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National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Asia's Rising Science and Technology Strength: Comparative Indicators for Asia, the European Union, and the United States

S&E Workforce

 

Education Level of Labor Force

For most Asian economies, detailed information is lacking on the educational distribution of the labor force. However, counts of the number of workers who have completed at least a tertiary level of education (roughly the equivalent of an associate degree or higher in the United States) are often available and can serve as an approximate indicator of the growth of a more skilled workforce.

  • The number of people in the world who have completed a tertiary education rose from an estimated 139 million in 1990 to 193 million in 2000, at an average annual growth rate exceeding 3% (table 4).
  • Between 1990 and 2000, all major Asian economies experienced significant growth in the tertiary-educated labor force, averaging 5% annually (closer to 6% without Japan), a rate similar to that of the EU. Growth for the United States was lower, just above 2%.
  • As a result of this differential growth, 46% of all additions to the world's tertiary-educated labor force from 1990 to 2000 were contributed by Asia, compared with 16%–19% each by the EU, the United States, and all other countries (figure 9).
  • In Asia, China added the most tertiary-educated workers from 1990 to 2000 with an increase of 8.4 million, accounting for one-third of the Asian total (and China's output of tertiary graduates has been accelerating since 2000). India was in second place with an increase of 5.7 million (figure 10; table 4).

TABLE 4. Estimated tertiary-educated workers, by selected region and country/economy: 1990 and 2000.

  Table 4 Source Data: Excel file

 

FIGURE 9. Increase in tertiary-educated workers, by region and country/economy: 1990–2000.

  Figure 9 Source Data: Excel file

 

FIGURE 10. Tertiary-educated workers in selected Asian countries/economies: 1990 and 2000.

  Figure 10 Source Data: Excel file

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Asian- and EU-Born College-Educated Workers in U.S. S&E Occupations

There has been a rise in the number of individuals born in Asia who are employed in S&E occupations in the United States. These include both individuals educated abroad and those who received their degrees in the United States and chose to stay.

  • Between 1990 and 2000, the number of individuals with college degrees (bachelor's or higher) born in Asia who were employed in S&E occupations in the United States rose from approximately 141,000 to 460,000; those born in EU countries increased from 45,000 to 75,000 (table 5).
  • Although the number of U.S. natives employed in S&E occupations in the United States grew rapidly during the 1990s (40%), the increase was much larger for Asian-born individuals (more than 200%). EU-born individuals increased 67%.
  • In 2000, 23% of individuals in U.S. S&E occupations were foreign born, and half of those foreign-born workers came from Asia.
  • The most common countries of origin for foreign-born, college-educated individuals working in U.S. S&E occupations in 2000 were India (4.9%) and China (3.1%). The numerical increases since 1990 are remarkably large for both countries (figure 11; table 5).

TABLE 5. Workers in U.S. science and engineering occupations with bachelor's degree or higher, by place of birth: 1980, 1990, and 2000.

  Table 5 Source Data: Excel file

 

FIGURE 11. Asian-born workers in U.S. science and engineering occupations with bachelor's degree or higher, by selected country/economy: 1990 and 2000.

  Figure 11 Source Data: Excel file

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Asian- and EU-Born Doctorate Holders in U.S. S&E Occupations

Data on the place of birth of individuals with doctoral degrees employed in U.S. S&E occupations in 1990 and 2000 show that doctorate holders born in Asia are increasingly important to the United States.

  • Between 1990 and 2000, the number of foreign-born doctorate holders employed in U.S. S&E occupations rose from 50,000 to 143,000, with Asia accounting for over half of the total increase (figure 12; table 6).
  • The steep increase in Chinese- and Indian-born doctorate holders in U.S. S&E occupations during the 1990s is remarkable, but the increase is also significant (tripling or near-tripling) for South Korea and Japan, countries whose doctorate holders traditionally have tended to return home after earning a U.S. doctorate (figure 13).
  • Doctorate holders from the two largest Asian countries (China and India) constituted almost 14% of all doctorate holders in U.S. S&E occupations in 2000.
  • China accounted for nearly 9% of all U.S. S&E doctorate holders in 2000, versus India's 5%. However, as of 2000, India remained the single largest source country for all degree levels combined (see table 5).

FIGURE 12. Foreign-born science and engineering doctorate holders in U.S. science and engineering occupations, by region: 1990 and 2000.

  Figure 12 Source Data: Excel file

 

TABLE 6. Doctorate holders in U.S. science and engineering occupations, by place of birth: 1990–2000.

  Table 6 Source Data: Excel file

 

FIGURE 13. Asian-born science and engineering doctorate holders in U.S. science and engineering occupations, by selected country/economy: 1990 and 2000.

  Figure 13 Source Data: Excel file

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Stay Rates for Asian and EU Recipients of U.S. S&E Doctorates

Foreign-born individuals who receive U.S. degrees and stay in the U.S. labor market[7] are a potential source of skills for their home countries but also an important source of highly skilled labor for the United States. Many stay in the United States well after receiving their degree.

  • Overall, in 2003, about 61% of those who were temporary visa holders when they received a U.S. S&E doctorate were working in the U.S. labor market 5 years after graduation. This rate has risen since 1992 (figure 14).
  • U.S. stay rates differ greatly among Asian source countries and are especially high for Chinese and Indian doctorate holders.
  • Japanese and South Korean doctorate recipients have historically had low stay rates, but both countries have seen strong increases since the mid-1990s.
  • Students from the largest EU-sending countries—the United Kingdom, Germany, and Greece—have generally had stay rates just under the average for all foreign degree recipients.

FIGURE 14. Temporary-visa students who earned U.S. science and engineering doctorates and remained in the United States 4–5 years after degree, by country/economy: 1992–2003.

  Figure 14 Source Data: Excel file


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Footnotes

[7] Michael Finn of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education estimates U.S. stay rates of different graduation cohorts of temporary-visa doctorate recipients by matching each cohort with Social Security earning records (Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients From U.S. Universities, 2003).


 
Asia's Rising Science and Technology Strength: Comparative Indicators for Asia, the European Union, and the United States
Special Report| NSF 07-319 | August 2007