The choice of whether to stay in the Russian Federation or leave the country has been a hotly debated point and discussion topic for Russian youth over the course of 2012, and a key issue in the Forum’s latest Scenarios for the Russian Federation. The members of the Russian Global Shapers community, who are among the country’s young leaders, thinkers and achievers, are no exception in the decision. In a survey held in Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk, St Petersburg and Moscow, hub members shared their arguments for and against staying in the country in a split vote.

For those who consider life outside Russia as the better option (a smaller but still substantial portion of those surveyed), the main arguments were the lack of the rule of law and poor public services, along with corruption and the high cost of living. On the other hand, the prevailing reasons given by the Shapers planning to stay in Russia included proactive patriotism (a personal mission to help the country succeed) and wider opportunities for business and employment.

The Shapers opting to remain in the country were also asked whether they would choose to work in the private sector or in a state-owned company. The latter option, expectedly, was far less popular. Common reasons given were the rigidity and inefficiency of state enterprises and the inability of their employees to feel like they are contributing to the outcomes of their work.

Overall, the results proved somewhat positive as regards life in Russia, taking into account that the respondents belong to the layer of Russian society with the highest mobility and a cosmopolitan mindset. The Russian Government’s intensive anti-brain drain measures will be in full swing in the coming years, which should definitely improve the figures. Those weighing the option to leave the country should also take into account that Russia’s last emigration wave in the late 1980s to the early 1990s was followed by a period of unprecedented opportunity for domestic businesses.

Young professionals’ lack of interest in joining state-owned companies is probably the survey’s most alarming insight, as current policy aims to foster the rapid expansion of the state-controlled sector of the economy. Without the inflow of fresh, inquisitive thinking, this half of the Russian economy will gradually deteriorate and lose out to both local and global competition.

The seeming superficiality of the risk factors mentioned by those surveyed is in fact further proof of the public demand to review and reverse several basic policies hampering development in the country. While the same messages are regularly heard from various independent groups, we hope that this additional, last-straw action on the part of Russia’s youth will finally bring about the improvements desired.

Contributors:  Dmitry Vasilkov, Sergey Sirotenko and Stepan Kolesnichenko, members of the Global Shapers Moscow Hub who were closely involved in the discussions and interactions that contributed to the Scenarios for the Russian Federation released by the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Foresight Team

Image: A young Russian woman speaks on the phone in Moscow REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov