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US Losing its "Immigrant Appeal"

Vivek Wadhwa | BusinessWeek | March 2009

The United States is considered the destination of choice by immigrants the world over. Especially highly skilled immigrants regard the US as a land of endless possibilities and ever attractive prospects. However, more and more immigrants are turning their backs on the US. New studies show that above all people from India and China are moving back to their homeland in droves, hoping for better career opportunities and quality of life. Additionally, they prefer a life among the close circles of their family and friends.

There are no exact figures on the number of these "new re-patriots." However, according to human resources departments in India and China, the number of applicants coming from the US has increased tenfold in the last years. As an example of this phenomenon, 1200 people from India and China were surveyed by a professional networking site online, and the results were then analysed by a team from Duke University. A large portion of the re-patriots are relatively young. The average age of Indian re-patriots is around 30, and for Chinese re-patriots 33. Almost all came to the US on a student visa and left again highly qualified with degrees in management, technology and science. They are among the most well educated immigrant groups in the US and offer an indispensable contribution to the US economy. In total, immigrants account for merely 12% of the US population. However, almost 52% of Silicon Valley companies and some 25% of relevant US global patents are credited to immigrants. In the fields of science and engineering, immigrants compose roughly 24% of employees with a bachelor's degree, and roughly 52% of employees with a PhD.

What are the motives of these re-patriots? 87% of Chinese and nearly 79% of Indians admit that the reasons for their return lie with the increased demand for their qualifications in their country of origin. Their decision has obviously paid off: through the influx of re-patriots, the portion of native employees in leading management positions has increased from 10 to 40% in India, and in China it has risen from 9 to 36%. 87% of Chinese and 62% of Indians expect to find better career prospects in their home country than in the US in the long-term. Almost half of those surveyed are contemplating starting their own businesses and consider the conditions for such an endeavour significantly worse in the US than in China or India. Despite the fact that immigrant workers might not be needed in times of recession, they are nevertheless irreplaceable for the US economy. This should not be forgotten in the face of a political climate in which many are concerned with protecting endangered "American" jobs.

This summary was prepared by the Atlantic Community editorial team from "Why Skilled Immigrants Are Leaving the U.S." published here by BusinessWeek, March 2009.


Tags: | US economy | China | India | immigration flows |

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