This report titled Americas Loss is the World’s Gain, details the plight of skilled immigrants who came to the US from India and China to work or study and returned home. The big surprise is how well they are doing back home. The vast majority say they have done better professionally, are happy to be home with friends and relatives and enjoy a better quality of life back home. They came to America because of the education and professional development it offered and went home to find even better opportunities.
There are no hard numbers available on how many have returned, but anecdotal evidence shows that this is in the tens of thousands. With the economic downturn, my guess is that we’ll have over 100,000 Indians and as many Chinese return home over the next 3-5 years. This flood of western educated and skilled talent will greatly boost the economies of India and China and strengthen their competitiveness. India is already becoming a global hub for R&D. This will allow it to branch into many new areas and will accelerate the trend. India’s outsourcing industry is likely to experience a second-wind as a result.
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. As this paper shows, there are other strong magnets now. So immigrants who used to have to make substantial sacrifice to give their families better lives can achieve their objectives without the sacrifice - they can return home to parents and friends…to a land where they are at the top of the social ladder rather than at the bottom.
The hollowing out that this will cause to our S&E workforce and the competition that this will create for the US will hurt us for decades. Other countries like Australia, Singapore and Canada…and even Europe and Dubai have figured out that bringing in skilled talent provides a major economic boost. We [Americans] haven’t. We’re sending ours away. We are effectively exporting our economic stimulus. Policies like those which the US just enacted which prevents some banks from hiring foreign workers will have the opposite effect from what they intended - they will send jobs abroad and scare away top talent.
The readers can download the 20 page paper from - http://ssrn.com/abstract=1348616 (click on "download" at the top of the page. This is a free download). If you click "Vivek Wadhwa" on the SSRN website, you can find several other papers on immigration which show the amazing contribution which skilled immigrants have made to the US economy (52% of Silicon Valley startups, 25% nationwide, 25% of global patents…with Indians being the dominant company founding group). There are also papers there which show how India is racing ahead in R&D and how the US can learn workforce development from India.
(Vivek Wadhwa is the lead researcher for this study, and a Senior Research Associate, Harvard Law School, Exec in Residence, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University and Columnist BusinessWeek.com)