Diaspora in Kerala’s Development

Author:   Zacharia, K.C and S. Irudaya Rajan
Publisher:   Daanish Books, New Delhi, India.
Reviewer:   Chitra N
Designation:   Senior Research Fellow

Diaspora in Kerala’s Development, Zacharia, K.C and S. Irudaya Rajan (2013), Daanish Books, New Delhi, India. pp 1-244, Price Rs. 550, ISBN 978-93-81144-23-7

Due to large-scale and significant migration, the high migrant areas in Kerala, to a lesser extent, the state as a whole experienced a process of rapid economic and social transformation and provides for a excellent example of migration-induced development in the last quarter of the past century. The most recent accelerated process of migration, especially to the Gulf and North America, has had their impact on every facet of Kerala’s economy and society. It is estimated that at least one in each household has a emigrant in the major migrants sending areas of Kerala. The economy of Kerala is mainly based on the remittance sent by the Kerala Diaspora contributing with a higher proportion in the state’s NSDP. The various aspects of the impact of the Diaspora in Kerala’s development and its economy and society are the subject matter of this book.

The book is a sequel to the study of Kerala Diaspora conducted during 2007 by the research unit in international migration of the Centre for Developmental Studies called Migration Monitoring Studies (MMS), with the huge sample of 10,000 households covering all the 14 districts of Kerala. The main focus of this book is kept to analyse and examine the impact of Kerala’s Diaspora in the development of the state. As it is observed from the survey that international migration has remained absolutely stationery during 2003 to 2007 with decline in the migration rates.

With the changing pattern and trend in Kerala’s migration, the book has focussed itself on the impact of the migration which happened few decades back. There seem profound changes in the demographic profile of migrants including the socio-economic characteristics of them. Migration and its impact is measured primarily in terms of the remittances as it is the monetary impact which can be felt easily, directly as well as quantifiable in terms of a comparison between Non Resident Keralite (NRK) and non-NRK.

The outstanding results observed by the MMS 2007 are the change in the employment scenario in Kerala which has increased mostly in the private sector and in the self-employment sector. The authors argue that this had led to the decrease in the unemployment rate among all the sections of the population. Though the authors had placed several factors responsible for the change in employment situation the two logical reasons could be the decline in the proportion of the population in the prime unemployment-prone age and the economic liberalisation with more investment-friendly environment suitable for the remittances to be used effectively in employment creating investments. Therefore it can be said that remittance based investments are taking over from remittance based consumption as the State’s new growth drives.

The authors, Zacharia and Rajan  are also of the view that Gulf migration has played crucial role in changing the household’s structure, size, household assets and amenities etc among migrants. As a result of emigration, the average size of household in Kerala has decreased and the number of very small household increased. Along with the above observations, the book also tried to highlight the distinction between NRK and non-NRK to arrive at conclusion that the NRKs are in better off condition than the non-NRKs.

On the other side, the authors opined that migration was not a major factor influencing the cost of education of children, as the present study has found out that the households without NRKs on an average paid a little more for education that households with NRKs. On similar lines, the authors argue that there was not very high differential between NRK household and non-NRK household on average cost of expenditure on health or treatments, but with slight preference of private hospitals by the NRK households. Whereas, a significant contrast to the practice of using government hospital and private hospital for child birth is found out in Kerala with NRKs using more private hospitals than non-NRK and NRK households paying more for child birth.

While discussing the households indebtedness, the authors had placed an argument that “Geographical location of the households is an important factor in Kerala which determined the extent of seeking loans”, attributing this to the statement that, the extent of indebtedness was lower among the households with emigrants. To contrast this opinion, it is found out that migration does not seem to be a significant factor in determining the propensity of households to take loans. With these parameters, the authors had attempted to measure the impact of Diaspora in the development of Kerala and concluded that migration did not play a role in household transitions in Kerala. But they opined that the effect of migration was not confined to households with emigrants or return emigrants, but there was spillover to non-migrant households, producing similar effects on non-migrant households also because of the 30 years of large-scale exposure to emigration.

The authors had taken great effort to conduct an empirical research and in compiling, tabulating and analysing huge data and filled the book with numerous tables.. However the authors had limited themselves by merely explaining the details contained in them and failed to analyse and explain the logical reasons behind the changing numbers to link the parameters analysed and discussed above with migration induced development of Kerala in a quantifiable manner. The book has limited itself to be a descriptive of the data generated rather than the analytical research based on theoretical background. Otherwise, the authors attempted to cover a larger aspects relating to the impact of Diaspora in the Kerala’s development in a amicable way. This book is an important piece of work for the economist and demographers to critically evaluate the findings for further research in examining the contribution of Diaspora in the development of Kerala.

Chitra. N., Senior Research Fellow, Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-110067, Email: [email protected]

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