Home > Careers, Global Matters, India > A skilled migrant’s dilemma

A skilled migrant’s dilemma

October 23, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Our generation has been fortunate to experience a power shift; in the post-Cold-war era we’ve witnessed resurgence of Asian economies onto the world stage.   There have been several tigers borne out of the continent, but two emerging nations – India and China – harbor aspirations to superpower status.  As the quality of life there improves and the lure of a growing economy grows stronger,  it is inevitable that one would wonder when is the crossover?  When will the USA no longer be the most desirable destination for today’s highly skilled migrants?  Perhaps that time is now.

One indicator is the undeniable, if anecdotal, evidence of reverse brain drain.  Indians and Chinese trained in the West are returning home in droves.  Another indicator is the spate of recent incidents of skilled immigrants in USA accused of industrial  espionage.  They appear to be motivated by a boost to their prospects when they return to their roots in Asia rather than misplaced patriotism.

India and China are both growing at approximately 10% when the OECD countries will likely see economies move sideways (or decline) for a few years.  Some of these highly educated, affluent first and second generation immigrants are now fearing a rapid decline in their fortunes in the West: aging populations, necessary limits on entitlements, government spending that cannot be curbed by politicians with short-term decision horizons and the resultant increases in taxes,  all look imminent.   Wistful dinner-table conversations have now given way to decisive moves.  Several are jumping ship for emerging economies who are lapping up their returnees’ enthusiasm, energy, and (sometimes ill-gotten) know how.   Interestingly, I have met several expatriates who are in Mumbai/Delhi/Bangalore making a living because that is where the gold rush is.

Here is my doodle about where I think a lot of highly skilled migrants’ thoughts are ending up in 2010.

However, I like to remind those of them that reach out for my counsel on making the transition that there is a lot they take for granted in the West, that they will miss.  Although the “tiger” economies have millennia of culture and heritage to enrich lives with, they are plagued by lack of transparency, bureaucracy, and archaic institutions in education, the press,  the judiciary, law enforcement, civic communities, etc.

The decision to jump ship is not an easy one.

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Categories: Careers, Global Matters, India
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