In what can only be called a sharp fall, emigration clearances granted to Indians flying to Gulf countries seeking jobs, have dropped to 21 percent. The figure for the 11-month period ending on 30 November 2018 stands at 2.95 lakh, when compared to 2017.
The outflow of Indian workers to Gulf nations in the last five years peaked at 7.76 lakhs in 2014; however, the decline in 2018 is as high as 62 percent in comparison.
The data was drawn from the e-Migrate emigration clearance data, which records emigration clearances issued to workers holding ‘Emigration Check Required’ (ECR) passports.
Saudi is No Longer ‘The Job Destination’
Last year, United Arab Emirates (UAE) saw the highest outflow of Indians at 1.03 lakhs (35 per cent) of the total workers that were granted emigration clearances. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait comes in at second and third with 65,000 and 52,000 workers respectively.
Saudi Arabia was toppled from the top position as the most attractive job destination among Gulf countries for Indian workers in 2017. According to the Times of India, the Nitaqat scheme for protection of local workers is to be blamed for the decline in expat workers including those from India.
Nearly 3.30 lakh workers had migrated to Saudi Arabia in 2014; however, over a five-year period the figures have crashed by 80 percent. Qatar is the only Gulf nation where higher number of workers migrated in 2018 as compared to previous years.
31% Spike in Migration to Qatar
Around 32,000 workers flying to Qatar were granted emigration clearances as compared to 25,000 in 2017 – a spike of 31 percent. A Mumbai-based recruiter said, “This is a direct result of the high labour requirement in Qatar as the nation is slated to hold the 2022 Football World Cup.”
Sadly, there have been instances of non-payment to Indian workers by dodgy employers. Recently, 600 workers were not paid their dues by a construction agency.
According to the Washington-based think tank ‘The Middle East Institute’, Indian migrant workers are the largest expatriate community in Qatar at an estimated 6-7.5 lakh workers, outnumbering native Qataris. The think tank further adds that, although Qatar has introduced several labour protection reforms, it needs to ensure ethical recruitment and reimbursement of payment through official means.
MEA blames Economic Slow Down in the Gulf
There are several reasons for the falling numbers, according to a reply given by the Ministry for External Affairs in the Lok Sabha last December. The ministry has stated that economic slowdown in Gulf nations caused by falling oil prices coupled with high recruitment of Gulf nationals in public and private sectors has reduced the flow of Indian workers.
Incidentally, several Indian nationals with ECR passports travel to Gulf Countries on tourist visas, which is later converted to an employment visa, conveniently bypassing the e-Migrate system.
The MEA further added that these numbers along with the number of non-ECR passport holders flying to ECR countries for jobs are not reflected in the e-Migrate emigration clearance data.
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