Most Keralites forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to return home from the Gulf countries prefer to remigrate as they believe that their chances of landing a decent job here are bleak, according to a new survey.
The survey, 'COVID-19 pandemic and exodus of Keralite emigrant workers from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries: Causes of return, activity status of returnees and economic impact' was conducted by B. A. Prakash, who chaired the fifth State Finance Commission, for the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram. The CDS survey findings are based on personal interviews with 404 return emigrants in six grama panchayats and five municipalities in Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram districts between July and November 2021.
Among other things, the survey report has recommended the State government to announce an anti-recession package to revive the district economies of Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur, which accounted for 41% of the total returnees. These three districts were the worst-hit due to the pandemic-induced exodus, it noted.
Eighty-eight percent of the returnees who were part of the survey felt remigration was a much better option as it offered better chances of regular jobs, assured monthly incomes and savings and periodical remittances to their families. On their return, a majority of them - 70.8% - remained unemployed without an income and faced ''high uncertainty'' in finding jobs.
The influx of returnees created an excess supply of labour force in the local labour market, the survey found. ''The returnees, who had regular jobs and earned monthly wages in GCC countries prior to return, are frustrated in the new labour situation in Kerala,'' the report said.
The CDS survey found that the households of the return emigrants experienced ''total loss of remittances and acute economic distress.'' Citing NORKA figures, it noted that 14.7 lakh Keralites returned home due to COVID-19 till June 22, 2021. Of this, 59% returned from UAE, 11.7% from Saudi Arabia, 9.7% from Qatar and 9.1% from Oman. Loss of jobs and expiry of visas were the major reasons for the exodus.
Nearly half of the 'sample returnees' used to send home, on an average, between ₹12,000 and ₹20,000. About 22% used to send more than ₹20,000 every month. The study estimates that the average amount received by the 'sample returnee' households as remittance ranged between ₹1.47 lakh and ₹2.32 lakh per year. But the pandemic drastically changed the situation, pushing these households into acute economic distress.
The study has suggested that bank loans up to ₹2 lakh should be provided to people who wish to remigrate. Other recommendations included a provision for credit support to start small businesses, pension to return emigrants who suffer from chronic illnesses, creation of a favourable investment climate, and constant assessment of changes in the labour markets of GCC countries and future skill requirements.