In the realm of India's vast knowledge, a troubling trend silently unfolds. It refers to emigration of highly skilled individuals from their country in search of better opportunities.
Jesse Kunerth

In the realm of India's vast knowledge and intellectual prowess, a troubling trend silently unfolds. In recent years, India has been grappling with a pressing issue that threatens its progress and development, the issue of brain drain. This phenomenon refers to the emigration of highly skilled and talented individuals from their country of origin in search of better opportunities abroad. With a significant number of professionals leaving the country each year, the brain drain has emerged as a significant challenge for India.

In addition to professionals seeking opportunities overseas, India is witnessing a significant outflow of skilled students pursuing their education abroad. Recent reports indicate that nearly 900,000 Indians have given up their citizenship since 2015. In addition, 23000 millionaires have left India since 2014, including 7000 millionaires in just 2019, causing billions of tax revenue loss to India.

Why are Indians emigrating?

Education System: Despite India's reputation as an education hub, the quality of higher education remains uneven. The rising eligibility criteria and an abundance of competitive examinations create barriers to accessing higher education within India. In contrast, students studying abroad possess a competitive edge over their international peers due to their enhanced skills and knowledge.

Also, many talented students choose to pursue their studies abroad, primarily due to the lack of top-tier institutions, outdated curricula, and limited access to cutting-edge research facilities in India.

Lack of Opportunities: India's job market often fails to offer commensurate opportunities for skilled individuals due to limited avenues for growth and development. The scarcity of research and development opportunities, inadequate infrastructure, and slow bureaucratic processes discourage talented professionals from staying in India.

For years, India has maintained a consistent Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research (GERD) of 0.7% in relation to its GDP. In comparison to other BRICS nations, India has one of the lowest ratios of GERD to GDP. Consequently, researchers and professionals in the field of Research and Development (R&D) often choose to migrate to other countries in order to pursue and advance their research endeavors.

What are the pull factors for brain drain?


Better Remuneration: One of the primary drivers of brain drain in India is the allure of higher salaries and better job prospects in developed nations. The wage disparity between India and countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada is a major factor that pulls talented professionals away from their homeland.

Better standard of living: The developed countries offer better living standards, higher salaries, tax benefits, and other perks, making them immensely appealing for emigration. Undoubtedly, the facilities and amenities available in these countries are yet to be paralleled by developing nations. Until the quality of life reaches a comparable level, migration is likely to persist.

Societal pressure: Indian youth is increasingly inclined towards a more individualistic and open lifestyle, which often clashes with the societal norms and expectations prevalent in the country. Consequently, the pressure to conform to societal standards restricts the freedom of choice for today's youth, prompting them to seek out countries where social norms are more liberal and less intrusive.

Easy migration policies: Developed nations have been adopting more relaxed migration policies to attract talents to boost their economy. Specifically targeting individuals from Asian countries, they seek to recruit intellectual labor and expertise to contribute to their overall growth.

Impact of Brain Drain in India:

Economic Impact: Brain drain imposes a significant economic burden on the country, leading to a loss of valuable human capital. Skilled professionals who emigrate contribute to the development of foreign economies, while India loses out on their expertise and potential economic contributions.

A study conducted by the Asian Development Bank estimates that the annual cost of brain drain for India amounts to $10 billion, representing a substantial drain on the nation's resources.

Skills Shortage: The outflow of highly skilled individuals exacerbates the skills shortage within the country. This shortage impacts various sectors such as healthcare, engineering, IT, and scientific research, hindering India's progress and innovation potential.

Negative Influence on Society: The brain drain phenomenon affects society beyond the economic sphere. The departure of intellectuals, researchers, and professionals erodes the intellectual and cultural fabric of the nation, impeding the exchange of knowledge and ideas.

Healthcare Sector: The healthcare sector in India faces a severe impact due to brain drain. Many highly qualified doctors, nurses, and medical professionals migrate to developed countries, resulting in a shortage of healthcare providers in India. This negatively affects the quality and accessibility of healthcare services for the population.

According to a report by the Indian Medical Association, around 75% of doctors trained in India seek opportunities abroad, leaving behind a significant gap in the healthcare system.

Addressing Brain Drain:

Enhancing Opportunities: To combat brain drain, the Indian government must focus on creating a conducive environment for skilled professionals. This entails improving infrastructure, reducing bureaucratic hurdles, and fostering innovation through robust research and development initiatives.

Strengthening Education: India must revamp its education system to retain talented individuals within the country. This involves enhancing the quality of education, updating curricula to match global standards, and promoting collaboration between academia and industry.

Promoting Entrepreneurship: Encouraging entrepreneurship can provide an alternative to emigration. The government should establish favorable policies and offer financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs, creating an ecosystem that nurtures innovation and job creation.

The government has introduced several initiatives to attract Indian scientists back to their homeland. These include programs such as ‘The Ramanujan Fellowship, Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Programme’, which aim to encourage scientists and engineers of Indian origin residing abroad to take up research positions in India. Additionally, the Ramalingaswamy Fellowship provides a platform for scientists who are willing to return and work in the country. Furthermore, the Vaishvik Bharatiya Vaigyanik (VAIBHAV) summit brings together academicians and Indians from overseas to generate innovative solutions for various challenges. The government has also launched schemes like the Scheme for Transformational and Advanced Research in Sciences (STARS), Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC), and Impactful Policy Research in Social Science (IMPRESS), all aimed at promoting India-specific research in social and pure sciences. These initiatives collectively strive to attract talented scientists back to India and foster research and development in the country.

Conclusion: The issue of brain drain poses significant challenges to India's growth and development. The loss of highly skilled professionals impacts the economy, creates skills shortage, and hampers social progress. However, by implementing effective strategies to enhance opportunities, strengthen the education system, and promote entrepreneurship, India can reverse this trend and retain its talented workforce. The time is ripe for concerted efforts by the government, academia, and an industry to address brain drain and ensure a brighter future for the nation.