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US loss is our gain as workers return

world Updated: Mar 03, 2009 00:14 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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More and more engineers, scientists and managers with a US education or work experience here are returning to India and China, boosting the economies of the two countries and hurting US competitiveness, a new study says.

“With the economic downturn, my guess is that we’ll have over 100,000 Indians and as many Chinese return home over the next three to five years,” said Vivek Wadhwa, an Indian-American entrepreneur turned academic who’s affiliated with Duke and Harvard universities.

“This flood of Western-educated and skilled talent will greatly boost the economies of India and China and strengthen their competitiveness.”

The study, titled “America’s loss is the world’s gain,” was led by Wadhwa and conducted jointly by researchers at Duke, Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. It was released on Monday by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which provided the funding.

The study indicates that placing limits on foreign workers is not the answer to the rising unemployment rate in the US. It pointed out that immigrants have contributed disproportionately in the most dynamic part of the US economy. “Losing these skilled immigrants is an economic catastrophe that will hurt US competitiveness for decades to come,” said Wadhwa.

“The US has always had the luxury of being arrogant about immigration because it has been the strongest magnet for the world’s best and brightest,” but the study shows there are other magnets now, Wadhwa said. The two-year study covered 1,203 Indians and Chinese who had studied or worked in the US for a year or more before returning home. It uncovered several trends:

* The majority cited career and quality of life as primary reasons for their return.

* The common factor (86.8 per cent of Chinese and 79 per cent of Indians) motivating workers to return was the growing demand for their skills at home.

* A majority of respondents (53.5 per cent of Indians and 60.7 per cent of Chinese) said opportunities to start their own businesses were better in their home countries.

* Being close to family and friends was a significant consideration.