The figures with Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs show the migration of Indian workforce to foreign countries has been on the decline for two consecutive years now.
And the reasons, according to ministry officials and experts, may not be the usual suspects — the global economic downturn and its aftermath.
Though the global downturn did force several countries to curb the inflow of low-wage migrant workers to address growing domestic unemployment. But, competition with countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal that offer cheaper labour, and better opportunities here in India, experts say, could also be factors responsible for the emerging trend.
In 2008, a total of 8,48,601 Indians went abroad to work. In 2009, the figure dipped to 6,10,272. And this year (till June), only 2,93,809 have migrated.
The said figures pertain to the workforce migrating to 17 major labour markets, including the Gulf in the unskilled and semi-skilled category.
They show no major impact of the global economic crisis on the Indian labour force.
Irudayarajan of Centre for Development Studies — in Thiruvananthapuram — that partners Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry in migration studies said, “Low wages and competition in cheap labour from other countries and better opportunities at home may be factors that have come into play.”
The 2.4 million-strong workforce from Kerala that has found work in Gulf countries is a case in point. He adds “for example, an average of US $100 is what most unskilled workers get in Gulf countries for a month. At the same time the cost for getting a job in Gulf is between 40,000 and 50,000.”
In the wake of the economic recession around 40,000 people from Kerala lost their jobs — in Dubai mostly — and returned home. But 20,000 of them have already returned since. “Labour market is in a flux worldwide,” a ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.