KOCHI: As Kerala gears up to receive thousands of expatriates evacuated from the West Asian countries from Thursday, the state is staring at an unprecedented job crisis coupled with an economic shock. Around 1 lakh Keralites in the West Asian countries have either lost their jobs or are returning due to a steep cut in wages. Ensuring social security to them who had generously contributed to the economy will be a strenuous task for the state.
The Planning Board, which studied the impact of Covid-19 and the job crisis on the state economy, has noted that the state has suffered a loss of Rs 2,399.97 crore in terms of remittances during January-February period. Though exact figures are not available, sources said that in April the remittances have plunged to 26 per cent of the monthly average of Rs 8,023 crore.
In view of the challenge posed by the return of NRIs, the Planning Board has proposed policy intervention to rehabilitate the expats. “They have a wide range of skills and there will be persons with managerial expertise among them. There will be a heterogeneous group of multi-task labour, experienced workers in the oil industry, teachers, and others. Adequate policy measures should be taken to absorb and re-integrate them in the state labour market,” the report said.
The challenges before the state government includes rehabilitation, re-integration and re-emigration of expats. The government should support them by helping them to avail of moratorium on loans, health insurance, re-integration of diverse groups of skills in the labour market of the state and skilling them to help re-emigration.
The shrinking revenue resources pose hurdles to the states efforts to rehabilitate them. “The government should try to integrate the skilled expats returning from West Asia into the state’s job market. These people are skilled and well-disciplined with 5 to 20 years experience. The manual labourers who were employed as carpenters and masons in West Asia should be encouraged to find employment in the state’s construction sector.
The return of the migrant labourers has created a void and these people can be integrated into the sector. NORKA should create a labour bank in association with the labour department to help them,” said Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation (GIFT) professor Dr N Ramalingam. However, the question remains whether returnees will be willing to take up blue collar jobs shedding the ‘Gulf-man’ social status.
“There are many people who are working as accountants in the West Asian countries and they can take up jobs like GST and Income-Tax practitioners. The GIFT has proposed to organise a two-month training for them. Others can be provided training and encouraged to launch start up firms providing soft loans,” he said.