down policy interventions encourage outflow of Iranian talented people. Strong evidence, (12, 16%) showed a political pressure, encouraged the Iranian brain drain. Majority of the respondents are frustrated and emphasized the political pressure in most of social context to be a negative influence in their lives. For example, an Iranian Professor at College of the Canyons voiced a viewpoint. He stated that:

“… So, the political and artistic limitations imposed by the government have also contributed to the migration of most Iranian artists and political elites”.

An Iranian economist in Sidney, who has been arrested, then released, moved to Australia explained the life experiences in Iran and stated that:

So, People with political backgrounds like the famous people you mentioned were arrested, while others did not. Merit should be given preference in jobs, rather than other factors. I have been arrested in 2007 as a political prisoner, so I am not willing to return”.

An Iranian researcher at the George Mason University clarified the political condition and current policy in Iran, explained the political pressure which discourage talented people to return. She stated that:

We do not do any illegal activities in both Iran and United States, but we worry if visits back to Iran to see the family and then back to our US universities to continue our life and education will be safe and secure. I think that 95 percent of Iranian students are worried if they will get arrested in Iran when they go back to the country”.

By reviewing the original documents, some important evidence has emerged to indicate that ideological criteria in universities (9.46%), in workplace (8.69%), and the criteria in society (6.37%) discourage talented and educated people to stay in country. Respondent by Iranian Professor at College of the Canyons elaborated that:

Islamization of educational system has played a major role in persuading Iranians middle and upper middle classes to leave the country for modern education abroad.”

In addition, Iranian professor at UCLA voiced a viewpoint elaborated ideological criteria in Iran. He stated that:

If an educated person is constantly prosecuted for his or her beliefs that happen to be contrary to the ideological criteria imposed by the society, then it is quite logical to get out and go where such prosecutions are not present. The criteria in Iran Universities and workplace discourage talented and educated people to stay in country”.

Likewise, an Iranian lawyer in Australia voiced a viewpoint and explains the role of ideological criteria that influences on employment. He indicated that:

The criteria interfere with recruitment in all government organizations such as the ministries and universities. It also influences employment when the educated people are seeking for jobs”.

Beside the ideological criteria in the workplace, important evidence was disregard of professional qualification (8.11%) that encourage outflow of talented people. Lacks of meritocracy in the job opportunities and focus on ideological trends have influences on talented people migration. An Iranian Specialist in Software Company in Toronto stated that:

…Therefore, disregard to efficiency and qualifications in job opportunities are an important factor that drives talents overseas. We can see the situation in government companies and officials”.

In addition, an Iranian architect in Germany elaborated the expertise and qualification for job requirement and employment condition and stated that:

In our country, due to the state’s economy, the government supports most job opportunities. In this sector, the focus is on obligation/commitments and it disregards expertise and qualification. In this situation, the talents do not have any chance for job opportunities. So, the people search for jobs in developed countries where their qualifications are important in the labour market”.

So, the ideological orientation of social system and structure nonbased on ability of talent and selected according to the level of government dependency or the holding of power influences on talented person’s decision-making to leave the country.

Important evidence has emerged to indicate that gender discrimination in job opportunities and the educational system drove particularly talented women to migrate. Iranian lawyer in Melbourne voiced a viewpoint and stated that:

There seem to be inequality between gender in the workplace and social clubs. These factors have a negative effect on talent mobility. In the workplace, top managers and administers do not abide by the law or act as their roles dictate to provide equal job opportunities”.

The policy also exposed women clothes, hijab, and some detail in the society. Iranian researcher at the Georg Mason University believed that compulsory hijab is a private preference. She elaborated the gender policy and stated that:

This policy approach is not respectful and desirable for talents in our country. The government have been ordering and authorizing people on how to choose and wear clothes in particular for women in universities, workplace, and the society. It is not respectful to humans’ civil rights”.

Thus, the gender discrimination encourages many women educated and talented left the country for gender equality as well as further education and work.

Important evidence has emerged to indicate that tension in international relationship influences on talented Iranian people migration. Lack of good foreign policy and tension in international relationships has brought an opportunity for talents which become a major challenge for the government. Respondent by Iranian researcher at the UCLA elaborated this unpleasant situation. He stated that:

International sanctions are the result of this foreign policy. Lack of good international relationships affects talent mobility. More than economic limitations, the sanction brought many boundaries and restrictions in research capacity that influences talented migration to Western countries for better research facilities and new knowledge”.

Iranian Professor at the University Paris elaborated the tension in international relationship have brought an opportunity for Western countries in context brain gain. He points out that: “…The death of the American and West slangs brought an opportunity for the regions to attach to Iranian talent. In the original foreign policies, students can move abroad to develop their knowledge and experience, and then come back to the country. Unfortunately, the current policies disallow this condition, thus talent stays in their host destinations”.

Important evidence has emerged to indicate that cultural restriction drove particularly Iranian’s artists to migrate. Cultural uniformity policy opposed to the multicultural or monoculture policy and authorized the top-down approach. For example, Iranian Pop Singer in the United States particularized the restriction. She stated that:

The new orientation restricted many educated and talented people, particularly Iranian artists who work as pop singers, lyricists, composers, as well as cinema and theatre actors. As a result, pop music activities stopped and artists are confronted with the new regime’s orientation. At the same time, Western Countries had many attractions for the talents who pursue careers in this field. A majority of the people migrated abroad, particularly to the United States. Only a small number of artists remained in Iran and some of them were still working after the revolution”.

Iranian Professor at the University of Paris voiced a viewpoint and elaborated how the cultural policy influences on talented people migration. He stated that:

The cultural policy pushes people following a same belief, idea, clouting and others. This is a political tool used by the government to control the society using force. It also influences the talented people’s decision making to leave the country”.

The USA’s immigration policy provides Visa facilitation for talented people. Moreover, many Iranian lawyers are registered migration agents, particular in Australia, Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom. For example, Iranian lawyer in Australia elaborated the Visa facilitation and stated that:

Today many Iranian lawyers are registered migration agents who provide free written advice on the prospects of success in obtaining permanent residency under the general skilled migration (GSM) stream in developed countries. In other words, the lawyers help people to achieve Visa Facilitation Services”.

As mentioned above, policy intervention such as political pressure, level of civil rights, ideological criteria in society and universities and workplace, disregard of professional, gender discrimination, tension in international relationship, and cultural restriction have shown negative implications and encouraged the migration of talented people, at the macro level.

The Figure 1 represents the particular governmental policy areas from “top-down” approach that influenced the migration of the Iranian talented people.


Figure 1: Influence of “Top-down” approach on outflow of Iranian talented people.

Other evidences have emerged to indicate that economic instability, corruption, bureaucracy, and unreasonable law influenced on outflow of talented people. On the other hand, liberalization of economy which encouraged the people stay in country. For example, respondent by the Leader of Leftist Party stated that the first term of the Ahmadi Najad government, we did not have major migration. The second term started and economic instability rather than political instability happened. Iranian Immigration Lawyer in London voiced a viewpoint and stated that many of the people left the country due to monopoly, corruption of the system and lack of clear policies in higher education. Iranian Pop Singer in the United States said that individual activities like music productions are sometimes impossible and the bureaucracy for product licensing is very difficult. In context the unreasonable law, Iranian Immigration Lawyer in London voiced a viewpoint. He stated that “In a relationship between man and woman, the man of responsible as head of family. The woman cannot leave the house without the husband’s permission”. In addition, an Iranian professor at College of the Canyons emphasized that liberalization of economy encourages the people to stay in homeland.


A line start and end point of a route

Every year on 5th November, thousands of demonstrators gather and chant “Death to America” outside the former US embassy in Tehran to mark the anniversary of the 1979 takeover following the Islamic Revolution. This is while, others dream of going to the West, particularly America as they aspire to a brighter future. However, only the most talented and investors are able to succeed.

Many talented Iranian people seek to avoid and are frustrated by political pressures in the world. This is a significant contributing factor to drive talented people overseas. The findings indicate the role of politics in encouraging talented people mobility of those who are not only talented but also other educated people. Likewise, findings have shown that the level of civil rights, rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality have a significant role in the decision of educated people to stay or leave their homeland.

Furthermore, findings also have indicated that the disregard of professional qualification encourages the outflow of talented people. In other words, one important factor is lack of real meritocracy in job opportunity that encourages talented people to migrate and pursue jobs overseas. Meritocracy is legitimate only if the bulk of it is beneficial to society - not only in absolute terms but in relative terms. The top-down policy approach presents no clear criteria and procedures in job opportunities and must satisfy a series of demands to counter the extreme frustration created by governmental policy in the workplace. The lack of clear procedures in this area causes frustration and standard criteria are needed based on the experience of modern nations. In the policy area, intellectual property is the most valuable asset for talented people. Many societies have made available practical and substantial legal resources to maintain and protect these rights. No respect for intellectual property and lack of copyright law are other causes that drive talented people to the modern world.

There is factual evidence that indicates gender inequality in job opportunities and education in some fields for Iranian women. In addition, there is inequality in divorce, inheritance, and social movement that drives talented females overseas. Women’s rights are an important community issue. In gender policy, discrimination is working as push factors that drive talented people to migrate. On the other hand, freedom of religion and respect for cultures as well gender equality in all areas attract and drive people overseas.

Findings indicated that tension in international relationship encourages the outflow of talented people and is associated with the phenomenon. Lack of good international relationships and tension in this area has brought many international sanctions. More than economic limitations, the sanctions brought many boundaries and restrictions in research capacity that influences talented migration to Western countries for better research facilities and new knowledge. It has also brought a limitation to get a visa to go to another university for further education. This is because Iranian passports no longer have any value.

Cultural restriction also encourages talented people to migrate. One main aspect in cultural diversity is freedom of religion or belief supported by government and protected in the public and private domain. Thus, culture can form invisible bonds between members in the community, holding people with the same cultural background together, passing on values from generation to generation. In contrast, in a uniform culture and authority, a religious leader or a group who takes political power pushes religion onto others as the state religion. Negative implications exist in Iran, which influence talented people mobility as push factors of cultural uniformity at the macro level. The results of this study emphasise that current policies in the context of social freedom, education policy, meritocracy, transparency, and intellectual freedom that have driven talented and educated people from the country. The continuous brain drain dilemma will drain brain power from Iran and will lead to crisis in areas such as knowledge and technology, investment, capital, and information, economic prospects and competitiveness as well as sustainable development and social welfare.

This study has examined the policy interventions in talented Iranian people migration. All of the push policy factors can be summarised as increased government intervention in the value of individual liberties in public policy areas. The findings of this study identified government intervention in private and public domain of individual liberties as the main causes of talented Iranian people outflow. In other words, civil and political rights are the main causes that drive Iran’s talents overseas. On the other hand, respect for civil and political rights in developed countries attracted and pulled the people overseas. Civil and political rights are associated with individual freedom. These rights include religious freedom, gender equality, freedom of thought, movement, and media, which are protected from illegal activity by the government.

The nature of Iranian talent migration is different from other nations due to political events from the 1970s to date. There are two different political perspectives between national authorities and talents, those who left the homeland and take place to overseas, particularly Post-Revolution. Pre-Revolution, Iranian authorities declared that talented and educated Iranian people who have migrated to industrialised democratic countries are influenced by Western culture, ignoring the fact that Iran has a long and honourable history as a highly cultured nation without the influence of Western culture.

Post-revolution, Iranian authorities emphasise on religious democracy, social justice, legitimate freedoms, protection of human rights based on Sharia Law. The Sharia law has been incorporated in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This perspective believes that the Western culture is a cultural invasion among educational system, media, newspapers and written material, and social network. On this basis, after the revolution in 1979, the new Iranian regime closed the British Council to justify their fight against the Western culture.

Hence, the both mentioned political perspectives have reached a same conclusion that is a westernise definitions of democracy within the global political system. Conversely, the Iranian talent and elite are unsatisfied with existing policies and believe that the way out of the current political and economic constraints requires a move towards a democratic society. The struggle between the two ideas began in 1975 and the growth of this struggle has accelerated in recent times. The distinction is a major gap between two dissimilar ideas. These conflicting opinions have brought a social capital flight over the past few decades.


These significant conclusions concerning the policy interventions related to outflow of talented Iranian people. The outflow of talented Iranian people is not only pulled towards a goal and brighter future with democratic values but pushed by ideological creation at home. This study identified that there seem to be two different political perspectives and subjective orientations to politics. This dissimilar political culture is the major distinction and contributes to Iranian talented mobility in over the past few decades. This study revealed that public policy based on the “top-down” approach needs to incorporate changes that will help to reduce the phenomenon created by rational policies. The most important and crucial issue is the divergence between political goals and policy outcomes on one hand and respect for democratic values on the other hand, which has become the driving force behind the migration of talented people overseas.

The Figure 2 illustrates the policy areas in Iran and developed countries, which influences talented people mobility. It is possible that the outflow Iranian talented people will be followed in this figure across social-political boundaries around the world.


Figure 2: Policy interventions in outflow of Iranian talent to developed countries.

The model illustrates two public policy areas in Iran and developed countries. It explains particular policy areas in Iran and destination countries which influence talented people’s decision to migrate. The political culture established ideological criterion in society, universities, workplace, and gender rule imposed by government. These policies become the force that drives Iranian talented people overseas. On the other hand, immigration policy, democracy, and educational system in developed countries which attract, support, and encourage talented Iranian people movement towards a goal in industrialized democratic nations. In Iran, national authorities emphasize on religious democracy, legitimate freedoms, protection of human rights based on Sharia Law. Consequently, the talented and educated people who did not accept the dominant role of religion left their homeland and are attracted to democratic nations. Hence, political order rather than economic requirements is the principal reason for the outflow of Iranian talented people.

Implications of the Findings - Policy and Managerial

The findings of this research have significant implications for policy and practice in relation to both the talented people migration and public policy. Almost all of the discussion in the literature of this study and political conditions in developing and developed countries need to be addressed by national authorities. The large gap between the less democratic and industrialized democratic world increasingly influences the mobility of global talent. The major gaps in the political conditions are instability, academic freedom, ideological creation, and non-realistic policy. The main gaps in the economy are wage gap between two locations, technological policy, and workforce policy. The main gaps in social-culture are belief and value gaps between people, gender gap and discrimination, and higher education policy associated with talent mobility. This will also typically need to involve an improvement in the political climate of stability - as indicated, an important key to reducing the outflow. This conclusion is not supported by the findings of other similar research.

Thus, these recommendations will be of great importance for national authorities and policy makers for future planning if there is to be a serious attempt to address the human resource crisis in the public sector:

• Respect to civil rights issues

• Encouragement and support brain circulation

• Decreasing government interventions in the cultural domain

• Decreasing government interventions in the private domain and fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution

• Meritocracy in job opportunities, transparency and accountability

• Coordination between university and industrial centers to create job opportunities

• Gender equality in society in terms of inheritance, divorce, and social activity


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Citation: Roudgar I, Kanagasundram T (2018) Policy Interventions in Outflow of Iranian Talent; The Case of Iran. J Pol Sci Pub Aff 6: 341.

Copyright: © 2018 Roudgar I, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.