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June 08, 2009

Kerala's growing "NRK returnee" headache

Knowledge@Wharton has an article on the phenomenon of Non-resident Keralites (NRKs) - basically, workers from Kerla who emigrate to work in the Middle East - returning back home due to the impact of the economic crisis.
Some 200,000 to 500,000 Keralites working in the Gulf are likely to return home by midyear, state finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac told the State Assembly recently. This is a considerable chunk of the estimated two million-plus Keralites working abroad, nearly 90% of them in the Gulf. The 2001 census put Kerala's population at 31.8 million. Non-resident Keralites (NRKs) send back close to US$8 billion in remittances annually, more than double the state's tax revenues. The impact of the reverse exodus -- both economically and socially -- could be devastating, according to experts.

...Adds Faisal Shamsudheen, a Dubai-based journalist-turned-PR manager who lost his job in the crisis: "Construction and banking are the worst hit. Mass redundancies are happening by the day in the private sector and semi-governmental organizations."

..."The main commodity which Kerala exports to the Gulf countries is manpower," says Ajay Kumar, chairman of the Kerala State IT Mission and secretary of IT. "They have been engaged in the construction, real estate and tourism sectors, which have been badly hit by the global slowdown."

...According to the CDS, the number of emigrants from Kerala in 2008 was 2.16 million, up from 1.84 million in 2003. The number of return emigrants was 1.1 million in 2008, up from 890,000 in 2003. So return emigration rose only 210,000, compared with an increase of 320,000 outward-bound. "I don't think there is a crisis," says Rajan, who is chair professor in the research unit on international migration and a fellow at CDS. "A few hundred people may have lost their jobs. But what are they among the two million [Indians] in the Gulf?" Shamsudheen also points out, however, that these figures were calculated before the economic crisis struck the region.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at