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Indian migration remains high despite economic crisis

Sunday December 04, 2011 12:27:40 PM, Gyanendra Kumar Keshri, IANS

New Delhi: India not just continues to rank first in terms of remittances from its diaspora, just short of $60 billion in 2010, but has also seen a huge jump in migration of its workers to North America, Europe and the Gulf despite economic turmoil there, says a World Bank expert.

"Of late, there is a significant increase in migration of workers from India to North America, notably the US, as also Europe and the Gulf countries," says Dilip Ratha, an expert on migration and remittance issues with the World Bank.

"This is a bit surprising because India is doing reasonably well, while the destination countries are in financial trouble," Ratha, who has co-authored the latest World Bank report on remittances and migration, told IANS in an interview over phone from Geneva.

"This is probably the reflection of an increased access to information and a rise in the income levels of common people, which has enabled them to buy the air tickets and pay for the migration costs."

Ratha said although there are no official figures, the information gathered from Indian embassies and other sources indicate such a trend in migration to different parts of the world. They include young women as well.

But this comes with a cost.

"We had a lot of unskilled migrants going to the Gulf region, but fewer to the US and Europe. Things are changing. They are also going to the US and Europe. The Indian missions and the government have greater responsibility to protect their interests," he said.

Ratha, who co-authored the World Bank's latest "Migration and Development Brief" -- that places remittances to India at $58 billion, ahead of $57 billion for China -- said both in-bound and outbound migration from India was set to increase in the coming years.

According to the World Bank expert, India's remittance flow, which was $55 billion in the previous year, against $51 billion into China, may be more this year, given some developments on the currency markets front.

"Our estimate is based on the average currency rate of three quarters. The recent sharp depreciation in the value of rupee is not factored into it. Considering the last month development, I am sure remittances will be higher," he said.

At 25 million in some 140 countries, India also has the second largest diaspora after China. Over five million Indians are employed as labourers, especially in the Gulf and Southeast Asian countries, where they generally fall victim of exploitations.

Ratha said Indians have been able to mostly save their jobs in the US and European countries during the economic crisis mainly because of their skills and the niche they have carved for themselves.

"Skilled Indian workers are impacted by crisis in terms of their income level but not much in terms of employment. Indians are withstanding the crisis reasonably well and most of them are able to save their jobs."

(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be contacted at and




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