Kerala is perhaps one of the states in the country which has been experiencing a very high rate of international migration. In fact, according to the Inward Remittance Surveys conducted by the Reserve Bank of India, Kerala accounts for about 19 per cent of the inward remittances coming to India. India is the largest remittance receiving country in the world and Kerala is indeed the largest remittance receiving state in India. These remittances have proved very helpful to us to smoothen our consumption and has contributed in a number of ways to the growth performance of our economy. The enormous contribution of the Non-Resident Keralite especially those who are in the Middle East to the development of our state is very well recognized.    Their contribution is very large in a wide range of areas such education, health, retail trade and tourism. Further their presence abroad has resulted in increasing exports of both goods and services from Kerala to abroad. It is not incorrect to state that it is the movement people from our state to rest of the world that has globalized our economy. Non-Resident Keralites do have their share of problems as well. The recessionary conditions in the world economy, the growing indigenization in the Gulf countries and the growing automation in both manufacturing and services are important challenges facing the current migrants and indeed the rate of future migration from our state  Despite the importance of this issue, our policy making in dealing with international migration is hampered by the lack of availability of sufficient god quality research and indeed empirical data.

The literature on international migration identifies four channels through which migration can actually impact on the economic performance of the sending country or state. The first channel captures how the prospect of emigration affects the expected return on human capital. The central idea is that the prospect of emigration increases human capital investments, but a fraction of the additional human capital chooses not to leave or does not qualify to leave. The second impact is the absence of highly skilled migrants from the sending state or country. Research on the absence channel has the longest pedigree. The focus is on how the absence of part of a state’/country’s skilled nationals affects the domestic economy of the state or country. The third channel focuses on the role of the diaspora as a source and facilitator of international business and remittances. This is a burgeoning literature that includes survey work on diasporic networks, empirical estimation of the effect of diaspora and trade, and theoretical exploration of the intermediation function. The general finding is that diasporic networks have a significant effect on international business. Finally, work on the return channel has concentrated on the determinants and selectivity of, and the impact of emigration on returnee’s human capital and earnings.

It is against this brief background, that the government is pleased to set up a research programme on international migration from Kerala at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS). The CDS has accumulated considerable international reputation in conducting research studies on international migration and has since conducted several rounds of what is known as Kerala Migration Surveys- the latest being in 2018. Studies conducted by CDS is helpful for evidence-based policy making in the field of international migration. Hitherto the studies have been conducted against specific requests for such studies from funding agencies. But the time has come now to institute a permanent research programme at the Centre so that a regular stream of research studies on different aspects of international migration from Kerala will be forthcoming. Further, a database on migration which is searchable will also have to be created. The proposed unit will this have four kinds of activities every year:

  • Conduct of research studies on topics that are required by the government
  • Organization of an annual training programme on migration research
  • Creation and maintenance of a database on international migration; and
  • An annual conference on “Kerala and the World Economy”

The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala, Shri Pinarayi Vijayan, inaugurated the Research Programme on “International Migration from Kerala” on 10 December 2019.