The Centre for Developmental Studies in Thiruvananthapuram is all set to launch a ‘Kerala Diaspora Study’ to analyse the present trends in migration in the light of fall in oil prices in global markets and the challenges it pose to Middle Eastern countries.
The study will also focus on the medium- and long-term consequences of important developments, like the global financial crisis of 2009, the drop in oil prices and the stricter immigration policies increasingly followed by countries worldwide and its impact on Kerala's economy.
S Irudayarajan, who heads the study, said its single purpose is to examine ground realities and not to go by unfounded reports that there is a mass exodus from the Middle East.
"This new survey has been titled Kerala Migration Study–KMS@20. It is the eighth a series that began in 1998. The study would be done in 25,000 Kerala households spread over all the 14 districts and the initial results should emerge in April," Irudayarajan told IANS.
KMS is widely regarded as a reliable and authentic source of data for researchers and policymakers. Following the success of the Kerala model, similar initiatives have been launched in Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Goa and Gujarat, from where large numbers of people have spread out across the globe.
Irudayarajan pointed out that structural changes in the global oil market and the consequent fall in oil prices have posed fresh challenges to the oil-producing countries in the Middle East in the last few years.
"The repercussions are being felt in Kerala's economy and its society, which has been a consistent supplier of workers and a receiver of large amounts of remittances. Additionally, the governments in the Gulf countries have been progressively evolving institutional arrangements and programmes aimed at promoting the employment of their own nationals," he said.
He also pointed out that the things are not as rosy what the KMS-2016 study painted, when, for the first time, a decline was noticed in the number of Kerala emigrants abroad – from 2.4 million in 2014 to 2.24 million in 2016.
The state had 1.36 million emigrants when the first KMS was conducted in 1998. The figure rose to 1.83 million in 2003, 2.19 million in 2008, 2.28 million in 2011 and peaked at 2.4 million in 2014.
He added that once the results are out later in the year, the state government can evolve appropriate interventions in education, employment and skill development of prospective migrants as well as the re-integration of returnees into Kerala's economy and society.
Irudayarajan pointed out that it was wrong to come to conclusions based only on the arrivals and departures from the three Kerala airports as this will present a lopsided picture.
"The figures from the airports are only numbers and do not differentiate between workers and others, as they include women and children. Besides, there are a good number of Keralites who go on holidays to the Middle East. Our 2016 survey had already showed that there was a decline and, in a few months from now, we will bring out the actual picture," he added.
Remittances from migrants have been instrumental in sustaining Kerala's economy, constituting 36.3% of the state's net domestic product. It is now widely accepted that migration has played a significant role in poverty alleviation and in raising the living standards of about one-third of Malayali households.