It is not surprising that Indians top the list as the most successful immigrants to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. In its annual report called ‘International Migration Outlook 2007’, released recently, the OECD says Indians were the first nationality in the applications approved in Britain’s highly-skilled migrant programme. Apparently, it wasn’t very different in Australia either where Indians, along with the Chinese, made up 30 per cent of the General Skilled Migration Programme in 2006. The report also shows that the number of foreign students in the OECD zone soared by 40 per cent between 2000 and 2005, with countries like Australia, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland and New Zealand recording rises of more than 50 per cent. That Chinese and Indians form the major chunk of this segment attests to India’s universally accepted reputation for producing a highly-talented workforce.
More than ever before, many countries are obviously trying to increase the number of people with specific skills and high levels of education whom they want to encourage to move there. India’s status as an IT superpower has meant tens of thousands of computer professionals joining the exodus along with engineers, accountants and health workers to foreign lands. In Australia, for instance, Indians are the third-largest immigrant group behind the British and New Zealanders, thanks to their expertise that helps tackle the chronic skills shortage in Australia's booming economy. There is no doubt that the movement of people across borders is essential in today’s globalised world, where international business depends on an international labour force. That most developed countries are facing declining birth rates and ageing populations, which can be mitigated by migration, catalyses the movement. But unfortunately for developing home countries like India, increased emigration of students also means that whatever remittances were brought in by temporary migration could flow back to the developed host countries as overseas student fees.
Therefore, while enabling our skilled workforce to migrate, India should also augment its efforts to seek foreign investment for the education and health sectors. This would help raise the productivity of labour in the country to a level where, even if the top 10 per cent of the workforce emigrates, the overall GDP of the country remains unaffected.