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America's brain drain = India's gain

By Meenakshi Ganjoo
February 16, 2005 12:07 IST
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The highly skilled, Indian-born talent that once flocked to the US is now returning home, "turning America's brain drain into India's brain gain," a report released by a high-tech lobbying group in Silicon Valley said.

Titled 'Losing the Competitive Advantage? The Challenge for Science and Technology in the United States,' the report also says that countries like India and China, through the restructuring of their economies, were dramatically increasing the skill sets of their work force, thereby posing a challenge to the US leadership in the technology domain.

"Public-private partnerships (in India) have invested in technical universities and communications infrastructure to create cutting-edge technology parks in places like Bangalore. This will only make India more competitive and alluring to investors and multinational companies," the report by AeA, formerly known as the American Electronic Association, says.

India is embarking on further reforms to provide labour flexibility, free flows of capital, and desperately needed infrastructure improvement, it says adding that the country, along with China, was catching up in critical areas and has restructured their economy to benefit from the free market system they once resisted.

"They are dramatically increasing the skill sets of their workforce, investing in research and development, and adopting advanced technologies, all to create wealth and spur economic growth," the report says cautioning that America can no longer remain idle if it hopes to continue its lead in science and technology.

Emerging countries are churning out more scientists, engineers and technology workers to staff these nascent industries, while the numbers of students entering these fields in the United States has remained flat.

The United States is cutting research and development funding while foreign governments are creating public-private partnerships to invest in R&D projects and persuade their brightest youth to pursue high-tech careers, the report pointed out.

US policymakers, the media, and the public often underestimate the emerging competitive threat of nations like China and India, it said, adding that these and other countries increasingly offer skilled, educated, professional knowledge-based workers as well.

The US higher education system is also not graduating enough engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians to support the growth of its high-tech industry, the report notes adding that the country had raised bureaucratic barriers for high-skilled immigration.

"Foreign workers are indispensable to American science and engineering; one out of five US scientists and engineers are foreign-born. Yet, the number of skilled workers immigrating to the United States has declined by 27 per cent between 2001 and 2003," the report said.

"We need to better educate our domestic workforce, tap into the world workforce through immigration, and rebuild a system that supports innovation and technology adoption." AeA President and CEO William T Archey said.

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Meenakshi Ganjoo
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