THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With mortality and fertility rates nearly touching saturation point and migration playing a critical role in shaping the future, the state is witnessing an advanced demographic transition.
That the Kerala model of economic development and its human development index have been hailed over the years brings out the stark contrast.A policy brief - titled ‘Impact of Mortality and Fertility Transitions in Kerala on Migration and Its Implications for the State’s Economy’ - prepared by the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID) and the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) calls for gender sensitive investments by the state and the Centre to equip the native population for the international labour market.
Prepared in the backdrop of the decline in both international and domestic migration from Kerala, the policy brief indicates Africa will be the new sought-after destination for the state’s workforce in the coming decade with West Asia reaching a saturation point.
To tackle challenges, it also called for a multi-pronged strategy - including equipping the native population for the global market, creating employment opportunities within the state, addressing the issues related to the ageing population and reintegrating the returning emigrants. It also called for expanding the scope of NORKA to a Department of Migrant Affairs to manage the heavy in-migration.According to CMID executive director Benoy Peter, the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Kerala dipped to 10 in 2016, while the national IMR was 34.
Life expectancy at birth has improved to 72.2 years for male and 78.2 years for female during 2011-15 from around 44.2 years and 48.1 years respectively during the ‘50-’60s.Further, the state’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has dipped to 1.6 and, worryingly, negative growth rates are being observed in the case of the young population (0-14 years) during the past three decades due to the combined effect of the reduction in mortality and fertility rates.
The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Kerala dipped to 10 in 2016, while the national IMR was 34
The state’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has dipped to 1.6 and, worryingly, negative growth rates are being observed in the case of the young population
International emigrants from Kerala declined to 2.2 million in 2016
Giving a twist to the demographic transition, the number of international emigrants from Kerala - which peaked during 2013 with 2.4 million people living abroad - declined to 2.2 million in 2016. Simultaneously, migration to other states declined from 1.1 million in 2003 to 0.9 million in 2008 and further declined to 0.65 million in 2016, as per a Kerala Migration Survey.
The statistics underscore the state’s future of human development is dependent on how fast inward migration catches up with the current level of development. On the domestic inward migration front, around 2.5 million migrant workers from other states were estimated to be present in Kerala in 2013.
However, as per the growth patterns indicated by the Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation, 3.5 to 4 million workers from other states were estimated in 2017, although economic stagnation during 2017-18 affected the flow of migrants. This is likely to grow once the current industrial stagnation is over.
The state cannot go forward when there is a serious demographic transition and the state should be better equipped to face the challenges ahead.
A dip in the number of people belonging to the age-group which migrates and the return of Kerala emigrants due to the instability in West Asia are likely to result in a reduction of remittances, adversely affecting the economy which to a large extent is dependent on the emigrant workforce. And it is likely the African region may emerge as a prominent destination as migrant workers from other states fill in an important vacuum and play an indispensable role in the current labour market in Kerala.S Irudaya Rajan, a senior demographer and researcher with CDS, said the policy brief was submitted to the state government and it is up to the government to come up with a solution to solve the emerging crisis.