As Lakhs of Overseas Workers Return to Kerala, Fear of Drop in NRI Deposits, Remittances

A report has it that over 5 lakh people returned to Kerala since May, 2020, due to job losses.

New Delhi: As many as 5.52 lakh people have returned to Kerala from foreign countries since May 2020 – at the height of the pandemic – because they lost jobs, Indian Express has reported.

While the pandemic and the resultant economic crisis brought on an unemployment crisis as well, the extent to which Indian workers in foreign shores had been affected is still not clear. The large figure is confined to just Kerala and was compiled by the Department of Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs of the state government from declarations made by those who had returned.

Between May 2020 and January 4, 2021, nearly 8.43 lakh people have returned to Kerala. Out of them 1.40 lakh who said they had lost jobs returned in the last 30 days.

The report said that nearly 2.08 lakh had mentioned that their job visas had expired or cited similar reasons.

While the report quotes an expert on international migration as having mentioned that this is not immediately cause for concern, NRI deposits in the state’s banking sector have been rising and remittances have not been declining significantly either.

However, the World Bank estimates remittances to India will drop by 23% from $83 billion last year to $64 billion this year, according to Reuters.

The Express report quotes an official of State Bank of India, which accounts for 29% of the NRI deposits in Kerala’s banking sector as having said that in the first six months of this fiscal, there has been steady growth in deposits made by NRIs. “Every month, NRI deposits in SBI grew by Rs 300 crore,” Ajaya Kumar, AGM (NRI Cell) of SBI said.

Since December, according to Kumar, with the rise of the rupee against the dollar, there has been a fall in growth of NRI deposits.

A recent Reuters report had essayed how, after coronavirus hit oil prices and local jobs, Kuwait is considering new limits that could force about 8,00,000 migrant workers in the country to leave and slash their remittances, a crucial lifeline for families back home. Kuwait has close to a million Indians, 70% of whom are from Kerala.

Kerala has already devised a plan for the reintegration of incomers, Harikrishnan Nampoothiri, chief of NORKA-Roots, a state government agency for the welfare of expats and returnees, recently said.

It includes upgrading skills to help people migrate again in the future, a financial scheme of up to Rs 3 million ($40,000) so they can start their own businesses, subsidised loans and mentoring camps.

Grim figures define India’s job market too. A total of 6.8 million daily-wage earners lost their jobs in India since April, 2020, according to the recent Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy report.