Emigration from Kerala down for first time in Gulf

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Dubai, Sep 12 (UNI) The lure of petrodollars no longer draws Keralites as earlier and there has been a sharp fall in the number of Malayalees opting for employment in the Gulf since 1998, a study says.

Emigration, probably Kerala's top foreign exchange earner since the '70s, is now declining says the study by the Non-Resident Keralites' Affairs Department (NORKA), a state government agency in Thiruvananthapuram set up to look after the NRIs.

The Gulf Times daily in Doha said in a report that the decline is partly because Indian economy was booming, offering better job opportunities back home and as the cost of living in the Gulf has gone up. Working abroad was no longer attractive to low income workers whose wages have not gone up in the Arab countries.

However, the study attributes the decline to the ''drastic changes in the immigration policies of the host countries, aimed at reducing the inflow of foreign workers, the recession in the Gulf economies and the saturation of the labour market of the unskilled and semi-skilled categories''.

Though Kuwait was the chosen destination for Keralites earlier, it had changed after the invasion by Saddam Hussein, the study says.

The UAE, which was the next most preferred place, started tightening norms since the mid-1990s because of fears that the expatriate influx was upsetting the country's demographic balance.

The Gulf jobs have become unattractive as the saving potential had drastically dipped, community sources told the daily. If the current disconnect between incomes and expenses continued in the Gulf countries, there could soon be a reverse movement of people from the Gulf back to their home countries, observers said.


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