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Experts call for policy curbs on brain drain, profligate spending in Kerala

Our Bureau

Thiruvananthapuram , July 15

THE Kerala Government must think of formulating a policy for moderating brain drain caused by migration and better utilisation of remittances for its own development, according to expert demographers.

"Emigration needs to be kept at a sustainable level without either causing excessive draining of brain power or driving hard-earned remittance monies out of the State through profligate spending," say Dr K.C. Zachariah and Dr S. Irudaya Rajan in their paper on `Economic consequences of Gulf migration in South Asia: Case studies of Kerala and Sri Lanka'. Both the authors are associated with the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.

Over a period of last five years, not only has Gulf migration become well-established, but some of the second-generation emigrants are entrenching themselves in the host country on a permanent basis. Some others are spreading their wings to an even bigger spectrum of countries.

Remittances to Kerala from abroad rose from Rs 13,650 crore in 1999 to Rs 18,460 crore in 2004. This has resulted in the per capita State income going up by Rs 5,678. The quantum of increase was as much as Rs 10,654 in Thrissur district, Rs 7,681 in Pathanamthitta and Rs 7,677 in Malappuram. Remittances amounted to seven times the budgetary support provided to the State by the Centre.

"Migration is here to stay for a long time to come; the demographic contraction in the State alone can be expected to effect any reversal of the trend, if at all," the authors said.

One way of approaching the uncertainties being thrown up by migration is through educational reforms, taking into consideration emerging remittances-induced job opportunities in the State. It is not that emigration and remittances are not creating new job opportunities, but there is considerable mismatch between skill requirements for these jobs and skill availability among the new crop of SSLC and Plus-Two students. Ways and means should be found to bridge this gap.

Given the emerging impact of what the authors call "replacement migration" on the State's education sector, especially on unemployment and wage rates, it is ideal that a high-level research is instituted post-haste to gauge the extent to which this type of migration has permeated the society. This has to be a major undertaking in view of its importance and technical requirements.

Replacement migration is the term the authors use to describe the emerging situation in which emigrants convert the State in turn to a destination for migrant workers from other States.

By accepting low wages and poor working conditions, these workers are taking away a lot of work that should have otherwise gone to resident workers. This, the authors say, is having significant effect on unemployment and wage rates in the State.

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