The Return Diaspora: A Study on Gulf Returned Malayalees From Kerala

By Sreelakshmi Haridas


People have been on the move since the very beginning of human civilization. Migration has been a widespread social phenomenon for many centuries. More individuals than before, now reside in a state or nation different than their place of birth. The term “migration” refers to the voluntary or forced relocation of people from one location to another for a variety of reasons. For a very long time, migration has been on the rise in India. Kerala is one of the Indian states that has experienced widespread migration. Kerala has the highest levels of international migration; According to the United Nations, India’s diaspora is the world’s biggest, with 18 million Indians residing outside their motherland by 2020. Indian diaspora is spread across 136 countries in the world which accounts for the largest diaspora community in the world. They contribute 13% of global remittance and 3.2% to Indian GDP. According to the International Organization for Migration Report, the UAE, the United States, and Saudi Arabia are the countries with the most Indian migrants. In the Middle East, there are around 8.5 million Indians employed. Global factors have led to a fall in overall migration rates in recent years. Oil price fluctuations, economic slowdowns, and recent nationalization initiatives in Gulf nations are all contributing to this downward trend. As per the Economic Times, “The overall number of Indian workers going to the Middle East has fallen significantly over the last 10 years. This dissertation is divided into 7 chapters starting with an introduction and review of the literature where the researcher has identified the research gap in existing literature and tries to shed light on those overlooked areas. Later chapters include the methodology used in the study, data analysis and interpretations, findings and policy suggestions and conclusion. The study focuses on the afterlife of returned diaspora to the Kerala state and how it has affected the economy and personally the life of a returned emigrant. The study also finds some interesting facts related to the life of returned migrants and their future. The study is concluded by recommending some policies for the rehabilitation and betterment of the future of the returned and returning diaspora who once were the pillars of the development of the Kerala state.


God’s Own Land — Kerala known for its tourism potential is the most developed among the Indian states with a HDI score of 0.790 which is comparable with developed European countries. This is largely attributed to the vast improvements the state has made in the fields of sanitation, health, education and poverty-reduction.

According to the 2011 census, Kerala’s literacy rate stands at 93.91% with a female literacy rate of 91.98%, which is also the highest in the country. The infant mortality rate (IMR) of 12 per 1,000 births is comparable with developed countries like the US and the State has an overall life expectancy at 74.9 years, 72 for men and 77.8 for women, which is an indicator of good healthcare facilities and improved socio-economic factors in Kerala. With a sex ratio of 1084 (census 2011), Kerala is the only state in the country where the female population exceeds the male population.

Kerala, one of India’s most developed states, is the thirteenth largest state out of 29 states in India with Malayalam as the official language of the State. According to the 2011 census, the population of Kerala is over 3 crores with a density of 860 persons per sq. km. Kerala also has a high migration rate, with many Keralites moving out for work or study or other reasons. The community known for being enterprising and hardworking are spread across the globe. Interestingly, the State also attracts a large number of migrants. A large number of people come to Kerala in search of employment and education. Every year, the migrant worker population in Kerala increases by 2.35 lakh people (Times of India).

Kerala has the highest levels of international migration. People from Kerala migrate to different parts of the world in search of jobs, educational facilities, a better standard of living etc. According to World Bank 2021 data, India is the largest remittance-receiving country with an inflow of $89 billion. In 2020, Kerala accounted for the highest share, about 20 percent of the total remittances into India which stood at $83 billion according to the World Bank. The Inward Remittance Survey of the Reserve Bank of India shows that Kerala on average receives 19% of total inward remittances into India. This is a clear indication of the importance of the migrant population to the State economy.

The contributions made by the Non-Resident Keralites, especially in the Middle East or commonly known as “Gulf countries” is most significant. This is due to its immense contribution to the development of key sectors of education, health, trade and commerce, hospitality, tourism, etc.; which all could be seen as indicators to the development of an economy.


People have been on the move since the very beginning of human civilization. Factors ranging from unemployment, better educational opportunities, better standard of living or the need to avoid violence, war and persecution drive migration. In today’s globalized world, migration for economic and political reasons is widespread.

“The act of physically relocating from one region to another region is known as Migration. Individual migration, migrating with the family or in a large group of people, may migrate over to different places for different reasons.” (NCERT, Class 8th, n.d.). Any kind of human movement from one place to another can be called migration. Although migration cannot be differentiated, experts say they could be classified into two main types; Internal and International. Migration can be voluntary or forced or by choice or out of necessity.

Reasons for migration are classified into two- push factors and pull factors.

● Push factors are reasons that compel a person to leave their place of residence – Unemployment, lack of study facilities, low standard of living, war situations, extreme climatic conditions
● Pull factors are reasons that attract a person to move to a new place – better job opportunities, better living conditions, better infrastructure and educational opportunities, the promise of greater freedom


The origin Of the word ‘diaspolü’ is dia speiro which is from ancient Greek that means to sow over. A diaspora is dispersed people with origins in a different nationality in terms of their boundaries of origin. Historically, the term diaspora was used to describe the enormous dispersion of a population from its native lands (Diaspora I Social Science I Britannica, n.d.). While the term “diasporas” was initially meant to describe individuals who were forced to leave their homes, it is now more commonly used to describe those Who identify With a “homeland” yet live outside of it.

According to the United Nations, India’s diaspora is the world’s biggest, with 18 million Indians residing outside their motherland by 2020. According to the International Organization for Migration Report, the UAE, the United States, and Saudi Arabia are the countries with the most Indian migrants. The Indian diaspora is present in every continent and area, from the Gulf countries to Northern America, Australia, and the United Kingdom, with an estimated 18 million migrants. According to research, India’s sizable diaspora is spread over a number of major destination countries, with the UAE (3.5 million), the United States (2.7 million), and Saudi Arabia (2.5 million) housing the most Indian migrants. Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, and the United Kingdom are among the nations that have received substantial numbers of Indian migrants. (Indian Diaspora Largest in the World, 18 Million Living Outside India in 2020, Says UN, n.d.)

During the colonial period, millions of indentured laborers were sent to foreign countries in different parts of the world by British people. Indentured labourers, on the other hand, did not have better living conditions than slaves. In recent years, the second generation of migrants has migrated to neighbouring nations as professionals, craftsmen, traders, and factory workers in quest of economic opportunities.

The oil boom in Gulf countries in the 1970s resulted in a continuous exodus of India’s semi-skilled and skilled labour. Entrepreneurs, storeowners, professionals, and businesspeople also flocked to Western countries. Professionals such as physicians, engineers, software engineers, management consultants, financial experts, media individuals, and others relocated to nations such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, among others. These professionals have the distinction of being among the most educated, well-paid, and prosperous groups. After liberalization, the Indian Diaspora became one of the most powerful diasporas in the world in the 1990s, thanks to education and knowledge-based emigration.

Indian diaspora is spread across 136 countries in the world which accounts for the largest diaspora community in the world. They contribute 13% of global remittance and 3.2% to Indian GDP. Even the contribution to the country that they migrated to is also significant.

Indian diaspora is recognized in contributing to the development in many sectors in India such as education, health, tourism, technology and many more. The Indian diaspora can be seen as a bridge that will connect the country with rest of the world in accessing technology, resources, markets, expertise and even knowledge. It is Indian diaspora that contributed to the most of the development that we witness today in our country. For example; Kerala in 1970s was with only one international airport for the whole state which was Thiruvananthapuram/Trivandrum International airport. But as the pattern of migration of the population shifted from domestic to international in the state, three more international airports were built within the state itself over the course of time. Now the state has in total 4 international airports in different parts of the state, this could be very well recognized as the contribution of Indian diaspora to the Indian Economy (Migrants at a Crossroads, n.d.). The Indian Diaspora has also contributed to science and technology as well as aids in the field of socio-economic development and poverty reduction. It is also a major source for Indian Market development, Foreign Direct Investments etc. (Sansad TV, 2022).

Each year the migrant workers from Gulf countries send a major portion of their income back to their family or home state, Kerala as a savings. The funds transferred by the migrants to their home state are known as Remittances. These remittances are the savings from the hard-earned money of migrant workers which are used by the family back at home for several purposes such as healthcare, education, maintenance, food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities as well. These remittances are the powering fuel to the domestic economy from abroad as well as the major source of income.

India is the country that receives the largest share of remittances due to this Indian diaspora and Kerala is the state that’s receiving remittance in a larger share out of whole India. These huge remittances received by the state have helped in its overall development since the beginning of international migration and continues to be a major source of income for the Government. The majority of the effects, particularly in the migrant households, are caused by remittances and their use. Household consumption is estimated to be the most common end use of remittances. Living expenditures were reported as the primary expenditure by 86% of the families. Education was another major item that consumed remittances. (Zachariah Mathew, 1999).


For a long time, India has seen a growing tendency in migration; both internal and foreign migration. Kerala is one of India’s states where large-scale migration has occurred. In the final part of the 20th century, migration has been the most dynamic aspect in Kerala’s otherwise diminishing growth landscape. Thanks to migration which has been a key contributing element, Kerala has now witnessed a revolutionary and large-scale development. Reforms in agriculture, introduction of poverty alleviation programmes, social welfare laws have all contributed less to poverty reduction in Kerala compared to migration. According to the report (Indian Diaspora Largest in the World, 18 Million Living Outside India in 2020, Says UN, n.d.) approximately 1.5 million Keralites today live outside of India who send almost 40,000 million back home in the form of remittances. The major reason for this is the Gulf boom or the oil boom that happened in the Gulf countries.

Large-scale oil reserves were found in the Gulf nations in the 1930s and with the formation of OPEC these nations emerged as major global oil exporters. The low population and lack of skilled labour forces forced these nations to open their boundaries to migrants. To attract labor forces from other countries of the world they eased their Immigration rules and regulations. Lack of jobs & high unemployment rates during the 1950s in India saw many Indians looking at Gulf nations for jobs with Kerala’s manual labourers at the vanguard. The majority of migrants to the Gulf were largely semi-skilled labourers along with middle-class professionals and business people. These migrants have played a very significant role in the development of the Kerala economy since then.

Between 1972 and 1983, the “Gulf Boom” saw large-scale movement of individuals from Kerala, India, to the GCC states. The migration of numerous migrant workers from Kerala to the GCC states, continues to this day, although in fewer numbers since the global financial crisis of 2008 began to affect the area.


In the Middle East, there are around 8.5 million Indians employed. Global factors have led to a fall in overall migration rates in recent years. Oil price fluctuations, economic slowdowns, and recent nationalization initiatives in Gulf nations are all contributing to this downward trend. As per the Economic Times, “The overall number of Indian workers going to the Middle East has fallen significantly over the last IO years — from 7,62,484 2008 to 3,21,721 in 2018”. Another aspect that has tarnished the shine of formerly highly sought after ‘Gulf labour’ is the lack of increased salaries m the Gulf as a result of the global economic crisis. Middle Eastern countries are now pressing for the nationalization of jobs in the private sector. The Saudi Arabian government has unveiled the ‘Nitaqat,’ or Saudization, initiative, which intends to fill jobs with Saudi citizens. Kerala has held the top spot among India’s high migration states for over five decades, and the influence it has had on the state’s socioeconomic landscape is still high. Despite these massive numbers, Gulf migration in Kerala is progressively decreasing, with an drop from 2013 to 2018.


The last two years the whole world came to a standstill ravaged by a single virus. Covid pandemic has forced nations across the world to redraft their plans for the future, learn new words such as lockdown, quarantine, and also transit to a digital world with work from home and online education. The corona virus has killed not only the lives and daily life routine of people around the world, but also the economic stability of all nations.

The pandemic is like the last nail in the coffin for migrants from our country, especially to Keralites. When the lockdown was announced in India, many migrant workers, both internal and international, suffered immense agony to return to their home state. Pandemic saw tragic stories of migrant workers walking to their hometown, people from Gulf countries pleading for the government to bring them back to home where they feel safe and secure rather than staying up in a different place with no income and no food.

There was a large number of inflows of Indian citizens especially from the Middle East and majority of them were from Kerala. Nonresident Malayalees in Gulf countries already facing difficulties to keep up their job and thereby providing income to their family back in Kerala were badly hit by the pandemic which forced many of them to come back home with nothing in their hands. Initially during the lockdown period, with no income and food, most of them lived in labour camps to save the huge rents and spread of the virus was very fast among them. Those who could not make it into the hospitals even died in the camps without seeing their near and dear ones for one last time. To help the migrant workers, their families as well as students abroad, the Government of India launched the Vandhe Bharath mission as the flights were cancelled for an indefinite period of time. Pandemic contributed to the slow but definite beginning of the Gulf dream to the common man in Kerala.

Migration is the main element that reduced poverty, unemployment and raised the living standard of people in Kerala. During the initial phase of the Gulf boom, more than half of the migrants from India were from the state. The ascending rate of migration to Gulf countries from Kerala by Malayalees was visible from the 2000s till 2010, afterwards there was a stagnant rate and then started declining slowly. The registered declining rate from the state shows that the Gulf boom, which is a prime location for all the Malayalees when thinking about employment opportunities abroad, started to fade away slowly. Despite the slight increase in oil prices last year trying to regain the Gulf economy, the Gulf economy has already suffered a huge setback. The GCC countries are now becoming stricter and less welcoming to potential immigrants from other countries especially India, that constitutes a major part of their immigrants. This is mainly because of the Nationalization policies introduced such as Nitaqat, recession, economic stagnation and other family taxes. The falling wage rates and frequent layoffs due to these are the major reasons for the decline in migration rate to Gulf countries from Kerala.

Comparing migration rates from Kerala and India, after 2010 when the migration rate of Kerala to Gulf countries were stagnant, the migration rates from India were still in an increasing stage. Similarly, when Kerala saw a diminishing rate in the migration graph, India’s graph was still climbing up. Northern states in India like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar now seem to have an increased number of Gulf emigrants. The rise in blue-collar jobs from these states have been in trend for the past IO years. Even though overall Indian migrants have seen a declining rate to the Gulf countries, migrants from North and West India seems still high in number, which actually implies North is now becoming the new Kerala in terms of high migrant workers to Gulf countries and remittances. If it was Kerala in the first place that saw bulk emigrants to Gulf countries, now it is Uttar Pradesh and other North states that have seen the huge emigrant wave to Gulf countries.


The return of the Gulf Malayalee diaspora since 2018 owing to the oil and financial crisis in the Middle East, was aggravated by the pandemic. Several Gulfnations have called for the repatriation of Indian employees after recognizing their inability to meet the requirements of such a large workforce. Some returned to their homes and started life afresh. In the process, a substantial number of nonresident Malayalees have had a life-changing experience.

Media, both print and electronic, have highlighted the tragic stories of the Indian population in the Gulf and their struggle to get back home. But no empirical study has been done on the experiences of the diaspora with the stringent lockdown, their fight for survival, the return to their loved ones back in Kerala and the opportunities and challenges that were waiting here for them. Many of the Malayalees struggled to make a living after returning to their homeland, many of those who came used their last savings to buy tickets and did not know what to do next when they returned home. The returned diaspora tried to start small businesses, engaged in farming, just to provide for their family. Tragic stories of suicide have also been registered.

The return of the Malayalee diaspora from the Gulf has had a huge backlash on the Kerala economy with the drastic fall in remittances. State will also be challenged to draft specific policies to help the Gulf returnees to get back to normal life. Research is necessary in order to comprehend the incredible experiences and economic impact of the return diaspora. This study is also important in planning for the future of Gulf returned Malayalees who were once the strong pillars in the development process of the Kerala state. The study focuses on four aspects of Gulf returned Keralites- afterlife of those who returned from GCC states since 2018 from social and economic perspectives, their opportunities in their motherland, the impact of the reduced remittances on Kerala state economy and the steps taken by the state to support their people who returned from Gulf countries.


With these research gaps found in already done researches the following objectives of this study were formed;

l. To analyze the impact of the returned diaspora on Kerala’s economy.
2. To study the afterlife of Gulf Returned Malayalees of Kerala from both social and economic perspectives.
3. To study the opportunities for the returned Keralites in their own land.
4. To examine the policies with respect to rehabilitation of people as well as for the prosperity of people who have returned from Gulf countries to Kerala.


When the topic was selected after having a proper literature review, there were some gaps related to this. This was then identified as the general research questions of this study. They are;

1) What are the experiences that a gulf returned Malayalee faced once they were back in Kerala with no job to support their family?
2) Did they face any difficulties in both social and economic aspects, if yes what are they?
3) How different is their life now compared to their life when they had job in Gulf countries?
4) What was the response from the Government’s side to support their strongest source of income?
5) The policies adopted by the government of Kerala are beneficial to them and how long will it take to get it established?


To understand the afterlife of the Gulf returned Malayalees from Kerala from socio-economic perspective, a questionnaire was circulated. The questionnaire was filled out by 103 Gulf-returned Malayalees from Kerala of different districts.


The survey included both male and female but it should be noted that the number of male respondents were higher than female respondents; Out of 103 respondents, 65% were male and 35% were female.

Male members are always seen as the breadwinner of a family from the beginning. It was male emigrants who migrated to Gulf countries most till the 90s. They were the working force in the family who sends back the hard-earned money to their home back in Kerala. Little later, after 2000, even women started to migrate to Gulf countries. This owes to the shift of perspective that women are also the breadwinner of the family. It should be noted that both tradition and societal beliefs had an impact on the migration of Men and Women.


Out of 103 working respondents, 40 respondents were from the category of 18-28 years. While 29-38 years are of 24 respondents and 39-48 years are of 15 respondents. In the category of 49 and above age, there are 24 respondents.

The working population is given more importance here. It is the working population who brings economic growth and welfare and the contributor for the increased flow of remittances. There are a plethora of reasons for the young people to migrate to gulf countries, which includes poverty, unemployment, poor standard of living etc. Youth, who are seen as the breadwinner of the family choose or are forced to leave the country. Several benefits are there related to Gulf migration that provides an emigrant with new opportunities, different paths in their lives, better employment opportunities, an opportunity to gain professional experience and communication and other skills etc. This not only develops them personally but also contributes to the development of India and its economy.


The highest number of respondents, 45 emigrated to UAE in GCC nations followed by 16 from Oman. People migrated to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are almost equal i.e. 13 each. Number of people migrating to Qatar and Bahrain are 9 and 7 respectively.

The most exciting factor is that a huge number of emigrant populations from Kerala are still seeing UAE as their prime destination in the GCC. Reasons behind this could be the vast amount of professional opportunities available, perfect lifestyle, safety, hub for almost all the businesses, tax free earning etc., Malayalees from Kerala are so fascinated towards all these benefits and thus UAE remains the better option for everyone who migrates for better opportunities. Malayalees migrating from Kerala to other GCC countries such as Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar or Saudi Arabia, is comparatively very much less. This is because the nationalization policies are stricter in these countries and the opportunities are very less for the new people migrating to these GCC countries compared to UAE. To some extent, the political scenarios that exist in these countries are also a reason for the Malayalees not to choose other GCC countries less compared to the UAE.


75 respondents out of 103 in total said that their job was related to the educational qualification that they had before in Gulf countries while 28 respondents mentioned that the job that they had in Gulf countries was not related to the educational qualification they had before.

People are of the opinion that they got their job according to their educational background. People with higher secondary educational level to higher level of education have got their job according to their educational title that constitutes from Labors on contract basis or waiters to even IT professionals, Doctors, Nurses or Business people. Only a very few have shifted their career from what they actually studied.


38 respondents have an annual income below two lakh and 15 respondents are in the category of Rs. 2, 00,000-4, 00,000 per annum. The number of people receiving the salary of 4, 00,000- 6,00,00() per annum is 18 and the number of people in the salary category of 6, 00,000-8, 00,()00 is 15. There are only 3 respondents who receive an annual salary package in between 8,00,000- 10,00,000 while there are 14 respondents who receive an annual salary in the category of and above.

Compared with annual income received by the Gulf returned malayalees in Gulf as well as in India, many people who received a decent salary in Gulf countries actually came down to the salary slab less than that after their return. People who receive an annual salary package of 10,00,000 and above in gulf countries were 21 which reduced to 14 after their return to Kerala. Similarly, people who received O-2,00,000 per annum salary package were 14 in Gulf countries but after their return to Kerala it increased to 38. To conclude, when these emigrants returned to their home state Kerala, they are now facing a situation of low pay scale and thus the need to readjust to the new lifestyle arises.


The highest number of respondents which is 76 out of 103 forming 73.78% of emigrants, migrated to Gulf countries due to job opportunities available there. There were also a group of respondents which is 13 people out of 103 respondents who migrated to Gulf countries after their marriage. The component mentioned as others are the people who migrated to gulf countries because of business, to join the family etc.; which is 14 out of 103 respondents.

Malayalees from Kerala saw Gulf countries as their dream land to fulfil all their dreams. Gulf countries are short in manpower or the experts in certain sectors. In addition to this, native from Gulf countries are much more stubborn in doing only white-collar jobs. India, especially Malayalees from Kerala saw this opportunity to alleviate the existing worst poverty in their family, so people started migrating to Gulf countries who are in need of labourers at cheap wage rates to boost their economy. Once people secured a safe job and better living facilities, they started to take their families as well with them with an intention of staying together and a developed country atmosphere that will give their future generation with great exposure.


The highest number of Malayalees returned back to Kerala from Gulf countries due to the Pandemic situation which is 40 out of 103 respondents. This is followed by Recession with 25 out of 103 respondents while 15 respondents recorded that their reason for return back to Kerala is because of the Nationalization policy by GCC. 13 of people returned back due to economic stagnation and 3 people returned back due to oil price fluctuations. The other IO people recorded their reason to return back as others that includes voluntary or normal retirement, migration to other countries, or wanted to return back to Kerala etc.

The migration graph was highest during the time period 2012-22 and the highest return migration was also during that time period. This mainly owes to the economic stagnation, nationalization policies introduced by GCC countries, recession etc., along with this pandemic was also like the last nail on the coffin of Gulf as a paradise for Malayalees that was prevalent and visible post 2010.


A total of 56 respondents of the total recorded the responses stated that they had enough savings when they returned back to Kerala. However, 47 out of 103 respondents recorded that they were not having sufficient savings when they returned back to their home state.

The people who had enough savings are mostly from the higher salary category people, who managed to have a proper life even after their return to Kerala. But it was the other section of people who received lesser salary packages per annum whose life was actually affected. They struggled to maintain their life once they returned and to find a job to start their life afresh again.


Out of 103 respondents 4 respondents strongly agreed that they had sufficient and enough savings to start a new life, while 18 respondents just agreed that they had sufficient savings to commence their life afresh including their family. 44 respondents stated that they were in a neutral condition to have new beginnings. The number of respondents who disagreed with the statement was 21. The rest 16 responses were that they strongly disagree to have sufficient savings when they return to Kerala from Gulf countries.

As mentioned before, people who received a lesser pay scale in Gulf countries found it difficult to have sufficient savings after their return to Kerala. Pay scale of less than 4,()0,()0() per annum in Gulf countries reveals how pathetic their expenditure and investment situations are; therefore, to have enough savings for them to start a new life after their return from Gulf countries is very difficult. People who receive a normal salary actually constitute a neutral opinion; they might not be having a significant amount in savings but will have some amount as their savings. The people who strongly agreed and just agreed to have sufficient savings to start a new life are actually who received pretty good salary packages in Gulf countries.


62.1 % acknowledged the support of their relatives and friends when they returned back to Kerala from Gulf countries. 15.5% of responses stated no for the support from their relatives and friends when they returned back to Kerala, while 22.3% of responses noted as maybe, that shows the half mind of the respondent’s answer when asked about the support they get from their relatives and friends. This could also mean that one group supported and encouraged them while the other group were not that supportive towards the Gulf returned emigrant from Kerala.


Out of 103 respondents, 57 people stated that they were able to find a job in Kerala after their return from Gulf countries. But 46 respondents could not find a job in Kerala after their return from Gulf countries.

Most of the people were able to find a job back in their home state after their return from Gulf countries, but at the same time it also should be noted that the salary package or the pay scale got reduced compared to gulf countries. Only a few of them actually retained their salary package with a good position and others are engaged in small businesses or casual works. A significant number of people still could not find a job and are unemployed.


The rating scale of 1-5 indicates the following;

  1. Least role
  2. Partial role
  3. Neutral opinion
  4. Somewhat big role
  5. Huge role

17.5% responded that Kerala government has got a very small or least role in supporting the Gulf returned migrants from Kerala who once were the pillars of support in the development of that economy. While 15.5% of responses noted that the Kerala government has got a partial role in supporting the Gulf returned Malayalees of the state. 22.3% of people showed a neutral response to the question on their opinion about the state government’s role. 19.4% were of the opinion that the government had a somewhat big role and on the other had 25.2%, which is the majority of opinion recorded that the role of the Kerala government in supporting their people who returned back from Gulf countries have a huge role.

A greater number of people believe that the role of state government is significant in supporting its people who returned back from Gulf countries. The Kerala government should be addressing the issues, challenges and other hardships faced by the return migrants from the Gulf who are the pillars of the development of the state. Government should be devising proper reintegration or rehabilitation strategies for them so as to help them support in their destitute who were once the greatest element in contributing to the development of the state through remittances.


The Current employment status of 56.3% respondents is employed after their return from Gulf countries and 26.2% are still unemployed. 17.5% are yet to hear from different firms that they have applied for a job after their return from Gulf countries to Kerala.

People have managed to secure jobs after their return from Gulf countries to Kerala; a few of them actually retained their salary package with good positions and others are engaged in small businesses or casual works. The unemployment situation prevails and a noteworthy number of people are unemployed or are yet to find another job. Reverse migration has a huge impact on the employment opportunities as well as on the economy of Kerala.


Only 19 respondents out of 103 were able to secure jobs again in gulf countries once they returned back to Kerala after the cancellation of the old job visa. 37 people could not secure any job again in Gulf countries after their return and 47 people recorded their answer as “Did not try again” for the same question.

The nationalization policies of GCC countries, economic stagnation, recession, are all the reasons why most of them could not secure a job visa once again in Gulf countries after their return. The Gulf fantasy is slowly losing it essence and getting difficult to secure a job visa. The people who managed to secure a job visa again are mainly from White collar job background. Gulf countries are now finding substitutes for Indian labors with Africans or Philippines who are ready to work for cheaper wage rates than Indians. This has led to decreased job opportunities for the people migrating from India especially Kerala. A huge number of people actually did not try again to secure a job in Gulf countries, this might be because they saw no future or uncertainty regarding opportunities in Gulf countries, or even saw other destinations abroad to migrate and have better opportunities there than Gulf countries.


The highest number of responses which is 44 out of 103 respondents are of the opinion that they wanted or agree to move back if given an opportunity to move back to Gulf countries. 18 respondents recorded their opinion that they disagree to move back to Gulf countries again while 41 respondents are unsure or of the opinion “maybe” if given an opportunity to move back to Gulf countries.

Gulf countries are still the paradise for Malayalees, but the Gulf boom has lost all its effects especially since 2018. A huge number of people find that migrating to Gulf countries is the solution for having a better life or better employment opportunities. The low pay scale in the home state or in the country makes them keen to migrate again to Gulf countries. At the same time a section of people who retired from their jobs or lost their jobs in Gulf countries are seeing migration to Gulf countries is not a good option as life is uncertain there.


Gulf countries are the paradise for Keralites. Migration to Gulf countries has helped a lot of families to have a better standard of living as well as poverty alleviation. In mid 1960s, the gulfs oil wells were in demand for labour working for low wage rates and India with a huge rate of unemployment saw this opportunity as a boon and started migrating. Malayalees were in front line to grab this opportunity, the first generation who migrated to gulf countries knew nothing about what and where they were going. They had the strong will power generated from poverty and low standard of living to work hard. It was their sweat and tears that made the developed gulf nations what we see now which was once a deserted area. It was a common phenomenon once that at least one person out of every third household in Kerala will be working in Gulf countries. People say it out a loud with lot of pride that their brother, husband, son or anyone from the family is working or doing business in Gulf countries. Started with few thousand people migrating in 90s lead to lakhs of people migrating per year from Kerala in 2000s. While India is the largest country receiving the remittances Kerala is the largest state in India who receives a large number of remittances from its own people. The contributions made by the nonresident Keralites especially in the middle east or commonly known as “Gulf countries” among the people, are the most significant. It is regarded as significant because this contributed to many developments in the sectors of education, health, trade and commerce, hospitality, tourism, etc.; which all could be seen as indicators to the development of an economy. (International Migration from Kerala I Centre for Development Studies, n.d.)

In 1998, almost 13,61,919 were the total count of people who migrated internationally. By 2003, it rose up to 18,38,478. The graph continued to increase till 2013 with the number of people migrating internationally to be officially marked as 24,00,375. After 2013, there recorded a dip in the number of people migrating internationally from Kerala; In 2016 it was 22,71 , 725 and in 2018 it was 21 ,2 1 ,887 was the total number of people who migrated internationally from Kerala. (Kerala Emigrants in the Gulf, n.d.), (Nil Zachariah, 2018), (Nil Zachariah, 2016), (Rep_norka_migrants_2009.Pdf, n.d.) It is evident from this survey that there is a significant decrease in the number of migrants from Kerala to foreign lands since 2013. (“An Expert Explains, ” 2020)

The return of Malayalee emigrants from Gulf countries to Kerala has definitely affected not only their life but also a significant impact on the state economy as well. The history of brotherhood between Kerala and Gulf countries started since Gulf boom. There is a common saying among the people that it was Malayalees from Kerala who built the modern Gulf countries to its form what we see today. With lots of hard work and struggles by the people from Kerala who migrated to Gulfcountries with the dreams of having a standard life for them and their family; created a better status of having living standards, educational opportunities for their kids, etc. These emigrants spend their quality lifetime in Gulf countries for their family to have prosperous economic stability. This study actually enlightens the reality of the afterlife of Gulf returned malayalees from Kerala and the impact of this declining migration rate on the state economy. The major findings of the study are given in short and crisp format in this section along with plausible policies for the betterment of the returned diaspora.

Job is a vital element in an individual’s life for miniating a better standard of living. The income generated out of it fulfills the needs and wants of that individual and his family. People migrate to different locations from their place of origin due to a variety of reasons, and job is one among them. Keralites migrated to Gulf countries mainly because of employment opportunities. there was a very high positive impact and increased rate of migration from Kerala to Gulf countries during the initial phase of gulf boom; but since 2010, the rate migration to Gulf countries from Kerala is declining this is mainly due to reasons like recession, economic stagnation, oil price fluctuations, nationalization policies and even Covid-19 pandemic. The reverse migration to the home state actually created economic uncertainties. Unemployment rate still prevails among the return migrants, people are struggling to meet the ends and maintain a proper standard of living and economic security that they once enjoyed in Gulf countries.

Another important observation is that the pay scale shifted once they returned to Kerala. People who managed to maintain their job positions actually did not feel the much shift whereas people who worked in blue-collar jobs or corporate jobs did experience a major shift in their income compared to Gulf countries. The decreased pay scale led to decreased savings and investment behaviours of people and the standard of living. , thus leading to a major readjustment of their living standards and economic stability. It should also be noted that returned migrants also faced a lot of difficulty while searching for another job to start their life afresh.

Most of the people had enough savings for their new beginnings back in their home state. These are the people who had pretty decent jobs back in Gulf countries and managed to have proper savings for their near future. Another section people who never had any savings for commencing their life again from square one in Kerala or India literally struggled a lot. People getting a salary package which is less than 4 lakhs per annum in Gulf countries actually won’t be having much to save. These people are the ones engaged in casual jobs like labourers on contract basis, drivers, salesmen, daily wage workers, cleaners, waiters etc. These people stayed in camps or apartments with a greater number of people than required with minimal facilities to save money on rent, so that they could send that amount also to their family. They are sole breadwinners of their family and have the whole responsibility of taking care of each and every need of the family. Surprisingly it does include young people who immediately after their education came to Gulf countries with just a dream of having a proper living standard for them and their family. During Covid times, these people suffered to have proper 2 meals without any jobs; they had to spend the remaining savings on what they had to buy a flight ticket to reach their home state and to their family.

When most of the people were of the opinion that their family and friends were welcoming and supportive, a significant number of people quoted that they did not receive the expected welcoming behaviours from their family and friends. People who took out loans to travel and start a life in Gulf countries came back with nothing, and had to face unpleasant situations in their families. There were times when they did not have enough money to pay back the private moneylenders and had to face bad consequences. People stated their opinion that families were clearly unhappy with the return of emigrants from Gulf countries as they lost the source of income for the family. there were also opinions like initially happy with their return but gradually started arising issues with the return due to financial crunch.

Migration is still the solution for most of the people who returned back from Gulf countries. A huge number of people showed their desire to go back to Gulf countries while there were also a significant number of people who actually did not want to go back or wanted to attempt to get a visa to Gulf countries. Gulf countries are the prime and dream destination for a Malayalee in their career growth. There is no doubt that Malayalees are going to give up on their Gulf dreams despite the fact that the Gulf boom is actually not going to regain its prosperity again.

Another interesting factor that was noticed while conducting this study was Malayalees are replacing the Gulf dreams with new abroad destinations. People who return back to Kerala, especially youths are migrating to countries like Canada, UK, Australia, Ireland etc. Most of them are securing a student visa to these countries which are easy to achieve. People are migrating for Master’s programmes or Diploma programmes in these countries and trying to secure a job after studies. Working part-time in these countries is also an easy source of income for the students. Country like Canada is easy to get the Permanent Residence (PR) that allows them to completely relocate to the country. Canada is a huge country that actually needs human capital for development and Malayalees are taking advantage of this situation, especially after the lift of Covid restrictions there is a huge migration rate to be noticed to these countries especially from Kerala.

Keeping these findings in mind with the study conducted, as a policy student there are few policy recommendations that could actually put in use to the betterment or for the benefits ofthe returned Malayalee diaspora from Gulf countries to Kerala.



The current system of rehabilitation facilities such as financial aids for the gulf returned malayalees are not sufficient enough to provide them with proper relief measures. The management system of overseas migration by Kerala is one of the oldest and most complicated ones in the nation. Through NORKA roots, the department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs carries out a number of different support programmes to ensure the welfare of the returned migrants of Kerala. Schemes like Swanthwana and NORKA department project for return migrants, Pravasi Tanal, Karunya, Pravasi Bhardatha etc, are introduced to enhance the welfare of the Migrants from Kerala to other countries. But the unfortunate part is that most people are unaware of the benefits that could be availed through registering in these programmes. It actually shows the failure of the government in establishing the policy in the proper way. The paperwork involved and the waiting time period for getting the financial aid approved makes the people not wanting to register themselves for such schemes. Reducing the waiting time and the paperwork, providing more attractive measures in supporting the returned migrants, proper acknowledgement regarding different schemes within the returned migrant workers are very important and necessary steps to be taken.


The study reveals that people are not registering themselves in NORKA that was actually created for the welfare and support of the migrants from Kerala. This will give them an identity card that could be used to avail all the benefits of registering in government departments. The NORKA id number should be used everywhere even when applying for jobs like the National Insurance number or NI number in the UK. This could very well help in confirming the identity and helping not to get cheated or involved in fraudulent affairs. This NORKA number could also be used to get loans from banks or NORKA roots with a lower interest rate to start their life afresh.


The Kerala state has got an effective and efficient governing department that oversees the migration and stands for the welfare of the migrants from the state. Even though there are several programmes and initiatives taken by the government to support the returned migrant workers, it still falls short in fulfilling all the demands of the returned diaspora. It was noted that the department is actually not helping or assisting the returned migrants to find a job back in Kerala, nor providing them with suitable options. If the department was created to address the grievances of the migrants and support them, then it’s high time that NORKA actually starts to fulfil the demands of its own people.


From casual laborers to highly educated white-collar professionals constitute the returned migrant population. These people could be called upon for various government projects; like how MNREGA and Kudumbashree — 2 successful schemes in Kerala that provides guaranteed jobs for 100 days, these government projects like Life Mission project, or anything as such, or even recruiting these returned migrants who were engaged in Blue-collar jobs in Gulf countries and now struggling for initiatives like metro station in charge, that are actually given on contract basis to other private companies. By this way there is more employment generation among the unemployed and struggling return migrants.


Since Malayalees are always keen to migrate and replacing their Gulf destination with other countries, the government should now come up with a proper roadmap for migration and the protection of these migrants. It should clearly mention on registering themselves in NORKA and contacting the office for any assistance. There should be schemes to protect them after their return, like Employee Provident Fund (EPF) there should be something like Pravasi (emigrant) Protection Fund that allows them to deposit a certain amount depending upon their pay scale abroad, so that once they return back to Kerala, they could actually use it to start a new life without the fear of not having enough savings.


Remittances are a major source of income to the economy of Kerala and the government should actually take initiatives to acquire more remittances annually. They should organize Pravasi meets at different places abroad annually where Malayalees settle or migrate to, which could be both online and offline. NORKA should make sure that such events are organized so as to generate a trust belief in the minds of Malayalees that Kerala government will be there with them at each and every step and migrants are an important component of the state economy. Government should also devise new plans to encourage the migrant workers to send back money as the glory of the Gulf boom is declining and in the near future it might create a decline in the remittances received too.


Through this study, the researcher was attempting to shed some light on the not much discussed topic about the situation of returned Malayalee emigrants from Gulf countries and how the
migrants are an important part of the state economy. People migrate to different locations for
different purposes such as to have better standard of living, employment opportunities, educational
opportunities etc. these migrants are an important element of any economy. Malayalees migrated
from Kerala to Gulf countries since the beginning of Gulf boom or Oil boom are the saviors of the
state that did not have any much development to say about at a point of time. They revived Kerala
and its economy through their hard contributions, there is evidence that the socio-economic
conditions of several households improved due to the migration. It was common to say that every
one person from each family is in Gulf countries for Malayalees; the migration rate to Gulf
countries was at the peak and the graph rocketed up always. Unfortunately, since the recession and
economic stagnation, nationalization policies such as Nitaqat or other family taxes, the rate of
migration to gulf countries from Kerala started taking a dip. Even though this did not reflect much
in terms of the remittances received, soon there were also some fluctuations visible. Pandemic was
the final nail on the coffin of returning diaspora, that caused many to lose their jobs. The lives of
many returned migrants in Kerala are not that glossy, people with secure jobs and high educational
qualifications were able to retain their positions, the other section of people are still struggling to
make ends meet. Even if they wanted to start new beginnings there are so many barriers in front
of them like less opportunities in Kerala, lesser pay scale employment, not having enough savings
etc. people will always have a notion that the Gulf employed people will have enough money to spend
but the reality is that they spend their quality life in abroad nation working hard and saving each
penny by not spending on themselves just to make sure that their family back in Kerala is having
an economic stability. Migrants are the pillars of the Kerala economy and the government should
actually take effective initiatives to support these returned migrants especially from Gulf countries
as the glory of the Gulf boom is declining and could have a huge impact on the state economy as

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