Expatriates in China and India

Ambassador (retd.) Kishan S RanaHonorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies.

Ability to attract and retain high quality, globally mobile talent is one of the attributes of internationalization, in an interconnected world. This is the theme of an article in China Daily, carried in an issue dated 13 May 2016. This publication is an official Chinese mouthpiece and will not carry anything critical of that country; with that caveat, the issue merits attention.

The total number of expatriates in China in 2012 was 240,000, up 17% from the 2007 figure. An international survey, Expat Insider 2015, ranked China 38th in its attractiveness among expatriates, with Ecuador a surprising first, Singapore in second place, Malta third, the US 13th, Germany 17th, and France at 47th.

China Report also asserts that as it moves into ‘innovation sectors’ demand for expats has soared in that country, citing the experience of different human resource management companies. Some Chinese companies have created scores of positions for expat talent.

India is ranked third among the countries of origin of expats, after the US and Britain, but overall, it figures poorly in attractiveness among the 64 destinations surveyed by Expat Insider 2015. On a quality of life calculus, China ranks at 39, while India is placed at 57, below Tanzania, and above Kazakhstan and Myanmar. What might be the number of expatriates working in India? One has not come across an authoritative figure, but it is unlikely to be less than 50,000, and has surely gone up in recent years. Do we pay attention to making India an attractive destination for expatriates, on the premise that this adds to the country’s global connections, including inclusion in Asian supply chains? I doubt if an agency, official or otherwise, thinks of this. Should it not be on the agenda of CII or FICCI?

Some features of the survey:

  • An expat typology at pp.7-10 provides an amusing perspective on the kinds of categories expats fall into.
  • In terms of the welcome accorded to expats, Myanmar ranks a surprising first, with India at 35 and China at 37.
  • From an expat family perspective, Austria ranks first, with China at 23, ur count
  • India does not figure among the 20-odd ‘country reports’ provided, but a detailed survey of how different nationalities work as expats, India is covered at pages 209-11 of the survey, noting inter alia that 77% are generally satisfied with working abroad.

A special area in which rather few expats are to be found in India is academia. China, in comparison has thousands of foreign professors and teachers at different levels. An indirect consequence is poor internationalization of higher education in India, and that in turn produces low scores for Indian academic institutions. Rather few in our country seem to pay attention to this, much less consider improvements.

A related issue is China’s ‘Thousand Talents Program’, launched in 2008, to bring back highly skilled Chinese and foreign academics to contribute to the country’s technology growth. It is said that 3000 have come back, lured by high salaries and tax-free facilities. But some feel that the program has not delivered all f that was expected. This deserves close examination, if only to learn from the working of different kinds of methods.






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