The largest number of blue-collar workers to the Gulf countries is from Uttar Pradesh (86,273 in 2018) and Bihar (59,181). A typical Indian blue-collar worker would now be a labourer from a village near Varanasi slogging away at the construction site of a football stadium in Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
It’s not just Malayalis. The overall number of Indian workers going to the Middle East has fallen significantly over the last 10 years — from 7,62,484 in 2008 to 3,21,721 in 2018 — according to the MEA data.
The MEA numbers confirm the findings of the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) in Thiruvananthapuram. Its Kerala Migration Survey, released in September last year, found an 11.6% fall in the number of workers going to Gulf countries from Kerala in 2018 over the previous year.
S Irudaya Rajan, professor, CDS, says the decline is largely due to falling wages in the Middle East after the 2008 recession. “Due to the rising wages in Kerala, most countries in the Middle East are no longer attractive for young immigrants from the state. Following the global economic downturn, the wages in the Gulf countries have fallen to as low as $100 a month in some cases. The wage differential is insignificant between Kerala and countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and it is no longer attractive to go there,” he says.
Young workers from Kerala, says Rajan, are more aspirational than their counterparts in the North and many who want to immigrate are now learning skills that countries like Australia and Canada demand.
Over the last decade, CDS data point out, low-skilled workers from Kerala have been replaced with workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as well as from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.
The NRI Department of Uttar Pradesh is making efforts to address the issues of its migrant workers. “We understand that due to our demographic advantage, Uttar Pradesh now has the highest number of workers going to the Gulf countries,” says Swati Singh, NRI minister, UP.
The government of Uttar Pradesh, through UPFC-OMRA (UP Financial Corporation-Overseas Manpower Recruitment Agency) is directly engaged in pre-departure orientation programmes that provide information on visa, emigration rules, employment contracts, customs regulations, travel formalities, among others. It also organises skill upgrade programmes for job aspirants — from courses in spoken English and communication to training in computers. The state has also launched UP NRI Grievance Redressal System, with cells at Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Meerut, Noida and Varanasi districts.
Despite the state government’s outreach, the recruitment of rural workers is still happening largely through informal networks — of friends, family and local agents. Experts point out that once they reach the Middle East, working conditions can often be miserable: they live in cramped labour camps and their passports could be confiscated by employers. There are many exceptions as well. “There are anecdotal examples of village boys from economically backward families in eastern UP who have gone to work in the construction industry in Gulf countries for a few years and have returned with a lot of money and bought property. Their families are better off and the state government is benefitting from remittances,” says RP Mamgain, economics professor at the Giri Institute of Development Studies in Lucknow. He adds that many youngsters are arming themselves with training and diplomas in plumbing and carpentry — skills required in the construction sector.
“National data shows that employment opportunities in UP have been declining over the last decade in both formal and informal sectors. Also, unlike Kerala, the UP government has not been able to implement higher minimum wages.
Hence migration to other states and overseas is likely to become a growing trend in the coming years, especially for men in the age group of 20-50 years,” says Mamgain.
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18 Comments on this Story
sasikumar729 days ago
when opportunities are here in abundance why go and toil in the desert? more over those who spent time in facebook can be victims to the draconian blasphemy laws prevailing there. even bosom friends trap our young minds to be put in jail.
Raja Shekhar729 days ago
Interestingly more South Indians are looking to go to South asian countries like Singapore, Malayasia and Vietnam etc the report should have dwelt on the increase in those areas from Inda
Nasir Ali Zaidi731 days ago
Over all presence of Indian expats has been decreasing in UAE due to slow down and increasing use of AI and automation. The latest figure is the head count has gone down by 65% . Historically it was the Malyalis or the Keralites who were present and over a period of time they established in business retail and then the malls and some in construction. There are several retail out lets big malls like LULU, which employs of workers and lower employees down the line. Most of them come from the areas of promoters just to ensure loyalty. precisely this is the reason they will get affected more as they are more in numbers.