Employment opportunities for South Asian migrants in the Gulf Co-operation Council countries shrank in the last two years mainly due to nationalisation in the GCC and oil price drop-induced economic slowdown, a new report has shown.
Lower migrant worker deployments to the GCC were seen in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, according to the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), a World Bank initiative.
For 2019, it is projected that remittances to the region will slow to 4.3% due to a moderation of growth in high-income economies and slower migration to the GCC countries.
India had registered a 12% drop in migrant workers’ deployment to the GCC in the first three quarters of 2018 and a 25% drop in 2017.
Pakistan had seen a 26% drop in migrant workers’ deployment to the GCC the first eight months of 2018 and 41% drop in 2017, while Bangladesh recorded a 25% drop in the first three quarters last year.
KNOMAD said that in India, the number of low-skilled emigrants seeking mandatory clearance for emigration dropped by 12% in the first three quarters of 2018 (0.25mn) compared with the same period in 2017 (0.29mn).
In Pakistan also, the number of workers registered for overseas employment dropped by 41% (0.83mn in 2016 to 0.5mn in 2017).
The pace of migrant worker deployments from Bangladesh for the first three quarters of 2018 slowed by 25% to 0.55mn, compared with 0.73mn in the same period in the previous year.
In Nepal, migrant labour permits dropped from 0.4mn in financial year 2015/16 to 0.38mn in FY 2016-17.
However, global remittances to South Asia are projected to have increased by 13.5% in 2018, a faster pace than the 5.7% growth seen in 2017, KNOMAD said.
“The upsurge is driven by stronger economic conditions in high-income economies (particularly the United States) and an increase in oil prices up to October 2018, which had a positive impact on remittance outflows from some GCC countries,” the report noted.
In India, remittances are projected to grow by 15.2% in 2018 to $79.5bn, KNOMAD said.
A flooding disaster in the southern Indian state of Kerala is likely to have boosted remittances, as migrants sent financial help to families back home. In Pakistan, remittance growth is projected to remain moderate in 2018 (6.2%) due to significant declines in inflows from a GCC country.
In Bangladesh, remittances have shown a brisk uptick in 2018 (17.9%), and Sri Lanka had witnessed remittance growth of 5.4% last year.
The report also showed that South Asia had the lowest average remittance costs of any world region (at 5.4%) in the third quarter of 2018.
But this is somewhat higher than the 5.2% costs seen in the previous quarter and a reversal of the steady declines seen since the second quarter of 2017.