Inflexion in Kerala's Gulf connection : report on Kerala Migration Survey 2011
Zachariah, K. C.
Rajan, S. Irudaya
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This Working Paper embodies the results of the Kerala Migration Survey (KMS) 2011. It is the fifth in the series of comprehensive studies on international and internal migration from Kerala being undertaken by the Centre for Development Studies since 1998. Over the years, some broad patters on migration have emerged from these studies. Some of these are enumerated in this abstract. Migration Trends The number of Kerala emigrants (EMI) 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 shows a decreasing trend. The increase could vanish much before 2015 and the migration trend could very well slope downward. The number of Kerala emigrants who returned and living in Kerala (REM) in 2011 is estimated to be 1.15 million. There was a small decrease in the number of return emigrants during 2008-11. It was 1.16 million in 2008. Kerala migrants living in other states in India (OMI) in 2011 is estimated to be 931,000, up from 914,000 in 2008. The increase was not very substantial, less than 2 percent. Kerala out-migrants who returned and are now living in Kerala (return out-migrants) are estimated to be 511,000 in 2011. The corresponding number was 686,000 in 2008, 994,000 in 2003 and 959,000 in 1998. There was a consistent decline in the number of return out-migrants. More and more Kerala migrants in the other states in India tend to stay back in their host state or move abroad instead of returning to their native state. Geographic Aspects of Migration: Northward Shift If demography is destiny, as is often claimed by demographers, Kerala’s destiny is moving northwards. Several relevant elements of Kerala’s demography have shown a steady northward shift. Over the years, the centre of population has moved northward. In recent years, population growth has become much higher in the state’s north than in its southern region. The origin of emigration from Kerala is moving to its north. More and more remittances are ending up in the north. In recent years more of the developments in education and health have taken place in the north than in the south. In 1998, only 33.4 percent of Kerala’s population with secondary or higher levels of education lived in the north (Malappuram to Kasaragod) and the remaining 66.6 percent lived in the south and central regions of the state. By 2011, the corresponding proportions were 39.0 in the north and 61.0 in the other regions. The proportion in the north has increased by 5.6 percentage points, whereas the proportion in the south and central regions decreased by the same percentage. Similarly, in 1998, the north accounted for only 33.4 percent of employed persons, but by 2011, the corresponding proportion increased to 39.0 percent. In 1998, only 15.6 percent of population in the north was employed in the private sector of the economy, but by 2011, as much as 32.4 percent of the north’s population was employed in the private sector. The corresponding percentages in the self-employment sector were 32.8 per cent in 1998 and 36.0 percent in 2011. Religious Aspects Emigration from Kerala is dominated by Muslims whose share of the emigrants from the state (44.3 percent) continued to remain very much higher than their share in the population (26.5 percent). On the other handout-migrants from the state are mostly Hindus, whose share of out-migrants (64.6 percent) continued to remain very much higher than their share in the population (56.8 percent). Corresponding to 100 households, there are 59.1 emigrants in Muslim households, but only 18.1 emigrants in Hindu households and 29.0 emigrants in Christian households. Among the Muslims, 53.3 percent of the households had at least one emigrant or return emigrant. However, among the Hindu households, only 19.6 percent of the households had a non-resident Keralite. The Christians are not far from the Hindus in this matter. Among them only 21.3 percent had one or more non-resident Keralites. Remittances Remittances from emigrants abroad to Kerala in 2011 were estimated to be approximately Rs 49,695 crores compared with Rs. 43,288 crores in 2008. Remittances were Rs. 63,315 per household in 2011 compared with Rs. 57,227 in 2008. Increase in remittances during 2008-11 (15 percent) was much larger than increase in the number of emigrants (4 percent). Muslim households received Rs. 23,089 crores as remittances from abroad in 2011. This amounts to 46.5 percent of the total remittances. Hindus received Rs 18,089 crores or 36.4 percent of the total. The Christian community received Rs. 8,508 crores or 17.1 percent. Although the total remittances to the state are relatively very large, only a small fraction (17.1 percent) of the households in Kerala received them; more than 80 percent of the Kerala households did not receive any remittances in 2011. There are, however, large differentials by religion. The corresponding proportion was as low as 11.4 percent among the Hindus, 14.4 percent among the Christians but as high as 36.6 percent among the Muslim households. Impact of Migration The macro-economic impact of emigration and remittances are very significant. Emigration and the ensuing remittances continue to remain the single most dynamic factor in Kerala’s economic scenario. Remittances were 31 percent of the state’s domestic product. The per capita income in the state is Rs 52,000 without taking into consideration remittances, but would be Rs 68,000 if remittances were taken in to consideration. The economic benefits that the state receives from these annual remittances are huge, but they have to be balanced with the losses in the matter of human resources. At present, there is acute scarcity of qualified workers in every field in the state. More than 30 percent of persons with higher educational qualifications are now living abroad. More than 25 to 30 of percent of workers in high skill occupations are now living outside the state. The negative impact of this drain on Kerala’s economy is yet to be fully quantified in financial terms. Equally pertinent is the drain of funds that go into educating Kerala’s youth outside the state. This amount was roughly about Rs 1703 crores in 2011, or 3.4 percent of the annual remittances to the state. Migration is also having a negative impact on income distribution in the state. As the early emigrants from the state were mostly construction workers, there was a general feeling that emigration contributed to income equality. However, a more recent comparison of the employment and educational characteristics of the emigrants with those of the non-migrants show that this may not be true any longer. In recent years, the relatively better-off persons emigrate and improves their income level and consequently emigration contributes inequality. More direct information on the relation between emigration and income is provided by the data on the possession of red and blue ration cards by Kerala households and also by the data on enrolment in RSBY. These data show that emigrants come from the relatively richer households, and that emigration would have contributed to increased inequality in Kerala society. Migration Prospects Trends emerging from these studies, some directly related to emigration and others related to determinants of emigration, support the conclusion that emigration from Kerala seems to be approaching an inflexion point in history. Kerala’s Gulf connection is edging towards a turning point. Emigration from Kerala in 2011 is more or less at the same level it was in 2008, indicating that 2011 is not far from the inflexion point in the history of emigration from Kerala. Many of the major centres of emigration in Kerala are already experiencing a decline in the number of emigrants and/or emigrants per household. The experience of Pathanamthitta district could be seen as forerunner of things to come in Kerala. In Pathanamthitta district, the number of emigrants was 98,000 in 1998, 134,000 in 2003, and 121,000 in 2008 but only 91,000 in 2011 – lower than the number in 1998. Emigrants per household was 33.1 in 1998, 44.3 per cent in 2003 and 37.4 percent in 2008 but only 28.4 percent in 2011. The point of inflexion in emigration trend in Pathanamthitta district was as early as 2003. Supporting evidence is provided by the trends in the factors related to migration – demographic contraction of young working age population in Kerala, dwindling wage differentials between Kerala and the Gulf region, competition from other Indian states in India and other countries abroad, and above all, the rapidly increasing cost of emigration. All these trends point towards emergence of an era of decreasing trend in emigration from Kerala. Kerala’s Gulf connection could reach its inflexion point in a matter of 4-5 years.