Indians migration: Brain drain or talent export?

India received $87 billion in remittances in 2021, and the United States was the biggest source, accounting for over 20% of these funds. What is fuelling migration to the US and its impact on India.

“Migration powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies. Yet it is a source of political tension and human tragedies.

As a global community, we face a choice. Do we want migration to be a source of prosperity and international solidarity, or a byword for inhumanity and social friction?” - Antonio Guterres

It is an acknowledged fact that the US has benefited immensely having tremendous economic growth with the huge contributions that migration has made. This has been the narrative of the great “American Dream.”

What drives Indians abroad? Soaring dreams or escaping pains?

In this 21st century, we are all migrants. Most of us have left our places of origin to work somewhere else and settle down there, as the place grows on us and we don’t want to change the status quo.

It is as common as human evolution, which has helped better growth and progress while getting the world seamlessly inter-connected. The common and prime driver of migration has been better income generation and growth.

Over the past decades, Indian migrants have contributed significantly to the US economy and have scaled the corporate ladder to lead large MNCs.

Among the Indian communities; the Malayalis (natives of Kerala), the Gujaratis (natives of Gujarat) and the Sikhs (natives of Punjab & Haryana) are the most migrated communities, and can be visible in all continents. And it is no coincidence that they are the most enterprising and economically stronger communities.

So what are the broader factors affecting migration to the US?

Push Factors

There are several reasons for people to migrate to other countries. Some of which include

lack of appropriate opportunities, lack of talent retention policies, visa issues and dual citizenship provisions, lack of merit recognition, relatively poor quality of life, tax rates, among others. .

Then, there is a sense of entitlement enjoyed by sections of the ruling elites with above-the-law privileges and with no accountability.

Professionals, experts, PMPs with skilled and chartered professionals are seen as lacking the drive to be in leadership roles to deliver projects in time and quality deliverables.

Pull Factors

Not everything is rosy outside India though, but the living standards seem to be better while talents invariably struggle less for desired results and recognitions.

A few major benefits of living abroad include:

  1. Good career potential, quality of overseas education, quality of life, easy visa-less access to other countries for work related travel, demand for English speaking Indian talent etc are pull factors.
  2. There are clear cut systems in place in most developed countries and with extensive social security mechanisms that really help people in need.
  3. Work life balance: weekends and holidays are given priority and respected by the employers. So no work on weekends. Also the working hours are strictly followed.
  4. Skill based growth path, no hierarchy, less politics.
  5. Better health care system: Proper care and better treatment and less negligence even when it is a very minor thing.
  6. Quality education: it is one of the most important things when it comes to quality. In certain countries, education is absolutely free of cost in public universities. The procedure of teaching is very different and practical with stress on sustainability. It generally encourages questioning and provokes to be innovative, not rote learning, as is so common in Indian educational system.
  7. Colleges and Universities allow 20 percent of the teacher’s engagement in teaching and balance on research on curriculum, different subjects and towards higher studies. Students don’t feel study pressure and enjoy their learning.
  8. Quality of food: Stringent food safety requirements mean that every food item is regulated.For example, the remaining baked items are thrown away at the end of the day and next day fresh ones are sold. Same goes for vegetables as well.
  9. Better transportation facilities. One does not have to have his own car or bikes to commute. And of course, the freedom to travel to other countries effortlessly, visa free.
  10. No corruption, nepotism or pulling strings. You will become what you study for.

Reverse Migration

Then comes issues with reverse migration. The process to gain back Indian Citizenship is too cumbersome. FDI also has many issues. Dual taxation has been talked about too but never implemented. Little internationalisation of more industries and there is no focus on how to increase. MNCs of other countries won't give out their senior roles to Indians of India. These factors don't encourage people to return.

Anecdotal evidence shows that in my circle of , friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, barely 5 percent of immigrants came back to India after having a good stint abroad. Though many wish to return home, following reports of improvements and growth opportunities.

The trend is likely to continue in foreseeable future, most opined.

Some of the people I know came back due to family reasons, fewer numbers due to Visa expiry..

Fuelling this apprehension is a lack of good opportunities, once one comes back home and struggles on the pay scale. I spoke to an India scholar from Kellogg’s, who is struggling to get an Asst. Professor position in any good Indian University.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important factors are dollar buying power.

Gains & Losses

We all are migrants, leaving our homes to bigger cities for more opportunity to earning and better living. At times, certain compulsions drive us out, be they are economic or professional ones. Similarly, Indians go overseas for better education, job etc. This is a global phenomenon and nothing wrong about this, nor to be frowned upon.

With regards to the gains, the migrants get better higher education, earn more, send money home, the remittances help India’s economy grow and their success influences others in their families and communities to follow through.

Because of lesser complicated or layered system, Indian immigrants rise faster in their career, even reaching the top of the ladder and leading a lesser stressful life, as regards to the social and cultural milieu there.

With their success, the Indian origin immigrants help elevating India’s image overseas, as is happening today. Millions of Indians are getting inspired by the successful Indian origin business leaders at the global level today, leading top MNCs.

The world has recognised Indian talent and this has tremendously enhanced India’s image globally, which is also the third largest economy in the world today.

Silicon Valley and NASA especially have positively influenced aspiring young Indian minds and resultantly, our country has today several successful tech entrepreneurs and scientists invading the market with their enterprising business ventures. This augurs well for India and will help in its self-reliance plans.

Remittances from Immigrants – a clear gain to any country

India received $87 billion in remittances in 2021, and the United States was the biggest source, accounting for over 20% of these funds, the World Bank said in its latest report on November 2021.

At the macro level, remittances contribute to maintaining stable foreign reserves. Remittances help Indian Rupee hold its value against the US dollar and forms a significant part of the GDP.

On a micro level, remittances have shown a positive impact on healthcare, entrepreneurship, education, and overall economic development of the recipient families.


It is time Indian government provided dual citizenship. In another 15 years, exodus to US will gradually come down. India would have truly arrived by then, if the government continues to encourage startups, innovation, economic and governance reforms and provide a free market economy without disturbing the social fabric with political overtones and vote bank politics.

Quality education and healthcare ought to be focused sincerely with social security support, but not in the form of freebies and loan waivers that tend to cripple the competitive spirit. And ease of doing business should be improved further with less restrictions and less layered processes.

Government surely has been working hard on this as is being seen in the emerging statistics. In order to improve the living standards of the common people in the country, procedures and processes in everything that affects them, need to be streamlined and made easier and affordable.

Digital economy and online public distributions systems help the benefits of various citizens’ services reach the intended beneficiaries in a democracy.


Migration is a very natural and common phenomenon the world over from time immemorial. Humans always move around seeking greener pastures and better opportunities. More often than not, economic compulsions push people to take the long route away.

India’s demographic dividends need not slide into losses, when the large young population is deprived of proper guidance and opportunity. Such situations will make brains flight away, nestling afar, benefiting others.

Quality educational institutions and healthcare facilities would evolve the country better, stronger, well developed and a better place to live in. It’s expected that the government would be considering these factors while improving situations in our beautiful country to support enterprising young minds with necessary support ecosystem and less complicated citizen services.

Much improvement through various reforms has already been seen, continuation of them in right spirit, would further improve the situation here.

India has been developing and improving despite its negative elements. Which establishes the fact that Indian brains are better, they just need a better support ecosystem around to thrive and develop.

Together we should strive hard to excel in every field of work while maintaining and keeping alive India’s plural socio-cultural milieu and democratic values, fostering compassion and serving humanity and being entrepreneurial in approach while remaining responsible citizens, with a sense of pride and ownership. Together WE Can.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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