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The NRI Conundrum

The NRI Conundrum

October 31, 2010

Should you continue working abroad or is it more profitable to pursue jobs in India?

The Indian economy is currently booming. Jobs are being created and nearly all Indian markets are more competitive than ever. So why do many Indian University graduates pursue job opportunities overseas? Why don’t they compete in Indian markets? Why do so many Indians become Non-Resident Indians?

Indians emigrate away all the time, usually because they’re told that their chances to earn big money lie in foreign IT companies or North American business firms. But is leaving India to pursue your career more profitable than finding a job in the country? Let’s rephrase the question for us NRIs: should you stay an NRI and continue working wherever you are or should you pursue jobs back in India?

By looking at the question, an ultimate answer for all NRIs is difficult. There are so many variables to consider: quality of life, quality of education, state of competition, the value of the currency. On top of that, I’d likely get a different answer for every country NRIs reside in.

Instead, I decided to narrow it down to the three most important variables: average income abroad compared to India, the state of competition compared to that of India’s, and the quality of living. The latter seemed a relevant variable because I figured most NRIs usually emigrate in the aim to start a family. I also only looked at the U.S. in comparison to India to keep it simpler. Now, in terms of the average high paying occupations that most Indians flock to overseas, these fall in the medical, business, and the IT sectors.

I focused on these sectors. In the U.S. there are close to 2.15 million people of Indian origin. Indians have a median family income of $61,322. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this is higher than the average income.

In the U.S., over 300,000 Indians work in technology firms, which have a typical average salary of about $125,000. About 52% are involved in managerial business positions, which fall near the average income of Indians in the U.S. Finally, the average salary of one employed in the medical profession in the U.S. falls somewhere between $150,267–$306,964.

Comparing these results to the average salary of those professions in India, I found that in all three cases, immigrating to the United States was a better decision. Since there are so many jobs in the IT sector in India, the salaries are more diluted, with the average being Rs 170,000 or roughly $3,837 dollars a year. The same goes for the medical profession. India is abundant with general physicians. The average pay of a family physician in India is somewhere between Rs 191,614 to RS 596,187, roughly between $4,325.85 to $13,459.40. In the business sector, it varies depending on the type of business.

The second variable is competition. In all three sectors, Indian markets are burgeoning. They are much more competitive and difficult to survive in than American markets. The increase in the competition of the Indian markets also means that there are plenty more jobs in each sector in India than in the U.S. However, the fact that Indian markets are much more competitive means that getting well-paying jobs in all three sectors is difficult. Finding a well paying job in the U.S., is comparatively easier since the markets aren’t as diluted with people having the same skills as you.

The third, and in my opinion, most crucial variable is quality of life. India, even with its burgeoning economy and power, is still considered a third world country. But depending on your income and wealth, you could live just as well in India as you do elsewhere. So, instead of looking at basic needs, let’s look at health care, education, and the opportunity to climb the social ladder. In all three regards, India is lacking. In terms of health care, India may have more doctors per kilometer than anywhere and its medical universities may be ahead in research. But when looking at quick emergency responses and medical access, India doesn’t match the care in the U.S.

The public education system is another area where improvement is needed. With the right money, you can send your kids to the best school. And that’s the problem. You shouldn’t have to. India’s public education system isn’t as uniform in quality of service across the board as the U.S. The education system itself is a reason people emigrate.

Finally, the opportunity to rise up on the social ladder is again much difficult in India, since markets are much more competitive. With India’s incessant corruption affecting all areas of life, the easiest way to rise up is if you got deep pockets.

Overall, fellow NRIs, your decision to emigrate was a good one.


    25.02.12 01:03 AM
    @ James

    Let's give you some info on Indian And India.

    The Indians that are educated, don't live in slum in India or any where else, they come from middle class back ground.

    There is some corruption in India, but it's same amount as in any other western countries.

    The Indian who immigrate to other countries do not depend on the welfare for support because they can easly earn 20 times the amount what welfare pay.

    The Indian which are workshy do not need to go any where else in the world, why waste money. So they don't need to do this. The ones that you are talking about are maybe not even Indins. Not every brown person is Indian.

    There are alot of Indians who are trying to fix up India, by working and paying tax. Same as what they are doing in your country for those who have had all the opportunity in the world and ended up wasting it by doing nothing except drinking and making more kids and nothing else.

    Maybe if you got out more in real industry instead of sitting in club/bar/pubs, you will find all those Indians who have taken the jobs.

    Maybe you don't know your history of world, but if you did, than you would have known, that people have been arriving in India since last two thousand years for opportunity, thus every race of people will be found in India then any where else in the world. This is the only reason India is more diverse and dynamic country in the world, and the economy is still growing, where rest of the western countries are in recession and are drowning in debts.

    James if you want to know anything else about India and Indians, then post a question and I will do my best to answer it. Happy days.
  • James
    24.02.12 10:26 AM
    Indians will always emigrate to escape the corruption and slums that are India. The west falls for the PR about education and work ethic. But what you find in areas with a large immigrant Indian population is slums, racism and welfare dependancy. Indians are generally workshy and seek out government jobs. I think that these hard working, educated people should stay in India and try to fix up that country. I suspect that India certainly will not be as welcoming to emigrants as they expect the west to be.
  • Rajiv
    18.12.10 12:58 AM
    2 points:
    - Lord Billimoria,of Cobra beer in a BBC interview was asked where would he like to be, considering that India is on the rise. He said on a jet, there are opportunity on both ends of the spectrum.

    my 2nd point is, rather an incident. A friend was employed for over 7-8 yrs by big 5 consultancy firm. He was earning well over 200k. looking outside of his window during his lunch break, eating a cold sandwich. He decided that he wasn't enjoying that. Rather he'd like to be spending time with his folks/ friends in India. Next week he packed his packed and landed in bangalore. He got a decent job with an american co. in blore.

    Ist point is logical 2nd point is emotional. Different people have different reasons. whats yours?
  • Ashish Seth
    Ashish Seth
    08.11.10 11:19 PM
    @ jones

    To say that all of the 2.15 million Indians in the United States were educated in India and that all have above average paying jobs due to it is both an overstatement and an inaccuracy. Many Indians in the United States - a majority - are at or below the national income average. Many now aren't educated by the Indian education system but grow up in the U.S. and are educated there. I find it hilarious that you assume all the 2.15 million were educated in India when in fact its probably a little more than half. And it differs on secondary and post secondary education.

    In terms of competitive edge, I cannot argue with the fact that living in such a vastly populated country, you're competing with 20 other people sometimes for just one job position. That fact that you find yourself in this position is unique to India (and China I must say). But to solely say that India's education system prepares you for the competitive edge abroad is a huge generalization. What about quality of education? What about which subjects are emphasized? Do you think rote memorization is learning? Do you think being slapped across the wrist leads to understanding? I think the Indian education system produces insecure robots trained to spout out facts for self-preservation. If that is required to be competitive, fine. But in the end, it's person who understands the stuff and who's able to look outside of the box who gets the high paying job abroad. Lastly, India's education system is not uniform. Some achools are good and some schools are very poor, understaffed, and bad. If you've got the money, you can go to a rich good school and thus get a quality education. But the reality is that the majority of Indians don't have the resources to do so. Above all that there's the corruption and under the desk dealings that go on. Thus, you may be competing with 30 people for a position but somebody's already bought it off.

    To say that India's education system is accountable for the 2.15 million Indians in the U.S. having good jobs is completely false. It was because they were privileged that they got there in the first place.
  • jones
    08.11.10 10:07 PM
    you have mentioned about healthcare system,In canada it could be diffrent but US if you know,you need to shell out big monthly premiums to get the healthcare and you need to wait 4-6 week just for your doctors appt.Education in India gives your more competitive edge than anywhere is in education in India that today 2.15 million indian origin people are in USA and earning higher annual salaries than US national average.
  • Ashish Seth
    Ashish Seth
    03.11.10 05:55 AM

    I agree with both your points. Cost of living is a huge variable I left out for the sole reason of brevity and simplicity. The task of writing an article analyzing the central question of whether it is better to remain abroad or immigrate back to India was a very daunting task. There were so many variables I had to consider and could not consider due to space. I ended up focusing on three variables and one country and tried to keep my conclusions as solidly based on statistics as possible (wages offered for the jobs etc.). I knew the point of contention would be the last few parts on quality of life, quality of education etc. I appreciate all your points on this topic, as it is very interesting and needs to be explored even more. Oh yes, I agree that in 10 or 20 years, I think the powershift will be complete. Will it lead to a better living style; perhaps. Only time will tell.

    Thanks for bringing up cost of living.

    @ Alfred Jones

    I guess it depends on people's views on what constitutes a better life. For my cousins, it's having a servant do menial chores and drive them around, a reality that only the wealthy are capable of here in Canada.

    I agree, money can't and should not be the sole reason for repatriating. I only chose it because it was the most uniform variable, as contradicting as that term sounds. In order for brevity and simplicity, I stuck to those three variables. I appreciate any comments that can illuminate other variables which may be important to factor in.

    Keep the comments coming. I'd love to hear your additions to the analysis.
  • Alfred Jones
    Alfred Jones
    02.11.10 07:05 AM
    I seriously considered moving back to India (with wife and kids) a few years back - but decided not to. I have several close friends that have repatriated back to B'lore. None of us evaluated our decision to move back purely in monetary terms the way you've done here Ashish. Yes the monetary aspect is important but it is hardly the deciding factor. There are lots of other intangibles that come into play that you can't put dollar figures on.

    On the flip side, while it is true that most of us came to the US for the mythical "more money and better life", we stayed back because our views of what constituted a better life changed to include more than just our paychecks.

    Don't get me wrong, I love what I can do with the money I make but I also see what I can't do with it, e.g. give my kids the sense of growing up as part of a big family which they'd get if we were in India. And those other factors are a big deal too.
  • Article
    01.11.10 07:07 PM
    Interesting article and comparisons. i would like to make a couple of points, however, if I may:

    1) Your analysis leaves out the difference in the cost of living. Although I have no doubt that you would still be better off living in the West, it is important to note that the cost of living is much lower in India and therefore, although wages are lower, you may still have a decent lifestyle. This comparison is often left out when journalists try and sensationalize poverty in developing countries.

    2) Although it is true that you are currently better off by being in the west, I am not sure that this will be the case in 10 or 20 years. If you are a farsighted person, you may see that there is a clear economic powershift going on from west to east. India is and will continue to be a big part of that. So, for future prospects, it may actually be a very good time to go to India (if you can handle it!) and try and get in at the beginning of the formation of an economic superpower. I would liken it to going to New York in the early 1900s.

    Of course it is somewhat risky and certainly more for the entrepreneurial among us (NRIs that is) but it could be the best move you ever make.

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