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Brain drain from India: An Overview

The International Migration Report released by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs reveals some alarming statistics.

In 2015, India had the largest “diaspora” in the world at 16 million people, followed by Mexico (12 million). Other countries with large diasporas included the Russian Federation (11 million), China (10 million), Bangladesh (7 million), and Pakistan and Ukraine (6 million, each),” it states.

Another report released by the US-based National Science Foundation states: “Indian-origin scientists and engineers in the U.S. grew 85percent between 2003 and 2013, says a report by the National Science Foundation, a key funder of research in the United States as well as a monitor of demographic change among scientists and technologists.

Nearly a million scientists and engineers of Indian origin reside in the US alone, it adds.

These figures are clear indicators that India is facing a massive brain drain.

brain drain

What is brain drain?

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines Brain Drain as: “Movement of highly skilled and qualified people to a country where they can work in better conditions and earn more money”.

Similarly, Cambridge Online Dictionary states: “Large numbers of educated and very skilled people leave their own country to live and work in another one where pay and conditions are better”

Additionally, brain drain has also been defined as the loss of human capital, since it involves people with myriad specialized skills leaving their home country.

Undisputedly, brain drain has financial repercussions on a country.

Causes of brain drain from India

The phenomenon of brain drain from India is nothing new. It can be traced to the British colonial era.

Erstwhile British rulers of the Indian sub-continent took by persuasion or force, indigo and sugarcane planters to lands as distant as Guyana in South America to Fiji in Pacific, Mauritius and elsewhere.

Indian craftsmen were relocated in England and other British colonies where their skills could be used in various industries.

In recent times, brain drain from India has several factors:

  • Very high salaries paid in foreign countries.
  • Lack of adequate employment opportunities in India.
  • Non availability of avenues to utilize education and skills.
  • Hope of a better and comfortable lifestyle abroad.
  • Prestige involved in working in foreign countries.
  • To acquire financial well-being and capability to buy assets in India.
  • Belief that working abroad improves marriage prospects in India.
  • Prospects of continually learning newer technologies and upgrading skills.

The Goa example

The tiny Indian state, Goa, with an estimated population of 1.5 million, accounts for some of the highest brain drain from India.

In 2016, an average of 11 residents of Goa per day, gave up their Indian nationality to become citizens of Portugal. Residents of Daman and Diu also traded their Indian citizenship in favor of Portugal.

Goa, Daman and Diu were colonies of Portugal till December 19, 1961, till they were overrun by the Indian Armed Forces. These territories became part of the Indian republic.

However, the Portuguese government, as a special gesture, allows residents of these former colonies to acquire nationality of Portugal, provided they meet certain criterion.

Highly skilled people from Goa opt for citizenship of Portugal since the country is a member stat of the European Union. A Portuguese passport allows them visa free entry into the UK and other EU countries.

Though the UK formally exited from EU, the demand for Portuguese passports by eligible residents of Goa remains high.

Brain drain destinations

Some of the topmost destinations where Indian brains migrate are

  1. USA
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. United Arab Emirates
  4. European Union
  5. Canada
  6. Australia
  7. New Zealand
  8. Kuwait
  9. South Africa
  10. Qatar
  11. Thailand
  12. Singapore
  13. Malaysia
  14. Israel
  15. Oman

Brain drain patterns from India

USA

As can be seen, the US remains topmost destination for Indians. Thousands of Indian citizens travel to the US for higher studies. However, upon completion, they prefer to stay and work in the US.

Engineers and experts in all fields work in the US. However, in recent years, Information Technology and software experts from India form bulk of migrants to the US.

Arabian Gulf

India’s brain drain to member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is usually in the form of highly qualified engineers in petroleum, petrochemical and natural gas sectors.

Other sectors include telecom and banking.

Skilled nurses and physicians from India are also in great demand in the six GCC states that include the Kingdom of Bahrain, State of Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, State of Qatar and United Arab Emirates.

Generally, highly qualified professionals from India working in GCC states apply for immigrant visas to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, after gaining experience in their chosen fields.

Technologies used in these oil rich countries are comparable with those in the US and Europe. Hence, thousands of Indian migrants utilize their stay in Arabian Gulf states to acquire skills required for migrating.

Australia and New Zealand

Over the last decade, Australia and New Zealand have become one of the favorite destinations for Indians to pursue higher studies. Furthermore, Australia and New Zealand also have fairly liberal immigration policies.

Consequently, thousands of Indian students settle and work in Australia after completing their studies. Additionally, Australia as well as New Zealand welcomes skilled migrants from various parts of the world.

Therefore, hundreds of Indians migrate to Australia and New Zealand annually and acquire citizenship of these countries.

Canada

Canada is yet another country favored by Indian immigrants. The country also welcomes highly skilled Indian citizens.

With fairly liberal immigration policies, Canada attracts thousands of Indian migrants, adding to India’s brain drain.

European Union

Europe is currently facing population imbalance. Meaning, most citizens of various European Union states are above the age of 35 years. These countries have a large population of people aged above 50 years.

There is a shortage of younger people required for specific jobs. Consequently, Indian nurses, physicians, care givers as well as IT and software experts are welcomed by various EU member states.

However visa policies of various European states continue to remain stringent. Therefore, Indian brain drain to EU is somewhat limited.

The bright sides

Brain drain from India however has a few bright sides too.

According to a recent report released by the World Bank, India is expected to receive whopping US$65 billion in remittances from the Indian diaspora abroad by December 2017.

This makes India the largest receiver for foreign remittances and adds to the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

Secondly, several Indians living abroad are opening businesses here in India.

The Indian government is offering incentives for Non Resident Indians and Overseas Citizens of India to open businesses in various sectors in the country.

The government promises easier and faster licensing to such entrepreneurs.

The current scenario

USA

If you are planning to study in the US or migrate there for work, here is a word of caution. Following his victory, President Donald Trump of the US is moving towards tightening the H1B visa for all nationalities.

Indians are the largest beneficiaries of the H1B visa, which allows working in the US and eventual naturalization as an American citizen.

Stringent rules proposed by President Trump means, fewer Indians will be able to migrate to the US.

Arabian Gulf

All six GCC states are now empowering their citizens for higher studies in the US and UK. Consequently, all top and mid-level positions in the government and private sectors of these countries are by law reserved for highly qualified citizens of these countries.

GCC states are also imposing curbs on import of manpower- skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled- from India.

Australia and New Zealand

In recent years, Australia and New Zealand have raised the bar for skilled Indian migrants. Meaning, unless you hold exceptional skills and qualifications, you will not be issued a migrant visa.

European Union

As explained earlier, work visa and residence rules for member states of the European Union continue to remain strict. Some countries issue work visa for limited, one or two year duration only.

They also adopt very strict procedures for granting migrant status or citizenship.

Does India benefit?

Admittedly, brain drain from India cannot be curbed fully. However, with modern technologies arriving in India, incentives offered to start own enterprises and start-up companies, highly skilled Indian professionals may find it lucrative to work here rather than migrate.

Here are some indicators that brain drain from India may ebb over the coming years:

  • Indian companies now pay salaries comparable with their foreign counterparts.
  • Stricter visa regulations by the US, EU and other countries means, skilled Indians will find it difficult to migrate.
  • The Make In India initiative has seen scores of foreign companies open business in India. Their pay scales meet international standards. Hence, Indian brains can find well paid jobs without leaving the country.
  • Investor friendly policies adopted by the government will most likely see skilled Indians launching their own start-up ventures that can compete with their foreign rivals.
  • Policies of America First adopted by President Donald Trump of the US is likely to cause thousands of highly qualified and skilled Indians to return home and launch their own ventures.

179 Comments

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  • Its only good for that person..not much as good its shows that not getting right opportunity for the person in our country ….

  • Brain Drain is definitely not good for any country especially for India.If people like sundar pichai would have resided in India they would have definitely proved to be an asset to the country.
    But now it is getting reversed. Other countries are outsourcing jobs to India. Now India has many opportunities as Indian economy is growing fast. Standard of living has also improved over the years.
    People do going abroad but to gain better knowledge and are coming back with fresh ideas and setting up new companies and providing job opportunities for many.

  • i think it is good. we all need a better life and when our country cannot provide the environment for us to live a good life, i think it is better to find yourself somewhere where you will work to help the economy and get something better back to make your living.

  • i think its good and superb …It also got a lot of knowledge that people can learn about this..Nowadays none of them know about some matters..This might helpful for them..

  • Yes. Its a good step as Indians who prefer to work in India but have to go out just to earn money for their families. They can get well paid here.

  • Brain drain is seriously a bad thing that affects the country. Government should take steps to regain the quality and talented professionals moving to overseas in distinct domains. All these actions will make the country rich with skilled experts which in turn help in the development of the nation.

  • Totally agreed with your point on Brain Drain.i would like to add one thing that, Indian people always struggle with other languages.There are lack of communication is hitting skilled people who could not communicate within circle when comes to job.India also choose reserved candidate but other countries choose deserved candidate.

  • Accccording to highly skilled professionals brain drain is good, but to our nation losing a highly qualified professionals is not good

  • Brain drain could be considered a threat or an opportunity, depending on what perspective you are looking at. First, it could be a threat because it may create a vacuum of trained skilled work force in India which is very essential in any nation, work force that requires a lot of resources to build at it takes a lot of time to develop one. Second, it could be an opportunity for skilled workers to obtain a greener pasture and improve their living condition. Being hired in developed countries is a good opportunity for these workers to excel in their chosen field more so enhance their skills in an environment that nurture their potential and skills.

  • Definitely it’s not good for India. India is a developing country if all the qualified and skilled scholars leave India then it’ll bedifficult to see how India can implement her development plans and attain her goal of prosperity. Mean time Indian government should recognise and give more opportunities to the people so that they may feel proud and recognized then only they may not think about leaving our country INDIA.

    • I agree as the government have no issue with the skilled person leaving country why would the person think. After all it is only the govt that should think towards the wellfare of the country.

  • The topic Good. In my mother countries also there are many people from India also the company I work owned by Indian people. 100% I agrees with writer.

  • This brain drain is bad in the view of my knowledge because it was destroying our capability if country if we not go under migration our value will be increased

  • Brain drain is seriously a bad thing that affects the country. Government should take steps to regain the quality and talented professionals moving to overseas in distinct domains. All these actions will make the country rich with skilled experts which in turn help in the development of the nation.

  • Brain drain from India is definitely bad for our country . We have lot of people who are very much talented in our country since they are being unnoticed and often mislead, we are missing a lot of Indians who are very intelligent and could serve our country in every good means. Just think of Indians who are good enough to handle whatever the situation maybe whatever the world throws at them, who knows all kinds of programming languages have good communication skills who are highly intellectual, These people often go to another place or another country where they earn much rather than in India . This is all because they are disrespected, underpaid , unfulfilled. If you are an Indian and are in India even though you have much capacity and so much knowledge you will get salary which is least paid amount to a driver or a babysitter in USA or UK. So definitely what people will do they would rather shift to a country where they get high payment. Due to our own foolishness we lose a lot of people who would be potential skilled workers, who would give innovative solutions to a particular situation. I would like to mention an example; we all know Sundar Pichai the CEO of Google, he is the CEO of the world’s most top search engine website if he could be on the world’s top position, why can’t he be that in India. Here the question arises there is no value of talent in India, the rich will become more richer and the poor will become more poorer. This happens only in our country , unless we don’t take an action or step on our behalf , nothing’s going to change. We shouldn’t expect the change from the world we should bring it from within.
    Thank you
    – Vimala Amalorepavam B,
    Student, B.Tech Chemical Engineering.

  • Brain Drain means highly talented and skilled people moving to other nations for better opportunity and better lifestyle. Mostly people were attracted to US for world’s best universities, the most dynamic companies, the freest economic and social environment and the highest standard of living.
    But now the trend has reversed.
    Other countries are outsourcing jobs to India. Now India has many opportunities as Indian economy is growing fast. Standard of living has also improved over the years.
    People do going abroad but to gain better knowledge and are coming back with fresh ideas and setting up new companies and providing job opportunities for many. Even those who were settled abroad for 10-15 years they are also coming back for better futute here.
    So I agree with Shampa that instead of Brain Drain its now reverse Brain Drain.

  • Brain drain is completely a bane for a developing country like India. It is actually a barrier for the development of the country. Talented and qualified people migrate from India to the developed countries in search of better lifestyle and opportunities. Many of the students after graduating from top institutions like the IITs migrate which comes as a huge cost to the country’s human resource. Despite of being the second largest producer of doctors, engineers and scientists India still is unable to develop at a rate which it is expected to and I believe the major reason behind it is brain drain. If people like sundar pichai would have resided in India they would have definitely proved to be an asset to the country. There are many more people like him. I am not saying that it’s their fault who abandon India to shift somewhere else. They do this because they don’t get satisfactory facilities here.

  • En mi opinión emigrar a otro país. Buscar oportunidades ayrabajo bien pagadas y al mismo tiempo ayudaría en mi país a comenzar algún negocio ayudar a los que haya dejado : )

  • For me it is a bad idea because they learmed from their country and yet they will use the knowledges that they learned from tbeir country to other country ,the country will benefit while their own country will lower their status when it comes to learning .but on the other way it will be good for the person itself because they can earn bigger.

  • Sir I am complete diploma in computer science and engineering from government polytechnic college jodhpur in2010 and I want a job in the sector anywhere

  • Yes, Its a good topic we have to discuss about. I think India needs more brains or else sending them to abroad. If they get good salary and packages here, they do not even think to move

  • As rightly pointed out, brain drain is not new. But, in.olden days, due to pressure or some other factors, our talent was used to serve the British. What is more concerning is that, today we do not have other pressures like what it we’re during pre independent India. The only few factors for this brain drain are apparently lack.of opportunities, better earning opportunity and life style etc. It can be contained only when our country start building in confidence in this talent a bright future.
    Entrepreneurship is time taking and required support. Similarly to provide earning potential to match with other countries is also a difficult task.
    One of the solution could be to have a separate policy for this young talent by identifying them early enough while they are in their studies. Simultaneously, attract a handful migrated talent to train this young talent by guiding them in right direction.
    All said and done, we must have certain long drawn policies to protect this talent and utilize their skills for our own country. And, these policies must remain unchanged with change in governments, so that confidence can be built up.

  • As rightly pointed out, brain drain is not new. But, in.olden days, due to pressure or some other factors, our talent was used to serve the British. What is more concerning is that, today we do not have other pressures like what it we’re during pre independent India. The only few factors for this brain drain are apparently lack.of opportunities, better earning opportunity and life style etc. It can be contained only when our country start building in confidence in this talent a bright future.
    Entrepreneurship is time taking and required support. Similarly to provide earning potential to match with other countries is also a difficult task.
    One of the solution could be to have a separate policy for this young talent by identifying them early enough while they are in their studies. Simultaneously, attract a handful migrated talent to train this young talent by guiding them in right direction.
    All said and done, we must have certain long drawn policies to protect this talent and utilize their skills for our own country. And, these policies must remain unchanged with change in governments, so that confidence can be built up.

  • we have lots of talents in india & they are moving in other countries bcz of high salary and the organisation which provides them better facilities and plateform which they don’t find in india. India should provide them those plateform so that our country will get benefited. As we know that govt. spend so much money on iits and other institutions, but what happens after that…people will attracted toward high salary and growth opportunity. So india should provide them these opportunities in terms of some more research institute and better platforms. Thn obviously our country will get benefited and also contribute in our economic growth.

  • Brain drain has become a major concern of the developing countries, especially, India. India has been losing its major skilled workforce that includes doctors, engineers, scientists and technicians. If we analyze the brain drain trends in India, we could find that there are many reasons why the country fails to hold back its talented youth.eg….
    1.Higher Education Scenario in India
    2.Better opportunities abroad
    3.Time for a reality check.
    4.Wake up call for India

  • Hi,

    Brain drain– one of the hot and most discussed topics in the present century. To some point I do feel it is good as India being a developing nation do not provide all the deserving aspirants proper opportunities to explore more. They get confined to such offices that puts a restriction on their vision. We as young individuals do not get enough exposure to and pay back to the efforts we put in to do a particular task. At the same time various MNCs are paying a fairly good amount for the work they are making us do, so I don’t find anything wrong in moving towards those companies as they are giving us more opportunities and exposure. And if we are paid good and are rewarded on our caliber then I find it more interesting and worth to work even harder for such organisations.
    If it is claimed that brain drain is not good then our nation should assure that it is equally worth to work for your own nation.

  • Brain drain has become a major concern of the developing countries, especially, India. The term, which emerged in1960s when the skilled workforce started emigrating from the poor countries to the rich countries in search of better job opportunities and living conditions, has become a hot topic of discussion over the years.

    When the expatriates are going abroad in search of greener pastures, India has been losing its major skilled workforce that includes doctors, engineers, scientists and technicians. If we analyze the brain drain trends in India, we could find that there are many reasons why the country fails to hold back its talented youth.

    In recent years, the cut-offs for admissions became close to 100% in the best Indian universities. While the institutes are in the race of getting the best students in the country, the ambitious youth who fail to meet the “irrational” demands had to compromise on their dream of occupying a seat in any of the prestigious Indian universities. This leads them to explore the scope of higher education abroad. Most of the students who try their luck in higher studies abroad get into good universities as they have an edge over the students from other countries in terms of skills and knowledge.

    While this is the case of young students, the academically well qualified people prefer going abroad for higher research because they don’t get the best chances, resources and facilities for research in India.

    A recent study conducted by Indian Institute of Management- Bangalore (IIM-B) shows that the students going for higher studies abroad has increased by 256% in the last 10 years. When 53,000 Indian students went abroad for higher studies in 2000, the figure shot up to 1.9 lakh in 2010.

    The US is the most sought after destination for students, followed by the United Kingdom. There are many Indian students exploring study opportunities in countries like Australia, Germany and France as well.

  • Hello,
    Thanks for asking my opinion about Brain Drain.My opinion: “the skilled persons after equipping themselves on work who migrated to other countries, are supposed to come here for work .such that our country can also developed in few years and standardized.then there is no need for any one to migrate from our country for work”

  • Hello,
    Thanks for asking my opinion about Brain Drain.My opinion: “the skilled persons after equipping themselves on work who migrated to other countries, are supposed to come here for work .such that our country can also developed in few years and standardized.then there is no need for any one to migrate from our country for work”

  • Political Uncertainty abroad and giving opportunity & right environment for new entrepreneurs (” Make in India” by Government ) are major decision factors.

  • This is a major concer of our country. I work in a BPO and whenever I come across any Indian citizen they just advise me to leave India after asking about my salary.
    Government in india mainly are concern to full fill their own dreams.
    Sometimes I feel like Bjp or Congress or the rest they have just concluded to a mutual decision that 5 years you will fill your pocket and the next someone else.
    Thanks.

  • Brain drain is completely a bane for a developing country like India. It is actually a barrier for the development of the country. Talented and qualified people migrate from India to the developed countries in search of better lifestyle and opportunities. Many of the students after graduating from top institutions like the IITs migrate which comes as a huge cost to the country’s human resource. Despite of being the second largest producer of doctors, engineers and scientists India still is unable to develop at a rate which it is expected to and I believe the major reason behind it is brain drain. If people like sundar pichai would have resided in India they would have definitely proved to be an asset to the country. There are many more people like him. I am not saying that it’s their fault who abandon India to shift somewhere else. They do this because they don’t get satisfactory facilities here.

  • It’s obvious people will look for the best opportunities expecting what a highly skilled brain deserves, and if such opportunities are lacking in country, migration is certain and for solution in my opinion to eradicate brain drain it’s the government who needs to dig own system for the root cause of such loss.

  • Brain drain is completely a bane for a developing country like India. It is actually a barrier for the development of the country. Talented and qualified people migrate from India to the developed countries in search of better lifestyle and opportunities. Many of the students after graduating from top institutions like the IITs migrate which comes as a huge cost to the country’s human resource. Despite of being the second largest producer of doctors, engineers and scientists India still is unable to develop at a rate which it is expected to and I believe the major reason behind it is brain drain. I am not saying that it’s their fault who abandon India to shift somewhere else. They do this because they don’t get satisfactory facilities here.

  • It’s a very good topic and students who are looking for future opportunities and people in jobs will highly relate to this, and cause of brain drain will reflect their reasons for leaving the country for another country

  • In india brain drain will be mainly happens the skilled and qualified peolple cannot get a better chances.which means the profesionals cannot get a better opportunities what they focuse.and also salary/remuneration also properly they will get india.so lot of talent and skilled peoples move to other country.these all things are providing that countries to this people.

  • The term ‘Brain-drain’ has recently come into vogue for describing the flight of talent from our country to another. Often, it is loosely employed to describe all migration of educated and talented persons to countries abroad in search of better careers even though their services may be badly needed in their native land, and thus, this exodus of talent, depletes a country’s intellectual resources and tells on national life.

  • It occurs when human resources are not employed in the fields of their expertise in their own country or when human resources move from the public sector to the private sector or within a sector. Many of our own IIT engineers take up banking jobs with alacrity. Money ultimately beckons and our companies ask for a management degree everywhere.
    The lack of opportunities, political instability, economic depression, Poor infrastructure, Corruption, health risks in India and rich opportunities, political stability, academic freedom, best research facilities and freedom, developed economy, better living conditions in host countries are the main push and pull factors.
    The individual reasons like family influence, peer pressure and personal preference: preference for exploring, ambition for an improved career can also be considered.
    in my consideration it is a bad idea so to migrate from our country to other countries as there are no opportunites so brain drain is happining. if job opportunites are available here itself no need to migrate to other countries for work.

  • Many developing countries get most of their income. Developed countries also are benefited by getting cheaper skills and thus bringing down the operational cost and providing efficient facilities and service to poor. so brain drain is good for India