The 2014 economic slump together with changing migration laws and restrictions on foreigners from working in certain sectors as part of a nationalist programme has proved to be harsh for Kerala. The Malayalis had been attracted to the glittering prospects of jobs in the Middle East but as of late, their dreams are fading fast.
Latest statistics reveal that about 300,000 expatriates returned to Kerala from the Gulf between 2013 and 2018. And this has disrupted a society heavily dependent on remittances.
According to Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Development Studies (CDS), emigration from Kerala is falling. Its 2018 study shows a negative growth of 11.6 per cent in emigration figures compared to 2013.
CDS lists out five reasons which are population reduction in the migration-prone age group, declining oil prices, Gulf Monarchy’s nationalistic policies, and sharp drop in wage levels and lastly, improvement in domestic wages. K.V. Abdul Khader, a CPM legislator from Guruvayur in Thrissur says majority of those returning are either unskilled or semi-skilled workers or traders. Khader said “They are people who may have been working as domestic help in Saudi Arabia or Oman, driving cars, managing shops or running stores. Once the nationalization process kicked in, they lost their jobs.”
Shibinu Shahul, an economist professor at Malappuram’s PSMO College said there are growing concerns over migrant workers who are becoming less coveted in the marriage market. Shahul said parents now preferred the potential match with a stable office job in Kerala than in the Gulf.
Meanwhile, the Keralans return is also attributed to the widespread abuse of workers in the Gulf. Human rights groups have documented some 600,000 migrants being victims of forced labour.