Bangalore: India is setting up a fund to rehabilitate overseas workers returning home in large numbers in recent months, after a slump in property construction in West Asia.
The overseas workers welfare fund, proposed by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs, is expected to be formalized in two-three months, said a ministry official who didn’t want to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media. He declined to disclose the size of the fund.
Around 25,000-30,000 South Asian construction workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had employment visas cancelled in the last one month alone, say recruiters.
The ministry official estimates that there are some 500,000 unskilled Indian workers in the UAE, mostly from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Exact numbers of Indians working abroad or coming back are not available, as the Indian government does not maintain a central database on this.
Some of the world’s most ambitious projects have halted in Dubai. The real estate crisis in the most populous city in UAE is so severe that Dubai’s population is expected to shrink 8% this year, says a 15 January Reuters report, quoting a research note of Swiss bank UBS AG.
Oman and Qatar have also been sending back overseas workers, said officials at three staffing firms who spoke with Mint.
Amit Saxena, director at UAE-headquartered recruitment firm GulfPersonnel Consultancy FZE, which concentrates on hiring construction workers, said 25,000-30,000 workers’ visas were cancelled in the last month in the UAE. The majority of these workers hail from India; others belong to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Vineet K. Singh, business head, Gulf, at staffing firm Info Edge (India) Ltd’s Naukri.com, said: “Close to a thousand visas are getting cancelled every day.”
These workers are mostly on employment visas renewed every year. It is the employer’s liability to cancel these visas once workers are laid off. Once a visa is cancelled, the worker has to leave the country within 30 days.
The exodus home has come at an unfortunate time when the realty sector is not doing too well in India, says Sudhakar Balakrishnan, managing director and chief executive of Adecco India Ltd, a subsidiary of Swiss staffing company Adecco SA.
The construction sector in India, too, has seen several projects slow or halt, making labour redundant here. This scenario gives returnees few opportunities in the country.
To be sure, many of the returned workers prefer to look for other opportunities abroad, as wages in India are considerably lower.
The steady inflow of expatriate workers is likely to have an adverse impact on pockets of the domestic economy such as Kerala, which is widely called a remittance economy, says D. Rajasekhar, professor and head, Centre for Decentralisation and Development at Bangalore-based Institute for Social and Economic Change.
With 1.9 million of its citizens working abroad, about one-fourth of Kerala’s net state domestic product is made up of remittances, 90% of which comes from West Asia, according to the Kerala Migration Survey 2007, conducted by Thiruvananthapuram-based research institute Centre for Development Studies.