Changes in the local culture and supportive policies necessary to harness Skill diaspora in India

Published Date:   Sunday, Mar 10, 2013


Over the past two decades, the increase in international migratory flows from India, especially those of skilled people who leave for a variety of reasons, has resulted in a growing interest among policy makers and researchers. A number of countries from continental Europe, in particular Switzerland, Germany, France and the Netherlands, have joined the market in search of better talent from the Indian sub-continent. The highly skilled immigration from India to Europe is a recent phenomenon and little is known about the various effects on the home and host countries. Such an important phenomenon certainly needs more investigation as it has significant potential development impact on countries involved.

The recently concluded Round Table held on 4th February 2013 at Jawaharlal Nehru University discussed the relevance and implications of the research findings of the project on “Migration, Scientific Diasporas and Development: Impact of Skilled Return Migration on Development in India” in practical and policy terms before an audience including various stake holders involved in skilled migration and the migration and development nexus. 

The project was implemented by the Cooperation and Development Center (CODEV) of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the International Migration Programme MIGRANT of the International Labour Office (ILO), the Institute of Development Studies Kolkata (IDSK) and the International Migration and Diasporas Studies Project of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and it was funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS).

The Round Table gathered participants from various international institutions, including Ms. Tine Staermose, Director, ILO DWT South Asia & CO India; Prof. Mridula Mukherjee, Dean of the School of Social Sciences at JNU; Mr. Martin Strub, Minister Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Switzerland; Mr. Ullrich Meinecke, Counsellor on Social and Labour Affairs, Embassy of Germany; Mr. Nilim Baruah, Regional Migration Specialist, ILO ROAP Bangkok; Mr. Parthasarathi Banerjee, Director of NISTAD; Prof. Binod Khadria, Director of IMDS at JNU; Prof. Uttam Bhattacharya, IDSK; and Dr. Gabriela Tejada, Project Leader at CODEV-EPFL.

The major objective of the project was to advance knowledge on skilled return migration and its impact on development, and to explore strategies to leverage the potential of scientific diasporas. Taking the example of Indian skilled migration, the study offers an evidence-based analysis showing the determinants of the impact that both return and diaspora transnationalism have on home country development. The strength of this study lies in the fact that it is based on a double perspective (country of origin and countries of destination) and draws on data collected simultaneously in India (returnees) and in four European destination countries (diaspora). The research illustrates the development aspirations of skilled Indians in Europe and their transnational actions to encourage knowledge circulation with India. It also shows the incidence overseas exposure has on their professional and social position after returning and the problems they face when transferring their specialized knowledge gained abroad.

The Round Table discussions suggested paying further attention to the process of transferring skills from abroad and upon return in order to reap the benefit for the development of the country, and identified the concrete policy recommendations:

For the Indian government:

  1. Promoting a welcome culture for returnees and their good integration in the local environment providing good working conditions, better infrastructure and curbing bureaucratic dilly-dallying and red tape.
  2. Promoting overseas employment and education for skilled Indians and talented students and supporting incentives for their return to India.
  3. Reinforcing linkages with the diaspora and providing assistance for channelling financial remittances for other developmental activities apart from consumption.

For destination countries:

  1. Promoting stability and coherency in their migration policies (curbs on an open and shut policy)
  2. Ensuring equal treatment for migrant workers in local job markets.         
  3. For both home country and destination countries:
  4. Overcoming the dynamic of conflict of interest in transnational return migration.
  5. Encouraging benefits for both sides at the migration ends.
  6. Ensuring enabling environments for skills and knowledge transfers both from abroad and upon return.

For employers and migrants:

  1. Promoting a positive environment to produce desirable outputs with changes in work culture and recognition of the assets of returnees.
  2. Simulating some of the values which are important to adapt in foreign environment.

The study shows that skilled Indians face several obstacles within the local system once they return to India, and concludes that significant changes in the local work culture and structures together with supportive institutional policies and enabling environments are necessary to facilitate the transfer of the specialized knowledge and technical expertise skilled migrants accumulate overseas and to create an impact.

A Final Round Table to further discuss the policy relevance and implications of the research findings will take place on 1 March 2013, at ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The policy report resulting from the project will be presented at this event. 

-A Report by Dr Gabriela Tejada, Project Leader, CODEV-EPFL

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