Book Chapter

Skilled Indians in Europe: knowledge transfer and social impact

Within the migration and development nexus, the recognition of skilled migrants as active agents of transformation, which function as bridges for the circulation of knowledge, ideas and talents between countries, has gained importance in recent times. While latest research has aimed mostly at understanding the magnitude, characteristics and impacts of skilled migration, policy options try to find ways for reducing its risks and encouraging potential benefits. Recent studies show the channels of engagement through which skilled professionals based abroad promote diverse types of connections and the transfer of competences for the benefit of their home countries. In India precisely, this brain-gain is of great interest to study because of the significant presence of Indian skilled professionals, scientists and students in Western countries. While the positive effects of skilled migration benefitting India by promoting economic growth have often been address, less is known about the actual and potential social impact in terms of helping to improve people’s quality of life. It is therefore necessary to understand the ‘development contributions’ as a transformation of social structures in a way that individual’s agency and social capital are expanded. Under this perspective, this chapter presents an evidence-based analysis aimed at understanding the factors on an individual and structural levels which influence Indian skilled migrants’ interest and actual interventions in their home country’s development. We discuss the main channels of engagement derived both from social remittances and physical return, and observe the opportunities and determinants that help to lead their contributions towards the neediest sectors of the population. The study is founded on a recent international research project into Indian skilled migration which draws on qualitative and quantitative research methods consisting of policy analysis, in-depth interviews with key experts and skilled migrants, and a unique dataset of Indian skilled professionals, scientists and students living in Europe or who have returned to India . The chapter argues that the knowledge and talents skilled migrants earn abroad can help to expand the agency of individuals, and accordingly, that they have the potential to contribute to social transformations. However, it is shown that significant changes to India’s work place culture and structure are necessary to facilitate and enable knowledge and expertise transfer from skilled migrants and translate it into development. We conclude that the social and economic environment together with the social culture in the origin country largely conditions the extent to which expertise and talent from skilled migrants are effectively utilised.

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