COVID-19 pandemic fallout: A third of Kerala expats who returned may not go back

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January 5, 2021 2:00 AM

Of over seven lakh emigrants who returned to Kerala from abroad due to the pandemic, about a third are unlikely to get a job in the state or go back soon.

domestic flights in India, domestic flights news, domestic flights booking, domestic flights guidelines, domestic flights india news,Emigrants started returning to the state from May 5, when the Indian government started the Vande Bharat Mission and the state government started permitting chartered flights.

Of over seven lakh emigrants who returned to Kerala from abroad due to the pandemic, about a third are unlikely to get a job in the state or go back soon. However, the state known for its large emigrant population, expects demand for its workers, especially first-level respondents like health care providers, to rise worldwide by 2022.

According to the state-run NORKA (Non Resident Keralites Affairs) department, more than seven lakh emigrants returned to the state as per the latest report of December 20, 2020. Of these, 4,50,000 came back because they lost their jobs. Most of the returnees are from West Asia, where the expat Kerala population is 1.89 million or 89.2% of the state’s total emigrants.

Emigrants started returning to the state from May 5, when the Indian government started the Vande Bharat Mission and the state government started permitting chartered flights.

S Irudaya Rajan, professor at the Centre for Development Studies and an expert in migration studies, told FE that 40% of the nearly five lakh migrants who returned due to economic reasons are in the distressed category and unlikely to find a decent job in Kerala.

“Many have started going back, but it is slower than the normal migration seen in Kerala for the past few years. It is estimated that 30% will go back … nearly 30% migrants come back every year and settle in some job or trade. It is the remaining 40% who are in the distressed category,” he said.

“Most of them borrowed money for their return ticket and have taken loans to go abroad. Now they can’t find a job back in the state. These distressed migrants have lost everything, are likely to suffer the worst and need help,” he said.

The Kerala Chief Minister’s Office said the state has taken utmost care in catering to the needs of the returnees.

“Financial aid of Rs 5,000 has been provided to those who returned with a valid passport and job visa since January 1, 2020, and were unable to return due to the lockdown. A project called ‘Dream Kerala’ has been formulated to utilise the skills of returned migrants for the state’s development and employment generation,” CMO sources said.

Rajan said the problem might persist for two years, but the state will bounce back by 2022 as demand for essential workers will be huge after the pandemic.

Harikrishnan Namboothiri K, CEO of NORKA, told FE that there is good demand for first level respondents and things were looking good till reports of a second wave due to a mutated coronavirus started coming.

“NORKA had requests for nurses for West Asia and we were actively recruiting for Saudi Arabia when the situation changed and travel restrictions were announced. But we think the demand will increase after the restrictions are removed and this will be a great opportunity for Kerala,” he said.

He said there are opportunities, but the new normal demands new skills in new areas. “We think Kerala with its literacy and global exposure has a higher chance in the new world.”

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