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Gulf boom fuelling replacement migration: Study

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By accepting low wages and poor living conditions, workers from other States are taking away a lot of work that should have gone to resident workers.

Thiruvananthapuram , July 16

EMIGRATIONS to Gulf and other destinations may have been considered the perfect way out to deal with Kerala's economic backwardness but latest studies indicate that its apparent success has started to cut both ways.

In the early stages, emigration in large numbers had set off a number of beneficial effects that seemed to overshadow the adverse ones, if any.

Now that the process of emigration has come of age, its secondary effects, not exactly beneficial, are beginning to manifest themselves, according to a working paper on `Economic consequences of emigration from Kerala' by Dr K.C. Zachariah and Dr S. Irudaya Rajan of the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram.

Giving statistics, the authors said that during 1999-2004, the number of emigrants had risen from 13.6 lakh to 18.4 lakh. At the same time, there was an increase in the number of Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs) (emigrants plus return emigrants) from 21 lakh to 27.3 lakh.

While maintaining that emigration had led to a rapid increase in unemployment in the State during the period under reference, the authors said that an equally important "adverse" consequence has been the emergence of "replacement migration."

This is a situation where emigrants from Kerala have converted the State into another "Gulf" for many a migrant worker from other States in India. By accepting low wages and poor living conditions, these outside workers are taking away a lot of work that should legitimately have gone to resident workers.

Replacement migration is a consequence of emigration, and is having a significant effect on unemployment and wage rates in the State. It is nullifying a potentially positive spin-off effect of emigration, the authors aver.

In another adverse effect of emigration, the significant increase in disposable income available with households in the State has had its unwelcome effect on the consumption pattern.

Increased consumption levels in the State, however, has not helped local industries as the State continues to source most of the consumer goods from outside. The potential spin-off effect of increased remittances on employment is thus benefiting workers in other States rather than those in Kerala. In this manner, consumerism, the authors said, is draining the State of its remittances.

At the same time, it is leading many a family to financial ruin and, in some cases, even suicide.

Viewed from a different perspective, the increasing economic and political clout of the "new rich" has also created a climate of resentment among some communities in the State, the authors said.

More Stories on : Economy | Employment | Kerala

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