The brain drain

One part of the US response to recession has been to tighten the rules surrounding the H1B visa — and since the start of this year and this administration, the pages of India Abroad, the paper I help edit and produce, has featured a flat out debate on the topic.

Proponents have based their argument on the line that with unemployment rising across the US, there is no case to be made for bringing in guest workers, however skilled, from outside. Opponents have argued that (1) Guest workers fill a legitimate need in the workforce and (2) that absent the H1B program, bright students who come to the US to get an education and now find they cannot stay behind to join the workforce will go back to the country of origin — that is to say, the US will end up providing the education, only to create competition for itself. This segment of opinion makers has moreover repeatedly warned that unless rules in this regard are relaxed, there will be a drop in the number of enrollments in US universities.

The debate has been heated, but has largely taken place in a vacuum, with few if any facts to back the rival claims. Here’s the first real sighting of quantifiable stats:

U.S. grad school admissions for would-be international students plummeted this year, according to the Council of Graduate Schools—the first decline in five years.  The decline was 3% on average, thanks to increases from China and the Middle East, but some countries saw double-digit declines in interest in a U.S. education. Applicants from India and South Korea fell 12% and 9% respectively—with students turning their sights on schools in Asia and Europe instead.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Much of the world’s economic growth—hence, jobs—is in emerging markets, the schools are far cheaper and in many cases competitive academically, and then there’s the H-1B issue. If America won’t allow a PhD just trained in our top schools to work here and contribute to the economy—why come here and take on the student loans to begin with?

Read on — the debate below the post is interesting.

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2 thoughts on “The brain drain

  1. I was told of a NASSCOM study that points out that all the US unemployment is in sectors such as construction (and in two others that I forget) and not in the categories that Indian (by default IT) workers apply for. Cutting back on their Visa and Work permit quotas is not going to help solve their problems.

    Interesting data on Indian students not choosing to go to the US to study. Wonder if the mountain coming to mahomet i.e. the universities offerering their certification here in India has been a significant proportion of this phenonemenon.

  2. All the US has to do is pass a law that states that A company cannot have no more than 20% of its employees on Work Permits like H1B Visa. And at the same remove the quota on H1B visa and let the market take of itself.

    1.This put those Mom and Pop Body Shoppers that operate from a basement out of business. and since most of the abuses of H1B are done by these companies. Secondly the ‘real’ companies like Microsoft,Google or even the banks would then get easier to H1B visa.

    2.It would also encourage reputed Indian IT companies like Infosys to hire more Americans.

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