CHENNAI: Around 2.2 million people from Tamil Nadu live abroad and as many as 1.3 million were returning emigrants, who came back to the State after working abroad, according to the 2015 Tamil Nadu Migration Survey commissioned by the Non-Resident Tamils (NRT) Welfare Board through funding from the Tamil Nadu Planning Commission.
S Irudaya Rajan from the Centre for Development Studies, who was the principal investigator for the survey, said it was conducted with a representative sample of 20,000 households across the 32 districts of the State. “In 2013, Tamil Nadu overtook Kerala in terms of workers granted emigration clearance. This motivated us to take up the survey,” said Irudaya Rajan.
The largest number of emigrants (4.1 lakh) from Tamil Nadu were reportedly in Singapore followed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia that accounted for four lakh and 3.5 lakh respectively. Most number of emigrants from the State were from Chennai followed by Coimbatore and Ramanathapuram districts.
Comparing Tamil Nadu with Kerala, a State known for its emigrant population, one out of 10 households in Tamil Nadu had one or more emigrants against one out of five households in Kerala, the survey said. But while the interests of returning emigrants to Kerala were reasonably protected, there were no organisations such as returnees’ associations in Tamil Nadu, he said.
The survey indicated that the average cost of migration also varied between the two States. While the average cost incurred by an emigrant from Tamil Nadu was Rs 1,08,112, it was Rs 76,243 in Kerala. The reason was attributed to the reliance of people in Tamil Nadu on agents while in Kerala, people emigrated with the help of friends or relatives.
Bernard D’ Sami from the Loyola Institute of Social Science Training and Research, who collaborated with Irudaya Rajan for the product, said that 63.4 % emigrants faced problems related to food while 50% faced accommodation problems. As a silver lining, most of these emigrants return with skills, thereby finding employment with little difficulty, he added.
Bringing the gender dimension of the emigration scenario into focus, the survey reported that one million women in Tamil Nadu were women left behind by emigrant husbands.
While many of these women agreed that they could repay their debts, build a house and educate their children, 69.9% of them experienced loneliness, 38.9 per cent were insecure and 60.5 took up added responsibilities.
Irudaya Rajan said that it was imperative to facilitate an employment exchange for returning emigrants and pre-departure training be given for emigrants.