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Brain drain: Boon for developed countries, but bane for India

Updated On: 30-Oct-2014, 11:09 AM IST

Brain drain has become a major concern of the developing countries especially, India. The term, which was emerged in 1960s when the skilled workforce started emigrating from the poor countries to the rich countries in search of better job opportunities and living conditions, became 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.

Higher education scenario in India

In the 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 the students, followed by the United Kingdom. There are many Indian students exploring study opportunities in countries in Australia, Germany and France.

Country-wise data on the number of students going abroad for higher studies

Country
Students going abroad (per year)
China
421,000
India
153,300
Republic of Korea
105,300
Germany
77,500
Japan
54,500

Source: UNESCO’s Report- Global Education Digest, 2009
 

A report by Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) pointed out that when a large number of students flocking to foreign universities, it costs India a whooping Rs. 95,000 crores per year.

The report further noted that there is a huge difference in the fees paid by the students studying in the premier institutes in India as compared to the students who study aboard. While an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) student has to pay an average fee of $150 per month, the fee paid by an Indian student studying abroad per month is anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000.

Still, it is a matter of concern that despite the highly subsidized rate of higher education, especially in engineering and management, India fails miserably in attracting the best brains.

Better opportunities abroad

Most of the students prefer staying back in the host country due to better work opportunities and heavy pay packages. After getting good global exposure and getting introduced to the high quality life and facilities, the students become reluctant to go back to the home country.

These days, most of the developed countries act like organizations. When they fail to find good, talented and skilled workers in their country, they attract the highly skilled and qualified people from other countries. It’s very obvious that the skilled Indians prefer US Green Cards and EU Blue Cards over the not-so-attractive pay checks and average living conditions of a developing country like India.

Here, India is the loser and developed countries like the US and UK are gainers.

Time for a reality check?

Over the years, India has become a major supplier of skilled and talented young people to the Western countries, particularly European Union. The major destinations for Indians in the EU in the beginning of the century were limited to UK, Germany, Italy, Austria and Spain. But, now, more and more Indians are immigrating to the countries like Poland, France, Ireland and Sweden. A good number of these immigrants reach the host countries as students.

Comparison between first residence permits issued to Indians and total number of issues in EU in 2009 and 2010

 
Indians
Total EU
 
2009
2010
2009
2010
Highly Skilled Workers
11,784
12,852
39,027
40,786
Researchers
658
724
6,228
7,172
Seasonal Workers
4,163
3,783
56,518
114,311
Other Economic Reasons
47,844
56,488
546,749
645,493
Total Permits
64,449
73,847
648,522
807,744

Source: Population Database – Eurostat

While 5,615 permits issued by the UK for Indians were for highly skilled workers, Italy issued 3,479 permits for Indian seasonal workers. These highly skilled migrants and seasonal workers become permanent residents of the host countries as the long term socio-economic benefits lure them.

Wake up call for India 

The increasing trend of brain drain of the skilled workers finally persuaded the government to take action. After witnessing a huge brain drain of doctors (among the 3,000 medical students went abroad in last three years, none returned), the health ministry has suspended issuing “no obligation to return certificates” to the medical students going abroad for higher studies.

Further, this year onwards, the medical students going to the US for higher studies will have to sign a bond with the government, promising to return to India after completing his / her studies. If the student doesn’t fulfil the bond obligation, the ministry can write to the US and the permission for the student to practice in the country will be denied.

While India is putting the best foot forward to curb brain drain, there are signs of reverse brain drain where a few best brains are returning to India. With better economic policies and the human capital to execute them, there is still hope for India.

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