The number of Keralites living abroad comes to 16.25 lakh—much less than the unofficial figure of 30 lakh that was widely being cited even officially—according to a comprehensive survey conducted by the State government’s Department of Non Resident Keralites’ Affairs (NoRKA) with the assistance of the Bureau of Economics and Statistics.

The 2011 census had put the State’s population at the level of 333.88 lakh. The number of Keralites working and living abroad (NoRKs or non-resident Keralites) thus comes to five per cent of the number living in the State.

Releasing the results of the survey at a press conference here on Wednesday, NoRKA Minister K.C. Joseph said the government would henceforth rely on the statistics brought out by the new survey, which was a comprehensive one. Of the non-resident Keralites, 14.27 lakh were working people. The countries in the Middle East accounted for 88 per cent of the Keralites working abroad.

The survey also revealed that nearly 50 lakh people living in the State were dependent on the earnings of their relatives working abroad. In other words, the earning of non-resident Keralites financially support [partially or fully] nearly 15 per cent of Keralites domiciled in their home State.

Eighteen per cent of Keralites working abroad—2.28 lakh of them—was from Malappuram district. Idukki district had the least number of people abroad (just 14,575, or around one per cent of the total number). The tribal village of Edamalakkudi was the only village in the State from where there was no person living/working abroad.

United Arab Emirates accounted for 5,73,289 (or 35 per cent) of Keralites living abroad and Saudi Arabia 4,50,229 (28 per cent). As many as 78,357 Keralites were living in the United States of America and 45,264 in the United Kingdom.

As many as 13,25,527 Keralites working abroad (93 per cent of the total) were men and 13,25,527 women (seven per cent). The profession that had brought most number of jobs abroad for women was nursing. Nearly 59 per cent of the women from Kerala working abroad—58,559 of them—are in the nursing profession. Kottayam district had the most number of women working abroad (33 per cent). Among 3,01,980 persons from the State who had spent more than 10 years of their lives abroad, 72,097 (24 per cent) were from Malappuram district. Nearly 12,000 people had participated in the survey as enumerators and supervisors.

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