CSES in Media

A paradox of sorts: Kerala is mini-Gulf for migrant workers

This report on CSES study was published in Business Line on 23.10.2007

Migrants constitute as much as 1.3 per cent of Kerala’s population, according to Census 2001.

Now, a study conducted by Dr N. Ajith Kumar, Director of the Centre for Socio-economic and Environmental Studies, has found that nearly 60 per cent of migrants in Ernakulam district come from Tamil Nadu, followed by those from Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The study observed that shortage of local labour, higher wages for unskilled labour in the State and better opportunities for employment led to the influx of migrant labour into the State.

It is interesting to note that while many Keralites migrate to the Gulf countries both for skilled and unskilled work, many of the unskilled workers from other parts of the country consider Kerala as their Gulf. The study forecasts that with signs of rapid growth of the State’s economy and the increase in activities, particularly in the infrastructure and construction sectors, the in-migration is expected to grow faster in the coming years.

Low wages and lack of opportunities in their native villages are the primary factors that have pushed migrants out of their villages. Drought and water scarcity have added to their plight.

Daily wage

The average daily wage for migrant workers in Kerala is Rs 211. While male migrants get Rs 226, women are paid Rs 196. On an average, the earnings were three times their daily wages in Tamil Nadu. The difference was much higher in the case of women migrants, the study noted.

Most of the workers have not migrated permanently to Kerala and in many cases have their family members staying in Tamil Nadu villages. They were found to transfer a good portion of their wages to their home base.

Social issues

The study alerts policy makers, planners and administrators at the State as well as local levels on some of the issues resulting from the rapid growth in migrant population. It pointed out that in view of the rising in-migration, questions related to governance, public health, sanitation, water supply, housing, urban environment, education and infrastructural needs, and law and order warrant greater attention.

The large influx of migrants from different parts of the country with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds puts pressure on governance as well as civic amenities.

Problems are also expected to crop up due to the absence of reliable information on the quantum of in-migration of a floating nature and these migrants are unlikely to be taken into account while making population projections and consequently in planning.

For integration issues relating to migration into local governance, alternative population projections that include migrants of all types have to be made.

The study has recommended that the volume and diversity of the migrant population has to be taken into account in urban planning and implementation of programmes and projects such as Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission and Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Project.