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Migration from Kerala slides

T K Devasia / 16 January 2012

TRIVANDRUM - The migration from Kerala is inching towards inflexion point, according to the 2011 migration survey conducted by the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum.

The survey based on primary data collected from 15,000 households selected at random covering all the 63 taluks in the state, shows that the increase in migration has started showing a decreasing trend. The survey conducted by demographers S Irudaya Rajan and Dr K C Zacharia says that the increase could vanish much before 2015 and the migration trend could very well slide downward.

The number of Kerala emigrants living abroad in 2011 is estimated to be 2.28 million, up from 2.19 million in 2008, 1.84 million in 2003 and 1.36 million in 1998. The increase during inter-survey periods has shown a decreasing trend.

Although there was a small increase in the number of emigrants at the state level, most of the traditional centres of emigration in the state had experienced decreases in the number of emigrants and/or emigrants per household.

The survey points out the experience of Pathanamthitta district as forerunner of things to come in Kerala. In Pathanamthitta district, the number of emigrants was, 98,000 in 1998, 134,000 in 2003, 121,000 in 2008 but only 91,000 in 2011 — lower than the numbers in 1998.

An independent source of information that supports a possible inflexion in emigration before 2011 is the data on the number of ECR passport holders that emigrated from Kerala. The number of ECR passport holders from Kerala reached its maximum in 2008. Since then, the number has been declining, according to Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs annual reports.

The study has identified demographic changes, narrowing gap of wages between Kerala and the Gulf, increased competition from other states and steady increase in the cost of migration as factors responsible for the downward trend.

Statistics indicate that the number of persons in Kerala in the age group 20-40, who usually migrated, has been coming down. The number of people in this age group is less in 2011 than that in 2001. This started declining inmid-2008.

This shows that years ahead will witness a decreasing trend in the availability of youngsters for emigration. Part of this decrease could, however, be compensated by migration of persons at higher ages, the study says.

As far as the wage factor is concerned, the study finds a narrowing gap. The average wage among unskilled workers in Kerala has increased from Rs150 to over Rs450 during the first decade of this century. The corresponding wage in the Gulf did not increase as fast as it did in Kerala. It could have even decreased during the depression years. Another significant finding of the survey is the huge increase in the number of migrant students. The survey found that the student out-migrants out-numbered job-seeking out-migrants since 2008.


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