Migration experts feel that workers from Kerala are being increasingly displaced in the Middle East due to the high minimum wage fixed by the Indian Government as well the growing popularity of workers from the Philippines and Africa who take up jobs for lower wages.
While wages in the Middle East have not improved, workers from Africa, Nepal and the Philippines are willing to work at lower salaries—as low as Rs 14000 a month—which reduces the opportunities for Malayalis. Africans are willing to take up jobs at just a little more than half of what the average Indian worker is paid. Indian drivers have to be paid about Rs 20,000 a month, whereas an African driver will do the same job for Rs 8000 a month. Indian security personnel reportedly charge about Rs 30,000 a month but an African security workers will take up the same job for even Rs 20,000 a month or less. And since these Africans possess multiple skills and are also good with language, they are rapidly stealing the opportunities that would have otherwise gone to Malayalis.
The Indian government recently fixed a minimum wage — the referral wage for unskilled workers as announced by the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia is about Rs 30,000. This is rather on the higher side because the Arab employers are also expected to pay for the workers’ food, accommodation, medical insurance, uniforms as well as paid leaves.
It is reported that the economy of the Gulf has been rather slow to pick up following the global crisis. With the Gulf nations also trying to bring about a demographic balance, the future seems to be far from bright for the Malayali workers.