Slovenia is neither primarily an emigration country nor does it have an emigration tradition like neighboring countries (e.g. Croatia). According to Horvath (2004), Slovenia experiences brain circulation, but not brain drain (see Horvath 2004: 87).
In 2009, 27,400 foreigners immigrated to Slovenia. The vast majority were citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina (47%). A further 13% were from Kosovo, 11% from Macedonia and 11% from Serbia. Most immigration is temporary labour migration, in particular for construction (data, see SOPEMI 2010: 320).

In terms of emigration, data based on deregistration from registers shows that about 3,700 Slovene citizens emigrated from Slovenia in 2009, the majority to Germany (18%), Croatia (13%) and Austria (12%). This is a decline of about 22% vis-à-vis 2008. In particular, registered emigration to Germany has declined strongly (data, see SOPEMI 2010: 320).

The Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (SORS) provides data on return migration. In 2010, 2,711 nationals entered Slovenia, 1,553 men and 1,158 women. 59% of male returnees and 53% of female returnees were in an economically active age (between 20-59 years) when they entered Slovenia (data, SORS 20101).

With respect to educational qualifications, data shows that 31% of Slovenian returnees have obtained tertiary education, 53% possess upper secondary education and 16% basic or less education. In terms of occupations, 30% of Slovenian returnees work in a highly-skilled job (managers, scientists), 36% hold a medium-skilled job (technicians, service workers) and 33% work in elementary occupations (data, SORS 2010).
Compared to other ex-Yugoslavian countries, Slovenia has a strong economy and is on a good way towards a knowledge-based economy. Living standards and the socio-economic development of the country are relatively high, acting as ‘pull-factors’, which attract scientists and experts from poorer countries in the European Union (see Horvath 2004). With the words of Horvath (2004): ‘Brain circulation positively influences socio-economic development and contributes to the pluralistic and multicultural image of the country. Also, it aids the development of the technology required to maintain a competitive economic profile. In this comparative overview, Slovenia is an illustration of a country without brain drain, which corresponds strongly to its higher stage of development and consolidated democracy’ (Horvath 2004: 87).

Research by Scott (2002) shows that according to the available unofficial data around 2-3% of highly-educated Slovenians left the country in the last decade. This number is not worrying at all, as it is generally known that approximately the same number of foreign highly skilled people enter Slovenia. Edvard Kobal, Director of the Slovenian Scientific Foundation, confirmed the assumption that brain circulation is taking place in Slovenia. ‘Kobal states that the inflow of foreign students and highly skilled labour to Slovenia is almost equal to the emigration of highly skilled Slovenians. This situation is perceived as normal in the academic community’ (Horvath 2004: 89). Results from a survey on Slovenian scientists show, that ‘push factors’ like a decent standard of living, which generally cause highly-skilled nationals to emigrate, are already achieved by most of Slovenian scientists. ‘The majority of the interviewees placed themselves slightly above the middle of the social ladder’ (Horvath 2004: 88). In addition, Slovenian scientists expressed an optimistic attitude when asked about their nearer future. Results of the survey also show that Slovenian respondents ‘had many more contacts with foreign countries than the respondents in the region on average; almost half of them were participating in joint projects with foreign countries, which implied that in the observed year on average 30% of them planned to go to the West and a much lower percentage to the East’ (Bevc 1996: 17, according to Horvath 2004: 88).

Based on the results of this survey, a very interesting finding could be achieved: when Slovenian respondents were asked about the motives which caused them to emigrate for some time, they generally referred to economic motives (Bevs 1996). This introduces a new aspect into the discussion on brain drain. ‘While under conditions of brain drain science-based motives represent a reason to migrate, under conditions of brain circulation, when conditions for adequate scientific work are guaranteed, economic reasons prevail as the main criteria to emigrate’ (Horvath 2004: 88).

Research on highly-skilled Slovenians, living abroad, shows that they are interested in returning to the research sphere of Slovenia’s higher education system (Horvath 2004: 88). ‘In addition to that, Slovenian scientists abroad cultivate the connections with their home country, especially with the institutions where they obtained their degrees. Some of them even work as consultants or researchers in Slovenia. Although there is still no available data to empirically confirm this correlation, one can assume that the participation of those scientists positively influences the country’s development’ (Horvath 2004: 89).

Horvath, V. (2004): Brain Drain. Threat to Successful Transition in South East Europe? Southeast European Politics no.1: 76-93.
Scott, A. (2002): Science in a Bigger Europe. The Scientist, vol. 17, no. 8, available at:
SOPEMI (2010): International Migration Outlook. OECD.
SORS 2010: Online Database:, 2nd of July 2012

Basic data
Population in the case study region 323.119 (01. 01. 2011)
Total Area ( app. 2.169 km2 (2011)
GDP per capita in the region 15.745 EUR (2008)
Net Migration Rate -0.9migrants/1000 inh.

Podravska, the second largest of Slovenian regions, is situated in the north east of the country bordering both Austria and Croatia. About 15% of the Slovenian population (323.000 people) live in this area; approximately 1/3 (113.000) in the regional capital Maribor, which is both an industrial and commercial centre and a university town. Though the geographical position is excellent with the proximity to economically prosperous southern Austria, the direct highway and railway connection to Austria, Germany, Croatia, Italy and Hungary, the regional economy is still suffering from the break-up of former Yugoslavia. 20 years ago the region was dominated by a comparatively strong industry. This changed dramatically in the early 90ies when the companies lost their traditional Yugoslavian customers, leading to mass redundancies. The region is still suffering from this change, best visible in a GDP/capita of only € 15,745 as compared to € 18,437 for Slovenia as a whole (2008). The unemployment rate is 14.4% (January-May 2011). The current economic crisis hit Slovenia harder than other EU countries.

Consequently, many people from the region commute on a daily basis to find employment in the centre region of Ljubljana as well as in neighbouring Austria. The economy is dominated by service industry; processing companies are in metal industries, in chemicals, food and beverages. In general, the long tradition in industry and related labour qualification should give the region a basis for future development. The absence of a substantial number of government bodies located in the region might be another disadvantage for future development.

Educational attainment is high, with 63% of the working population having upper secondary or post-secondary levels, and 24% having accomplished tertiary education.

The aging trend is very pronounced, especially regarding young job entrants (15-24) with a reduction in numbers of around 9% in just 5 years (2006-2011). There was only a slight minus recorded for the 25-44 age groups, but a substantial increase in both 45-65 (+5%) and 65+ (+11%). Early retirement is very pronounced in Slovenia: only 53.1% of the 50-64 year old people and only 7.3% of the 65+ year old people are working. Though this will increase pressure on social security systems, the aging on the labour market should provide increased opportunities for young people, and also for returning migrants.

Within Slovenia, the region is perceived as less developed and less attractive. Investments and job opportunities are few, and commuting rates consequently high.

Traditional emigration countries are Germany, Austria and Croatia, though rates declined over the last years and there was some return migration, notably from Germany and Croatia. On the other hand, Slovenia is an attractive immigration country mainly for people from former Yugoslavia and other Balkan countries.

Though the current picture does not look very promising, the geographical location (with the proximity to Croatia), the old industrial heritage, the good qualification level and the aging trend on the labour market could provide a positive framework for the region for the coming years.

Share of nationals and non-nationals among immigrants, 2009, data source: EUROSTAT, own calculations

  nationals non-nationals
0.10 0.90

Immigration by nationals includes both returning migrants and citizens born abroad who are immigrating for the first time.

Univerza v Mariboru
Slomškov trg 15
2000 Maribor

doc. Dr. Darja Boršič
Phone: +386 (0)2 22 90 345

The results and conclusions are those of the authors and not those of Eurostat or the European Commission

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