2015 to 2018: Number of NRIs jumped 18%

Last year, in a reply to a question in Lok Sabha, the government informed Parliament that as of 2021, an estimated 13.5 million Indian nationals resided in various countries outside of India.

Of these, 8.8 million were in the Gulf countries.

Given the pandemic, there hasn’t been a significant change in the number of Indians settling abroad, but data between 2015 and 2018 shows that the number of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) increased 18 per cent in these three years.

In 2015, India had 11.4 million Indians settled abroad, which increased to 13.4 million in 2018.

The government data also highlights that an estimated 1.1 million Indian students study in foreign universities.

Registration of Indians moving abroad is not mandatory, except for those migrating to 18 countries under the emigration check required (ECR) category.

Hence, the government does not estimate brain drain from the country.

However, an OECD report from 2015-16 provides some reference.

According to OECD data, Indians comprised the largest group of highly educated immigrants.

Between 2000-01 and 2015-16, OECD data indicates 3.1 million highly educated Indians resided outside of India.

Data from ECR checks shows that nearly 3 million migrated between 2014 and 2019 to 18 countries in Asia, West Asia and Africa.

ECR checks are mandatory for people who are either unskilled or are employable in low-skilled tasks.

However, while the number of NRIs has been increasing, the number of ECR jobs has been declining since 2014.

In 2014, data shows that 805,000 migrated to these 18 countries, but in 2019, immigrants from India numbered only 368,048.

Further analysis shows that between 2017 and 2019, the number of people going abroad under the ECR category increased from Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

The rest of the states witnessed a decline in persons migrating to the 18 countries.

While a third of people migrating to these 18 countries came from Uttar Pradesh, as a proportion of the population, Kerala topped the list with 53.7 for every 100,000 people migrating from the state, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

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