Indian students abroad more likely to stay in developed nations: report

Indians studying in economically developed countries are the most likely of all foreign students to stay in their host country and join the local workforce, according to a report on international migration patterns by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The report, titled ‘International Migration Outlook 2022’, published on Monday, provides an overview of trends in international migration flows and policies up to 2021 with a focus on the countries of origin and destination of students enrolling in academic degrees in OECD countries. The OECD is a grouping of predominantly developed economies.

Students from China (22%) and India (10%) account for the largest proportion of foreign students in OECD countries. The report attributes this to the fact that roughly a third of the world’s 20-29 year olds live in these two countries.

However, when it comes to staying in their host countries by extending their study visas or obtaining work permits, Indian and Chinese students show “markedly different” behaviours, the report said. Indian students are not only more likely to stay on extended permits, but the chances of them having a work permit five years after their stay are also the highest.

“Students from China and India, the two largest groups of international students in the OECD, show markedly different retention behaviours. Indian students tend to have a higher stay rate than the global population of international students. The retention behavior of Chinese students is more diverse, with larger shares overall leaving after their education,” the report said.

A look at the stay rates for Indian and Chinese students who had obtained their study permit in 2015 shows that in almost every OECD country, including Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Japan, Indians have significantly higher retention rates than the Chinese.

The transition from student visas to work permits also reflects a similar trend, with Indians showing a faster transition rate than the Chinese.


The government is trying to reverse the trend

The OECD report captures a trend that the Center is trying to reverse. In recent years, the Government has emphasized turning the “brain drain” into “brain gain”. In other words, the government is keen to retain talent at home.

For example, in Germany in 2020, the proportion of Chinese students on study permits among the total number of students who had come to the country in 2015 was 23%, compared to only 10% of Indians. This, the report suggests, indicates that most Indians have already taken out work permits.

A look at Canada-specific numbers makes this clearer. Among students admitted in 2015, 71% of Indians had a work permit in 2020, compared to 18% of Chinese.

In the United States, Indian students have long accounted for the largest share of direct transitions from a study permit to a highly skilled temporary permit (H-1B).

In 2019, they accounted for 60% of such transitions, up from around 40% in 2010. In contrast, in 2015, the Chinese accounted for 31% of direct transitions, while in 2019 their share was of 23%, according to the report.

The report said that compared to students in China, there are more Indian students enrolled at the master’s or doctoral level, and that this could explain the “faster transition to the labor market and a shorter period of leave from ‘studies’ of Indian students.

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