No reverse migration from Gulf countries, says study

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Feb 27 2009, 04:20am hrs
Reports of jumbo reverse migration from Gulf countries are bogey, says an ongoing research project by Centre for Development Studies (CDS) in Thiruvananthapuram.

After a survey among 15,000 households at 300 locations in Kerala between June and December 2008, CDS Migration Research head S Irudayarajan, said the reports on homeward exodus and empty flights between Gulf and India are overstated.

Since Keralites constitute bulk of Indian workforce in Gulf, it is probably not illogical to extrapolate the migration experience of the state to rest of the country. There could have been a short-term lull in big job-giving projects in Gulf countries, but this crisis seems to be melting. At worst, it could play out for another six months, Irudayarajan told FE.

In a panic response, the Kerala government has even earmarked a Rs 100-crore fund through its industrial lending arms like KFC to redress and rehabilitate the Gulf returnees. The state budget is also apprehensive of the demand-shrink due to the possible fall in Gulf remittances.

However, regardless of the fear, Gulf remittances to Kerala are riding a boom. Banks in Kerala show that in September 2008, NRI deposits grew to Rs 35,000 crore, up by Rs 6,000 crore over that of March 2008. According to unofficial estimates NRI deposits in December 2008 also show a growing trend. The CDS projection is that NRI remittances will touch Rs 38,492 crore by 2009-end.

State finance minister TM Thomas Isaac believes the fall in remittances could show up later after a time lag.

But then, the CDS study does not quite brush aside the reverse flow altogether. During a similar survey done in 1997, as much as six lakh returnees were noted. In 2003, this was seven lakh and in 2008, it swelled to eight lakh. Even if the figure goes up to nine lakh by 2009-end, the rate keeps up with the overall trend of moderate return flow, says Irudayarajan.

Like attrition rate, a moderate rate of reverse migration is considered healthy for the economy of home country in demographic studies. Researchers claim India-Gulf flights are not running empty as reported.

Next week CDS will submit the final report on migration trends to Kerala Norka (Non-Resident Keralites) cell that had commissioned the study. Expat inflows from Gulf account for nearly one-fourth of Keralas GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product).