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. Check the reasons of brain drain to developed countries from below:
Brain Drain: Reason 1
Higher Education Scenario in India
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.
Brain Drain - Country-wise data on the number of students going abroad for higher studies
Students going abroad (per year)
Republic of Korea
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 whopping Rs. 95,000 crores per year.
The report further noted that there is a huge difference in the fees paid by students studying in the premier institutes in India as compared to 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.
Brain Drain: Reason 2
Better opportunities abroad
Most of the students prefer staying back in the host country due to better work opportunities and fat pay packages. After getting good global exposure and getting introduced to the high quality life and facilities, the students become reluctant to return 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.
Brain Drain: Reason 3
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 the UK, Germany, Italy, Austria and Spain. But now, more and more Indians are immigrating to 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
Highly Skilled Workers
Other Economic Reasons
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.
Brain Drain: Reason 4
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, from 2015 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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According to a UN definition, the flight of talent that is required for a country’s development to another country is called brain drain. We have been experiencing this problem ever since we won out freedom. It was with great effort and high hopes that we set up our institutes of higher education. It is unfortunate that thousands of our doctors and engineers are leaving the country every year. More recently, the malady has affected the field of oil exploration, nuclear energy and agriculture also. A poor and developing country like India cannot afford this big brain drain.
A very high proportion of the migrating engineers is of those trained in the five Indian Institutes of Technology. Apparently, nearly 35 per cent of the engineering graduates from the IITs go abroad as soon as they get their degrees. The percentage is even higher in the key areas such as computer science, physics, aeronautics and operational research.
The main reason for this brain drain is that our man power planning has not kept pace with employment opportunities. We have a large pool of scientific and technical manpower that is waiting for respectable assignments. Several thousand engineering graduates are waiting for employment. Some feel that they are under-employed, so they migrate to countries wherever they find better opportunities. It is also the grievance of some of them that they do not have adequate facilities and a congenial environment for work or research in this country. In fact, the situation is no different in many other countries too. They are the victims of academic colonialism which is an aspect of today’s neo-colonialism.
The government has every reason to feel concerned about this problem because the number of scientific and technical personnel leaving India has increased in recent years. Measures taken to persuade our scientific and technical man power to return have not yielded results. The fact is that even now it is difficult to find suitable jobs for those who would like to return. Whenever some of them return and are given higher placements in an organisation on account of their qualifications and experience, the locals in the organization resent it and make the working environment for them uncongenial and hostile. They also complain or lack of job satisfaction due to the near absence of innovative research. We do hear of the government toying with the ideas of science cities, pool scientists and technological parks to attract talent, but a lot of all this remains on paper or in files only.
Indian workers, scientists, doctors and engineers have already made their mark in several countries. In America alone, more than 25 per cent of the doctors, engineers and technical personnel are from India. Big part of the economy of this richest country in the world depends upon those who have migrated to this country from India only. Indians working in fields, factories, hospitals and commercial units are known for their sense of duty and dedication. They form the back bone of the whole economic system in that country.
The human resources department of the government has laid stress on the evolution of suitable mechanism to bring back and woo talent from other countries. It has proposed that lecture assignments, consultancy in industry and assistance in setting up of pilot projects in India should be considered. The administrative procedures should be made more flexible. The areas of bio-technology, micro-electronics etc. offer significant potential for our technical personnel.
In fact what we require is a proper planning of our requirements. Students should pursue only those fields that are called for. They should not run after highly specialized courses which have no relevance in the country’s economic development. An awareness should be brought amongst those intending to go abroad that it is their moral duty and sacred obligation towards their country to serve their motherland first and foremost.
The government must think in terms of instituting a compulsory national service for a limited period of time for those science, engineering and medicine graduates who are desirous of going abroad.
The basic facilities congenial for research and education should be provided in the institutions so that our technical graduates do not feel ill-at-ease in their own set-up. Let every graduate realize that he has a duty towards the country that educated him and that his leaving the country in a lurch is nothing short of a treacherous betrayal.
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