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90 percent of Kerala diaspora in Middle East: Study

Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 17 (IANS): As much as 90 percent of Kerala's 23.63 lakh diaspora is in the various Middle East countries, says a study released here Wednesday.

The Kerala Migration Survey (KMS)-2014 is the sixth in the series being conducted by veteran demographer K.C. Zachariah and S. Irudayarajan of the Centre for Development Studies.

The study shows that the United Arab Emirates has attracted 38.7 percent of the Kerala emigrants and retains its first position. However, its relative share has declined from 41.9 percent in 2008.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia improved its relative position, accommodating 25.2 percent Malayalis.

Kuwait and Qatar are the other Gulf countries that have improved their relative share of Kerala emigrants.

The number of Kerala diaspora estimated by KMS-2014 is 23.63 lakh while the corresponding figure was 22.81 lakh in 2011, 21.93 lakh in 2008, 18.38 lakh in 2003 and 13.62 lakh in 1998.

These numbers indicate that emigration from Kerala has been increasing since 1998.

Irudayarajan said: "On the basis of data on emigration from the various KMSes, it is felt that emigration from Kerala has reached its peak. This conclusion, based as it is on a mechanical projection of recent trend, may or may not come true. There are, however, several reasons, based partly on determinants of migration, to believe that emigration from Kerala is likely to peak very soon, most probably before 2015."

He said although the number of emigrants has increased between 2011 and 2014, emigrants per household have decreased during the period.

He said: "It was 29.0 in 2011 but was slightly less in 2014 (28.8). On the other hand, emigrants per population showed a consistent increase through 1998-2014. The figure was 3.4 percent in 2011 that went up to 3.7 in 2014."

The number of return emigrants to Kerala in 2014 was 12.48 lakh, about 52 percent of the number of emigrants.

The corresponding numbers were 11.50 lakh in 2011, 11.57 lakh in 2008, 8.94 lakh in 2003 and 7.39 lakh in 1998.

In general, the number of return emigrants has also been on the increase, exception being the 2008-11 period during which the figures of those coming home decreased by 7,000 people.

He said the glamour associated with Gulf emigration is still very strong among youngsters from the southern state.

Irudayarajan said: "There is an important positive factor in their decision to go abroad instead of working in the state. The chance for inter-generational upward social mobility is found to be brighter among families with emigrants than among families without emigrant. This positive factor encourages continued emigration from the state."

The study revealed that the largest number of emigrants from Kerala in 2014 were from Malappuram district -- 444,100 or 18.8 percent of the total. Kannur district comes second with 290,000 emigrants or 12.4 percent of the overall.

Wayanad and Idukki districts at 13th and 14th positions are at the bottom of the list.

Ten percent of the Kerala diaspora is outside the Gulf region, principally in the US and Britain.

While the relative share of Kerala emigrants in Britain has increased, that in the US has gone down.

One of the surprising aspects of the Kerala emigration pattern is the relative consistency (over the years) of the proportion of households with migrants.

"In 2014, about 19 percent of households had an emigrant. The corresponding proportion was 18.2 in 2011, 18.0 in 2008 and 18.9 percent in 2003," added Irudayarajan.