The Workers Migration In Kerala

Migration movements are and have been an integral part of human history, including labour migration. However, labour migration in noticeable proportions goes back to the beginning of the industrial age, when wave upon wave of the rural population migrated to urban areas to find work in the burgeoning industries, leaving behind them their traditional rural occupations. Since then, the issue of migration has also been the subject of various development theories. With all its complexity, migration today is one of the most challenging issues facing governments and societies. According to Brunson McKinley, Director General of IOM,

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Migration will be one of the major policy concerns of the twenty-first century. In our shrinking world, more and more people will look to migration – temporary or permanent – as a path to employment, education, freedom or other opportunities. Governments will need to develop sound migration policies and practices. Properly managed migration can contribute to prosperity, development and mutual understanding among people.

Earnest S Lee broadly defines Migration as “a permanent or semi-permanent change of residence. No restriction is placed upon the distance of the move or upon the voluntary and involuntary nature of act, and distinction is made between external and internal migration” (International Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, 2008).

Migration is a process of social change. It includes a relatively permanent change of residence from one city or rural area to another; a move from one neighbourhood to another within the same city (residential mobility) temporary moves for purposes such as seasonal employment or to attend school (circulation); and voluntary or involuntary movements across national boundaries (immigration, international labour migration, refugee movements). Most people move out of the places where they were brought up have significant reasons, one prominent reason is unemployment which makes them to move out from the homely place and to settle at a strange place, either permanently or temporarily. A migrant comes to an alien place preliminarily with a mindset of the inevitable factors, which he was separated. They must have experienced at first, a sense of loss, dislocation, alienation and isolation, which will lead to process of acculturation.

Ernst Georg Ravestein He established a theory of human migration in the 1880s that still forms the basis for modern migration theory in 1880s. In his book ‘Laws of Migration’, Ravenstein explained his theory of step migration which says that migration could be gradual and often occurred step by step geographically. According to Ravestein,

  • Most migrants move only a short distance.
  • There is a process of absorption, whereby people immediately surrounding a rapidly growing town move into it and the gaps are filled by migrants from more distant areas, and so on until the attractive force (pull factor) is spent.
  • There is a process of dispersion which is inverse of absorption.
  • Each migration flow produces a compensating counter-flow
  • Long distance migrants go to one of the great centres of commerce and industry.
  • Natives of town are less migratory than those from rural areas.
  • Females are more migratory than males.
  • Economic factors are main course of migration (John, 1885)

(‘Ernest George Ravenstein: The Laws of Migration, 1885’ by John Corbett)

According to the study of Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation 2013, there were about 2.5 million internal migrants in Kerala and is increasing by 2.35 lakh people per year. According to State Government’s Post Disaster Need Assessment 2018, there are 34.85 lakhs of migrants in Kerala, with Ernakulam accounting the greatest number of them, at 6.03 lakh.

Kerala state have a long history of migration which was mainly from Tamil Nadu from 60s to early 90s. For last one and a half decade the state is witnessing unprecedented flow of unskilled labourers from North and North East states of India.

The results of 2011 census reveal that Kerala retained its position by being on the top with a 93.91 per cent literacy rates Bihar ranks the last in the country by 63.82 per cent preceded by Arunachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. For the purpose of 2011 census, a person aged seven and above, who can read and write with understanding in any language is considered as literate (Know India, 2011). On the other hand, while considering the Fifth Annual Employment- Unemployment Survey conducted by Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, Kerala ranks the fifth position with an unemployment rate of 12.5%. These data show that Kerala is the state with highest literacy rate which results large number of educated and skilled youths. But the highest unemployment rate of the state is not able to create enough jobs suitable for an increasingly larger number of youngsters with a secondary or higher level of education. This is the reason for large number of international migrations happening in Kerala. According to the comprehensive survey conducted by State Government’s Department of Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (NoRKA) with assistance of the bureau of Economics and Statistics 2013, the number of Keralites living in abroad comes to 16.25 lakh.

The continuous large scale out-migration of labour from Kerala has created severe scarcity of semiskilled and un-skilled workers in almost all spheres of the state. This has led to an inevitable rise in the wage rate in the state. At the same time, the foreign remittances have created a boom in real estate and construction sector Kerala, leading to huge demand for certain categories of workers such as carpenters, welders, plumbers, drivers, electrician, motor mechanics and other craftsmen. The shortage of construction workers and other un-skilled workforce in Kerala resulted in-migration of workers from other states to Kerala, and thus, started the era of replacement migration to Kerala after a break of about 60 years since the 1960s.  

07 July 2022

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