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India’s outbound blue-collar workforce halved between 2015 and 2017

Saudi Arabia is home to over 3.2 million Indian workers and was for long the top destination for Indian workers but in 2017, only 78,611 Indians found jobs there, as compared to 3,06,642 in 2015.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2018 07:37 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Blue Collar Workers,India,Gulf
Several factors have led to the fall , one of which is the slowing construction business in most West Asian countries.(HT Photo)

The number of Indian blue-collar workers going abroad halved by around 50% between 2015 and 2017, according to the latest government data on workers going to 18 major countries -- an indication of the domestic economic situation in these countries.

Experts say part of the reduction is welcome, a sign of India trying to protect the rights of its citizens by insisting on a basic minimum wage .

A total of 3,91,024 Indians were granted permission to work in 2017 against 7,82, 083 in 2015. In 2016, a total of 5,20,938 Indians travelled for work in the same 18 countries, including the six West Asian nations of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar.

Saudi Arabia is home to over 3.2 million Indian workers and was for long the top destination for Indian workers but in 2017, only 78,611 Indians found jobs there, as compared to 3,06,642 in 2015.

The UAE was the top destination, with 1,49,962 Indian blue collar workers finding jobs in the country, although this number was down from 2,25,512 in 2015.

The numbers are based on tracking clearances to workers with so-called ECR (Emigration Clearance Required) passports.

Several factors have led to the fall . One is the slowing construction business in most West Asian countries. The other is the decision by some of them to create more jobs for their nationals.

“I had to leave the job after ten years. I could see it coming, with construction work getting cut and more jobs being given to the nationals,” said Mohammed Riaz from Kerala who lost his job as a warehouse supervisor in Muscat , Oman last December.

Oman has already announced that it will create 25,000 new jobs for its nationals between December 2017 and June 2018, as the country experiences its worst job crisis in 40 years.

“This was to be expected. Many (Persian) Gulf countries have plans to employ their nationals... Frankly, we can’t control the domestic employment policies of any country”, said an Indian diplomat in a West Asian country who asked not to be named.

The six West Asian countries are the destination for 90% of Indian blue collar workers. But some experts said that the nationalization schemes while aimed at reducing the reliance on foreign labour will take time to come into effect.

“Most nationals will not opt for occupations that migrants are employed in – eg, construction, domestic work. For other higher skilled jobs, there is a need for human resources to have the appropriate skills which in itself presents challenges as structural issues need to be addressed”, said Seeta Sharma, national project coordinator at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

S Irdudayarajan, a migration expert and a former consultant to Union government on migration issues said, “We can’t expect same destinations will keep on bringing the jobs. When crisis hits a region or a country, we should look for other countries to identify jobs and promote legal migration.”

Sharma said another reason why the numbers are coming down is because “wage differentials are not as attractive as they were in earlier years with India insisting on minimum wages for workers.”

First Published: Mar 16, 2018 07:37 IST