Home to over 1.4bn individuals and recently surpassing China as the world’s most populous country, India is also the largest contributor to the world’s migrant population. Indian migrants outshine their Chinese counterparts in both number and success, having held the title of the world’s largest diaspora since 2010, a testament to their strength and value for India’s administration.
Currently, almost 18m out of 281m global migrants – defined as those residing outside their birth country – are Indians as per the latest UN estimates from 2020. Comparisons between Indian and Chinese migrant groups reveal Indian triumphs and throw light on geopolitical complexities. Indian diaspora’s victories enhance India’s global image and support its Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Being more intimately connected to their birth countries than the generations born abroad, migrants foster crucial connections between their adoptive and native lands. In 2022, a record-breaking $108bn was sent back to India in remittances, the highest in any country and equivalent to around 3% of India’s GDP. Additionally, Indian expatriates contribute significantly to cross-border trade and investment due to their network, language skills, and expertise.
India’s primary strengths lie in its booming youth population and world-class higher education system, making it a premier talent exporter. The proficient command of English among Indians, a remnant of British colonial rule, is a notable advantage. In America, only 22% of Indian immigrants above the age of five have limited English skills, in contrast to 57% of Chinese immigrants, as per the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a US-based think-tank.
Migrations from India have seen a gradual increase since the country’s independence in 1947. Now, Indians from poorer and marginalized backgrounds are seeking opportunities abroad, diversifying the migrant population. The trend of South Indians migrating in large numbers is indicative of this shift, with Telugu, a South Indian language, being the fastest-growing language in America.
The migration is likely to continue as India’s population grows, seeking lucrative job opportunities and refuge from extreme heat. Skilled Indian workers dominate “speciality occupations,” with 73% of America’s H-1B visas in 2022 awarded to people born in India. Notably, around 7,500 dollar millionaires migrated from India last year, surpassed only by China and Russia.
In their adoptive countries, Indian migrants demonstrate remarkable economic success. They constitute the highest-earning migrant group in America, with an average household income of nearly $150,000 annually, double the national average. The prosperity and influence of the Indian diaspora are powerful tools for India, contributing to its soft power and global image.
This article is based on information from The Economist’s website.