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North leads exodus as South loses interest in Gulf jobs
North leads exodus as South loses interest in Gulf jobs
UP, Bihar Sending More Unskilled Workers Than TN, Kerala

workers The Gulf dream of Indians is changing with workers from north Indian states now leading the exodus to the Middle East. 

Until five years ago, the Middle East was second home to Malayalis and Tamilians. However, data put out by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs shows that Uttar Pradesh has moved to the top position with 1.5 lakh unskilled workers moving to the region last year. In comparison, Tamil Nadu, which was leading in 2006 with 1.5 lakh unskilled emigrants, sent only 68,732 workers in 2011. 

    Bihar too has overtaken Tamil Nadu and had 71,438 emigrants last year. Unskilled workers migrating to Malaysia, Indonesia and countries in the Middle East and North Africa need an endorsement called emigration check required (ECR). This also keeps a tab on the number of people migrating. 

    An official from the office of protector of emigrants said the shift was due to rising labour costs in southern states. “A mason at a construction site earns around Rs 400-500 daily. This translates to an income of Rs 15,000. However, wages in the Mideast are marginally higher than what they were in the 1980s. So why would workers go there?” asks the official. 

    Another reason for the dip is the high literacy levels. “The number of skilled workers has risen with it. Those who have passed plus two no longer qualify for an ECR. However, in the northern states, education levels and wages remain low,” he said. 

    According to professor S Irudaya Rajan of Centre for Development Studies, the trend will continue for some time. “UP will continue to hold the top position for the next ten years,” said Rajan, who heads the migration unit in the ministry. “If the states invests in education, they will benefit.” 

    Consequently, the southern states too are likely to see a drastic change, he said. “Kerala’s labour force is practically zero today,” he said. “They now depend on the immigration of workers to Kerala. Tamil Nadu is not far behind and its workfoce will continue to shrink. In a decade or so, like China is predicting a slump, these states too might have to start importing workers from other countries,” he said.

JUNE 2012