Groundbreaking global research project into Welsh ‘Brain Drain’ launches


Children and teacher in class

GlobalWelsh, the Welsh international diaspora organisation, has launched a major research project into the reasons young people leave Wales and on what basis they might return.

Wales has suffered significant ‘brain drain’ for decades. The extent of talent leaving Wales now is a growing economic and social issue for Wales and its future prosperity and ability to take advantage of ‘future’ industries such as green energy, AI, cyber and technology.

The survey is open now until August 2024. The project is targeting Welsh diaspora all over the world, including the rest of the United Kingdom.


The research will be conducted by Dr Sarah Louisa Birchley, Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at Tokyo Gakuen University.

A GlobalWelsh board member and specialist in global diaspora entrepreneurship, Dr Birchley will ask Welsh people living and working all over the world important questions about why they left Wales, their current connections to Wales, and what might motivate them to return.

The research is being conducted in partnership with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Wales’ not-for-profit water company.

Dr Birchley said: “As a member of the Welsh diaspora myself, having been born and raised in Cwmbran but residing in Japan since 2001, I have consistently held a profound interest in the interplay between ‘people’ and ‘place.’

“Over the past 15 years I have been researching Japanese diaspora entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia and Latin America and so I am thrilled and excited to be able to return to my roots and execute this study on the Welsh diaspora.

‘We have taken a systematic and agile approach to mapping the Welsh diaspora. Our questions will not only help us understand who our diaspora are but also their skills and attributes, their sense of identity and belongingness, and how they interact with their communities and networks.

“We also have a section for entrepreneurs and hope to uncover new trade and industry opportunities between Wales and the rest of the world.

“This research aims to furnish decision-makers with empirical insights that can inform the formulation of strategic policies, empowering diaspora members to actively contribute and engage in ways that maximise their developmental impact.”

Size of Wales

The Welsh global diaspora is estimated to be more than three million people – a similar number to the population living within Wales.

Spread all over the globe, there are particular concentrations in the United States and England. GlobalWelsh will share the results of the research publicly in the autumn to provide important data and insight for future policy, economic and business planning for Wales.

The survey can be provided to any partner organisation that wishes to distribute it – and the results will be shared with all partners.

Organisations which wish to distribute the research to their networks should express their interest here.

Walter May, GlobalWelsh founder and chief executive, explains: “It’s important for Wales, its government, councils, business organisations, companies, universities, cultural, tourism, sports and public sector organisations to understand why people leave Wales in droves and never return.

“This is the first time a quantitative and qualitative piece of research has been done on this scale about brain drain and we expect the results to be key in how Wales can retain and attract talent in the future.”


‘The research will ask diaspora about their attitudes towards Wales, their motivations for leaving, perceived barriers to returning and their appetite and motivation to contribute to the success of Wales on the global stage.”

Martin Driscoll, Business Support and People Director at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, added: “We are excited that this very important global research project is now live.

“It’s important for Welsh organisations, like ourselves, to better understand the barriers and motivations of our global talent pool so that we may attract and retain key talent within the borders of Wales.

“The findings of this research will not only help us to gain a better understanding of why people leave Wales but also why they would eventually return.

“We are very much looking forward to the results and the final report later this year.”

Complete the survey via this link.

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