Some 90 percent of Kerala’s 2.36 million-strong diaspora is in the Middle East, says a study released here on Wednesday.
The Kerala Migration Survey (KMS)-2014 is the sixth in the series being conducted by veteran demographer K.C. Zachariah and S. Irudayarajan of the Centre for Development Studies.
The study shows that the UAE has attracted 38.7 percent of the Kerala emigrants and retains its top position. However, its relative share has declined from 41.9 percent in 2008.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia had increased its relative position, accommodating 25.2 percent Malayalis.
Kuwait and Qatar are the other Gulf countries that have increased their relative share of Kerala emigrants.
The number of Kerala diaspora estimated by KMS-2014 is 2.36 million while the corresponding figure was 2.28 million in 2011, 2.19 million in 2008, 1.83 million in 2003 and 1.36 million in 1998.
These numbers indicate that emigration from Kerala has been increasing since 1998.
Irudayarajan said: “On the basis of data on emigration from the various KMSes, it is felt that emigration from Kerala has reached its peak. This conclusion, based as it is on a mechanical projection of recent trend, may or may not come true. There are, however, several reasons, based partly on determinants of migration, to believe that emigration from Kerala is likely to peak very soon, most probably before 2015.”
He said although the number of emigrants had increased between 2011 and 2014, emigrants per household have decreased during the period.
He said: “It was 29.0 in 2011 but was slightly less in 2014 [28.8]. On the other hand, emigrants per population showed a consistent increase through 1998-2014. The figure was 3.4 per cent in 2011 that went up to 3.7 in 2014.”
The number of return emigrants to Kerala in 2014 was 1.24 million, about 52 per cent of the number of emigrants.
The corresponding numbers were 1.15 million in 2011, 1.15 million in 2008, 894,000 in 2003 and 739,000 in 1998.
In general, the number of return emigrants has also been on the increase, the exception being the 2008-11 period during which the figures of those coming home decreased by 7,000.
He said the glamour associated with Gulf emigration was still very strong among youngsters from the southern state.
Irudayarajan said: “There is an important positive factor in their decision to go abroad instead of working in the state. The chance for inter-generational upward social mobility is found to be brighter among families with emigrants than among families without emigrant. This positive factor encourages continued emigration from the state.”
The study revealed that the largest number of emigrants from Kerala in 2014 were from Malappuram district — 444,100 or 18.8 percent of the total. Kannur district comes second with 290,000 emigrants or 12.4 percent of the overall.
Wayanad and Idukki districts at 13th and 14th positions are bottom of the list.
Ten per cent of the Kerala diaspora is outside the Gulf region, principally in the US and Britain.
While the relative share of Kerala emigrants in Britain has increased, that in the US has gone down.
One of the surprising aspects of the Kerala emigration pattern is the relative consistency (over the years) of the proportion of households with migrants.
“In 2014, about 19 percent of households had an emigrant. The corresponding proportion was 18.2 in 2011, 18.0 in 2008 and 18.9 percent in 2003,” added Irudayarajan.