As the economic situation worsens in Zimbabwe, more and more people are leaving the country in search of a better life. A survey shows many of those leaving are skilled professionals.

A draft copy of the report by a government research institute says Zimbabwe is losing thousands of professionals to other countries every year. The brain drain, the report says, has reached unacceptable heights.

Carried out by the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Center in Harare, the report says more than 479,000 Zimbabweans are working outside the country, with most of them in four countries, Botswana, South Africa, Britain and the United States.

The survey included professionals in various fields, among them engineers, teachers, financiers, and medical professionals. Medical personnel made up the largest percentage of those leaving - almost 25 percent. Those who leave gave reasons for going into exile as economic, historic and in some cases political.

Media reports say more than one million Zimbabwean emigrants have left the country in recent years, but exact figures are hard to get. A spokesman for the Central Statistical Office says not everybody leaving Zimbabwe says they are leaving for good. As a result, there are no clear figures distinguishing between emigrants and those who are leaving the country temporarily.

Another reason exact statistics are hard to come by is that many Zimbabweans simply leave the country by walking across the border into a neighboring country, with South Africa and Botswana the most popular choices.