Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala, which that tops Indian states in sending people overseas for job, now sees a decline in migration, according to a new survey.
According to a survey published on September 17, migration from the southern Indian state saw a decline of 11 percent during the past five years.
S. Irudayarajan, who led the Kerala Migration Survey (KMS) 2018, attributed the decline to decrease in the 19-25 age group in Kerala population and stagnant wages in the Persian Gulf countries.
“Of the 2.1 million emigrants (from Kerala in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere), 15.8 percent are females. However, there is a reduction of 300,000 migrants, which is one-tenth of the number of migrants in 2013,” he told reporters in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram.
“In 2018, we reached a stage where migrants figures shown a negative growth of 11.6 per cent,” he added.
The survey is the eighth in a series of studies on migration undertaken by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), an internationally renowned, self-governing institution known for its cutting edge research in applied economics and topics germane to socio-economic development.
The late Professor K.N. Raj, architect of India’s First Five-Year Plan (1951-1956) and a former Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, established it in 1971. Irudayarajan was associated with Raj for 18 years.
“Wages in the Gulf economies have not improved after the global economic crisis. This has led to lower savings, de-motivating them to migrate. Another reason is wages in the domestic economy have increased compared to other states,” said Irudayarajan.
The price of oil, on which the Persian Gulf economy is based, has been declining since 2010.
“Although the last one year has seen a slight increase in oil price, the growth of the Gulf economy has suffered a major setback. Due to nationalization policies such as Nitaqat and recently introduced family taxes in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council economies appear to be not that conducive for current and prospective migrants,” Irudayarajan noted.
The study was conducted through a survey of 15,000 households from January 1-March 31 and was funded by the Kerala government’s Department of Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs.
The study notes that 89.2 percent of the total migrants from Kerala are in the Middle East countries.
The Middle East had 2.07 million migrants in 2013 but the figure fell to 1.89 million in 2018.
The remaining 10 percent emigrants are concentrated in the other countries like the USA, the UK, and Australia.
In 2013, UAE had 890,000 Indian workers, but in 2018 the figure stands at 830,000. At the same time Indian migrants in Saudi Arabia dropped from 522,000 in in 2013 to 487,000 in 2018.
Bahrain too saw a fall in the number of Indians to 81,000 this year from 149,000 in 2013.
However, Qatar recorded a reverse trend — Indian there increased from 106,000 in 2013 to 186,000 in five years.
The study found that one in every fifth household in Kerala has a migrant, while among religious groups, one in every third household is a Muslim, one in five household is a Christian and one in 10 households is a Hindu.
The estimated total annual remittances to Kerala have been placed at 850.92 million.
“Of the total remittances at state level, Malappuram district receives 21 percent, followed by Kollam (15 percent), and Thrissur (11 percent),” added Irudayarajan.
According to him, the long history of migration from Kerala to the Gulf is in its last phase.
“However, remittances to the state have increased. This is due to the fact that Keralites’ in the Gulf have climbed the social ladder and are earning higher wages, allowing them to remit more. Thanks to the weakening rupee, families remit more. The KMS 2018, has also confirmed that the migration from Kerala is falling and return of migrants is on the rise,” added Irudayarajan.
On the study of return migrants as estimated by KMS 2018, it is 1.29 million, which is about 60 per cent of the number of emigrants.
“The KMS 2018, would be an invaluable pointer for further policy formation in terms of international migration and also employment schemes of the government. The last 20 years of KMS proved that almost 40 per cent of total remittances to the state were used by emigrants in land, housing and its assets.