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India plans to export skilled professionals, including health workers, to 12 friendly countries mainly in Europe and Asia, on the lines of a manpower-supply pact with Japan.

The workers will go to these countries “not as permanent immigrants but as employees in sectors where there is demand and a demographic challenge", ministry of skills Development and entrepreneurship (MSDE) authorities said. “The opportunity for India to link its labour market with those of other friendly countries is immense. We are now targeting at least 12 countries," said Praveen Kumar, secretary of skill development and entrepreneurship.

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The government’s plan to make it easier for skilled professionals to work abroad will not only boost foreign remittances to India but also create job opportunities for those willing to work abroad.

According to the World Bank, Indians working overseas sent back an estimated $76 billion in 2020, a 9% drop from the previous year, as the pandemic resulted in job losses and pay cuts across the world. India is the world’s largest recipient of foreign remittances.

The pandemic has, however, also created opportunities for Indian nurses, paramedics and other health workers.

Another government official, who declined to be named, said “post the pandemic, we have realized that healthcare is a sector where India can score big by supplying not just well-trained nurses but also several allied health service personnel. Similarly, skilled workers for construction, automobile manufacturing, hospitality, and industrial machinery sectors can be provided to different countries as apprentices and as employees for fixed tenures.

To achieve this, India is working on mapping jobs, skills-gap analysis, recognition of each other’s vocational degrees and a joint certification where required and streamlining the legal immigration issues related to employment, the official said.

“On the healthcare front, we have held discussions with several countries like Saudi Arabia, the UK, Australia and Germany," the official said.

Globally, there were 703 million people aged 65 or more in 2019, according to a report of the United Nations. Over the next three decades, this could rise above 1.5 billion, the data shows. The rise in the elderly population is likely to generate demand for health workers.

“We have a great potential but doing the right kind of homework and understanding the need, mapping the jobs demand will be beneficial in multiple ways for both India and concerned countries," Kumar said, adding that his ministry is working with the external affairs and labour ministry on this.

According to documents prepared by the skills ministry, in the UK alone, there is a requirement of “about 42,000 nurses in the next two years, about 40,000 community healthcare givers and 85,000 health professionals in allied space".

The specifications and entry criteria involve training to the UK standards, basic degree qualifications, a computer-based test and an English language test. Many applicants fail to clear the language proficiency test, the document said. It further underlined that new immigration rules have opened new opportunities to work or study in the UK from 1 January, and the “new rules treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy".

The document also says there is a demand for over 300,000 healthcare workers up to 2022 in nine countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, UK and the US. Besides, three more—Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Singapore—have been identified for manpower-supply opportunities.

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