UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

'Emigrant-unfriendly' states : explaining why India has a low emigration rate Mehta, Dhriti


What explains India’s low emigration rate despite it being one of the world’s largest migrant-sending states? This thesis argues that existing scholarship has overlooked the actions of sending states when it comes to migration control and as a result, has missed the construction of what I term as ‘emigrant-unfriendly’ states, particularly among liberal democracies. Despite being the leading country of origin for international migrants, India has a strikingly low emigration rate compared to its neighbours in South Asia and other developing democracies with large populations. In this thesis, I argue that the low rate is the result of restrictive policy. Focusing on economically driven emigration, I hypothesize that the key variable that best explains the path of restrictive emigration policy in India is the post-independence adoption of Nehru’s anti-imperial and regulatory foreign policies that differentiated between emigrants of varying skill levels. To test this argument, I employ process-tracing to determine whether India’s post-independence institutions continue to play a role in restricting emigration from India. I look at three empirical cases as critical junctures for India’s emigration history, namely, the policy making period in 1947 immediately after independence, the Oil Boom in the 1970s, and the Tech Boom in the 1990s and early 2000s. I test my hypothesis against an alternative hypothesis which is that India’s low emigration rate can be explained by government actors restricting emigration due to its negative domestic economic implications. This thesis concludes that policy decisions made and institutions established at the time of India’s independence have persisted and continue to hinder pro-emigration policy reform, resulting in India having one of the lowest emigration rates of any developing state in the world today.

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