Boasting the third-largest education system in the world, India is one of the world’s top talent sources for software development, IT, and other fields requiring advanced technical skills. Graduates of the 40 Indian schools ranked in the U.S. News and World Report list of Best Global Universities can count themselves among the most highly educated — not to mention employable — individuals in the world.
Of the millions of Indians that pass through this impressive educational environment each year, tens of thousands go on to join the 17 million Indian workers already working abroad. So, why do so many Indian citizens end up working overseas?
Simply put, many countries, including Canada, rely on Indian talent to keep their economies moving. These regions suffer from what’s known as a “skills gap” — when there’s more demand for highly-developed technical skills than there are home-grown citizens with those skills. In essence, a skills gap in a fast-growing economy means that a country just does not have enough workers within its borders to fill necessary positions.
This is where the value of an Indian education comes in. It’s not just that India represents another body of people with a surplus of college-educated workers to pull from, as companies can, and do, find that in many countries around the globe.
What makes an Indian education so valuable to these companies is that the system is highly responsive to the needs of Western businesses. Whereas American colleges and universities today have a dearth of students studying subjects that offer few (or no) direct career paths, Indian students are overwhelmingly enrolled in STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) programs. These programs are often pragmatically determined by the immediate and future needs of Western businesses.
Another reason why Indian workers are so highly valued internationally is their fluency in English. Graduates of top Indian schools are usually highly competent in English, the international language of business, while many others with alternative education or work backgrounds learn English on their own through one of India’s many language schools. For evidence of Indian workers’ overall fluency with English, just note that many Indian businesses conduct business in English even if they aren’t selling to Western businesses. This drive in India to learn English — a must for foreign workers looking to immigrate to Western countries — means that Indians, all other things being equal, tend to be more employable than workers from other countries.
Indian workers in foreign countries: A mutually beneficial relationship
Without Indian and other foreign workers, many companies would not have the skills and resources they need to reach their goals. But, it’s fair to ask, what do Indians receive in exchange for all this? In general, Indian workers in Western countries demand higher pay rates, experience a higher quality of life, and receive better benefits than they would in India. They often have the opportunity to work for some of the world’s most innovative companies. And they gain access to the kind of upward mobility that defines many Western cultures. These are just a few of the many reasons why many Indians say they prefer working overseas.
All these benefits of overseas work are multiplied in the case of Canada, my home country. Not only do Indians who immigrate here get to work in quality, well-paying jobs, but they also enter into a vibrant migrant community — a synthesis of Canadian and Indian cultures — that allows them to uniquely thrive. More than that, at a time when many Western countries are becoming increasingly insular and cutting down on immigration, Canadians have opened their arms to immigrants. In these times, Canada’s system represents a uniquely straightforward and commonsense approach to immigration through our fast-track system, which rewards applicants with skills that are in demand. Hundreds of thousands of Indian workers have already made good use of this system, with tens of thousands more participating each year.
The upshot of all this is that the relationship between Western businesses and Indian workers is ultimately a mutually beneficial one. In the West, our economies cannot be sustained on domestic talent alone, so we must turn elsewhere. Indian workers, with their advanced technical skills, fluency in English, and commitment to hard work, more than fulfill the requirements. Speaking as a Canadian, I can say that in exchange for sharing their talent and their culture with us, we welcome them to become a part of our thriving, multicultural nation.