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Major Research Project to Look into Causes of ‘Brain Drain’ From Wales

A new research project will look into the ‘brain drain’ of professionals away from Wales.

The initiative is a partnership between GlobalWelsh, the non-profit organisation focused on connecting with the Welsh diaspora, and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water.

The research will focus on two key areas – why professional people leave Wales and under what basis they would be encouraged to return to Wales in the future.

Dr Sarah Louisa Birchley, Professor in the Graduate School and Faculty of Business Administration at Toyo Gakuen University in Tokyo and a GlobalWelsh board member, will conduct the research over a six-month period.

The findings, due to be announced in the autumn, are expected to inform Wales-based organisations which need to identify and attract talent back, retain key employees, connect more effectively with international networks as well as help drive inward investment and financial support for businesses.

Dr Birchley, originally from Cwmbran, specialises in transnational and diaspora entrepreneurship.

She said:

“I have spent my career researching the Japanese diaspora, exploring how and why Japanese people leave Japan and set up businesses overseas. To be given the opportunity to be part of a team working on such an important study on the Welsh diaspora is a privilege.

“I am excited to delve into this research as it presents a unique opportunity to explore how migration shapes societies, economies, and cultures, and inform the development of strategies for harnessing the potential of diaspora communities and encourage returners. The team is committed to gaining insights that will inform policy, empower communities, and foster global collaboration with our hugely talented diaspora network.”

GlobalWelsh says that the Welsh diaspora has potential to make a significant social and economic contribution to Wales without returning physically.

They point to Dr Birchley as an example through her role at GlobalWelsh and in supporting Welsh businesses to enter the Japanese market.

Walter May, founder & CEO of GlobalWelsh, said:

“As an organisation focused solely on reconnecting Wales with its diaspora we have a vested interest in the motivations of our network across all diverse, industrial and rural areas of Wales. Wales is a nation with a unique migrational history – year-on-year we lose thousands of talented people, but little or no large-scale research has been done in this space.

“As a country, if we are to motivate and inspire returning diaspora in any way at all, we must first look at why they left and determine what can be done to address barriers to them coming home.

“Of course, we can assume we know the reasons, but until you ask the right questions, both quantitative and qualitative, you won’t get the real, often nuanced, answers. We are very much looking forward to sharing the results of this research and opening up further discussions on a pan-Wales and regional basis. We fully expect to identify tangible next steps from this study.”

GlobalWelsh and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water have set a target of 5,000 respondents and will be looking for assistance from international organisations that are connected to Welsh people around the world to ensure maximum participation in this important research.

Martin Driscoll, Business Support and People Director at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, added:

“We are privileged to have a hugely talented workforce in Wales – across all sectors – but there are many thousands of people from Wales working elsewhere around the globe who could potentially add a huge amount of knowledge and experience to benefit Wales if they were to return to work here or to work with Welsh companies in other capacities. This research will help understand what more can be done to attract people back to Wales, but also to get a better understanding of the scale, expertise and opportunities that may exist with the Welsh diaspora around the globe.”

Organisations interested in participating in the research are asked to contact GlobalWelsh CEO Walter May at or Dr Sarah Louisa Birchley at

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