Brain drain from India: An Overview

brain drain

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


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 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


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.

  1. brain drain cause to is done every contry in world and is compelsory our present,future era cause to intigrated world.but lastaly lnstant has been stop because to new Donad trump polycy American first,Arebian citizenship,attack on abrod student,uk and usa visa systee.

  2. 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.

  3. From my point of view, this Great Brain Drain is bad and MUST BE stopped. Indians, who have succeeded abroad, MUST be coaxed back to their native country and contribute to its society.

  4. As per me, brain drain has its own pros and cons., The pros are once a student leaves his own country after being well educated., they understand the foreign culture., their tradition., the working conditions., they have more employment opportunities once they come back home., Some of them they run their own start-ups through which they can provide more employment opportunities to their country people., Even they can be more competitive compared to the domestic counterparts., Being an entrepreneur is a very tough job., To be a entrepreneur one has to study its basics from the roots., To study the roots you have to be one with them., If some one wants to be a biggest entrepreneur in the world they have to not only work with them, but also has to be in their shoes.,

  5. This is a great piece on brain drain. It shines light on the factors which encourages this social issues. Additionally, it provides the information neccessary for society to create solution to prevent such large situations of this social phenomena from occurring. All in all, it is a very informative piece which society needs to read.

  6. Brain drain is not good for India as being an Indian our first duty is to serve our own country,motherland. Charity begin at home only.

  7. Yes, that’s true. Brain drain has been a big issue since so many years. Many skilled young Indian after having their higher studies done abroad try and settle their only. These people very well knew that working outside India will surely increase their standard of living. Hence they decide to migrate.
    But now, since Indian Prime minister Mr Narendra Modi started start up india and make in india campaigns many Indian youngsters are not thinking much about migrating to EU countries. Even various visa laws are made strict by US President which makes it difficult for Indian citizens to migrate.
    Hence, although such laws which make our migration difficult are not good for citizens but obviously they are beneficial for the development of the country. Indian brains will study here, work here, eat here thus strengthning our economy. Brain drain earlier was a curse but now the strict laws of other nations over visa has made an environment which will not harm India as it use to, earlier.

  8. Absolutely it is not good for India.
    The wealth what we should get by our people is missed, if we are giving opportunities to that kind of person in India itself means, India will be developed 100 times more faster than this speed of improving time.

  9. Brain drain: Boon for developed countries, but bane for India – 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.

  10. As a Ugandan who benefits from expatriates from India I think it’s good,though India still needs his people to work for it too

  11. Yes its good because of
    1. remittances
    2. bring useful knowledge back also known as reverse brain drain
    3. create new job opportunities

  12. that is not good think . leave your home land for living your life in luxurious life.. by these act of those people there country economy can be damaged.. and the country will get more poor then before.

  13. In my opinion brain drain is not a good thing in itself. ; they should contribute to the development of their country of origin by putting all their knowledge and skills to the services of the country.

  14. Yes it is not good to have brain drain from INDIA because, if our county people move to other countries and giving their contribution to their countries development(foreign countries) and earning more for their better livelihood, who will develop our country by knowing our country as a developing country, Yes it is totally ridiculous to have brain drain from INDIA.

  15. It is good if we can use other countries capabilities to realize our potentials . The target is of the mist importance.To meet scientific goals , brain drain could be a good option.

  16. Brain Drain is an extremely serious problem for a developing countries like India. It surely degrades the performance of India all over world.

    And Nice Concept to discuss.


  17. every thing has its pro’s and con’s…
    Advantages are that it allows highy skilled people to find well paid jobs outside their native places , particularly true for developing countries , but it doesn’t ends here income of emigrated people comes back to native countries improving infrastructure of country.
    Disadvantages are that highly skilled cream leaves native country, creating a mindset , that skilled people should move away , so only next set of people will be available to fill in the jobs , weaking countries economic structure
    I hope this clears some of the queris !

  18. Yes it’s is definitely a serious issue to be discussed and explore means to at least minimise these incidences keeping in mind our national interest

  19. This is the better way to realise the Indian people that they must obey the rules of their country , then we can say that our country is developing in large scale.

  20. Brain Drain is the repercaussion of india’s poor salary which is not enough for the hard work of the employs.
    For sure this is not good for the development of our nation but it is need of individual.
    This brain drain is much beneficial for indians in term of money they are being paid, status and quality of life.
    To stop this India needs to work on salary system and improve quality of life.

  21. Definition of Brain Drain
    Brain drain can be described as the process in which a country loses its most educated and talented workers to other countries through migration. This trend is considered a problem, because the most highly skilled and competent individuals leave the country, and contribute their expertise to the economy of other countries. The country they leave can suffer economic hardships because those who remain don’t have the ‘know-how’ to make a difference.

    Brain drain can also be defined as the loss of the academic and technological labor force through the moving of human capital to more favorable geographic, economic, or professional environments. More often than not, the movement occurs from developing countries to developed countries or areas like India..

    Causes of Brain Drain
    There are various causes of brain drain, but they differ depending on the country that’s experiencing it. The main causes include seeking employment or higher paying jobs, political instability, and to seek a better quality of life. Causes of brain drain can be categorized into push factors and pull factors.

    The push factors are negative characteristics of the home country that form the impetus for intelligent people migrating from Lesser Developed Countries (LDC). In addition to unemployment and political instability, some other push factors are the absence of research facilities, employment discrimination, economic underdevelopment, lack of freedom, and poor working conditions.

    Pull factors are the positive characteristics of the developed country from which the migrant would like to benefit. Higher paying jobs and a better quality of life are examples of pull factors. Other pull factors include superior economic outlook, the prestige of foreign training, relatively stable political environment, a modernized educational system to allow for superior training, intellectual freedom, and rich cultures. These lists are not complete; there may be other factors, some of which can be specific to countries or even to individuals.

    Effects of Brain Drain on the Home Country(india)
    When brain drain is prevalent in a developing country, there may be some negative repercussions that can affect the economy. These effects include but are not limited to:

    Loss of tax revenue
    Loss of potential future entrepreneurs
    A shortage of important, skilled workers
    The exodus may lead to loss of confidence in the economy, which will cause persons to desire to leave rather than stay
    Loss of innovative ideas
    Loss of the country’s investment in education
    The loss of critical health and education services
    Brain drain is usually described as a problem that needs to be solved. However, there are benefits that can be derived from the phenomena.

  22. Brain drain is beneficial for India as population of India is very large . so it will not effect for national benefit.

  23. From my point of view, this Great Brain Drain MUST BE stopped. Indians, who have succeeded abroad, MUST be coaxed back to their native country and contribute to its society.

  24. Brain Drain: When a skilled workforce emigrated from poor (say under-developed or developing countries) to rich, developed countries.
    As talking about India, here are some of the major factors responsible for the process of brain drain despite, the fact that India has the absolute potential to overcome its situation.
    factors are:
    1. Cast system integrated with the Study/ competitive exam, and even in govt jobs also.
    2. High Corruption leads to the situation to some extent
    3. In my opinion, I blame this point to India’s education system also, which is not comparing
    its structure and standard with corporate culture.
    There are many more factors responsible for brain drain of Indian skilled/ educated workforce to migrate to the land of opportunities in search of better life expectation, than in India.
    There are aspects of this question asked:
    Aspect regarding country is not good as it is not beneficial for India
    while it has the individual benefit.

  25. The issue that has been raised is very true and informative. Brain drain from India is bad and it has to be stopped as early as possible.Hope stringent rules from foreign countries and liberal benefits from our country will change the youths mind and thoughts.

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