Modi government's sustained engagement with Gulf leaders is paving the way for return of expat workforce.
As the largest country of origin for international migrants and the world’s top recipient of remittances, India has made massive strides in attracting substantial contributions to the economic development from its expat workforce based around the world – especially from the Gulf states.
The India-Gulf region is the second-largest migration corridor in the world. Of the nearly 31 million non-resident Indians (NRIs), an estimated 8.5 million were estimated to be working in the Gulf before the pandemic struck – constituting more than 30 per cent of the expatriate workforce in the Gulf States, where the proportion of non-nationals in the employed population is among the highest in the world.
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It’s therefore a strong catalyst for the Indian economy that the largest number of Indians returning to the jobs they had left abroad last year due to disruptions caused by the Coronavirus pandemic has been to the Gulf.
Announcing the trend in Parliament earlier this week, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar said: "The focus of our efforts in the last few months has now shifted to Indians going back to their usual places of work, study and domicile. The largest numbers, not surprisingly, have gone to the Gulf."
While on one hand this would suggest a robust management of the pandemic in the Gulf and ensuring a safe and swift reopening of the economy, on the other hand this also implies an impending boost for remittances to India in the near term. It also signals a vast improvement in the situation compared to the height of the pandemic last year and a resurgence in opportunities for Indian talents.
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According to Dr Jaishankar, a total of 4,582,043 Indians from 98 countries returned home during the pandemic. About 39 per cent of the returnees were workers, 39 per cent were professionals, six per cent were students, eight per cent were visitors and 4.7 were stranded tourists.
During the same period, authorities facilitated the return from India of more than 110,000 foreign passport holders to 120 countries. "The largest repatriation exercise in the history of the world could not have happened without the goodwill and cooperation of partner governments," he said, adding: "We have been active in urging our partner governments to look sympathetically at the employment of our citizens as they chart their recovery pathway. The Gulf has been the focal point of our endeavours, though this is a global effort on our part."
Indeed, this resurgence of opportunities was also made possible by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s engagement with the leaders of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman. "Under his direction, I have travelled even during the COVID period to the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman to discuss with the governments there the welfare of our people. I have also recently hosted the UAE Foreign Minister in India and expect to do so with that of Kuwait very soon," Dr Jaishankar said.