This has come out in a study by the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC), Chandigarh. The research has concluded that the solution lies in improving skills, education and employment opportunities locally. It has also said that there was a need for the government to protect the rights of labourers and migrants, provide requisite information on migration, and enable youth to make informed choices about migration.
It has also come to the fore that the Punjab government could not diversify its initial, agriculture-led growth into other sectors. The state also failed to create opportunities for productive employment or improve the skills of its rural youth, said the study. Researchers said all this motivated youth to immigrate in search of greener pastures and even engage in risky, illegal things for this.
IDC’s Shuchi Kapuria conducted the study, ‘International Migration from Punjab and Challenges for Governance’. It is based on primary data collected from two blocks of Doaba region with high intensity of international migration—Mahilpur in Hoshiarpur district and Phillaur in Jalandhar district. The paper was published in Panjab University’s Research Journal (Arts) recently. About 50% of the rural population in Jalandhar and about 37% of the rural population in Hoshiarpur are scheduled caste.
The paper stated that the most common reason for migration was uneconomical land size with a households. Other reasons included accumulation of debt and aspiration to increase landholdings through wealth earned abroad. The paper states that international migration from rural Punjab started in the late 19th century.
Despite agricultural growth, Punjab’s inability to diversify to create jobs in manufacturing and services sectors for its rural youth, inability to meet the aspirations of youth for better jobs, its declining social sector expenditures that support marginalized sections, and landless scheduled castes showed that the problem was more structural, but the solutions sought were individual, said the study.
Punjab is one of the few states in the country that have historically contributed to the pool of international migrants and still continues to do so. According to estimates, about five million people from Punjab have immigrated overseas, as per the study. Earlier, Punjabis used to immigrate to British colonies like New Zealand, Australia, UK, Canada, USA and Africa, especially East Africa. In the 1970s, countries of the Middle East were the favoured destination for migrant workers from India, including Punjab. But, recently, migration to countries of continental Europe has come into focus, especially countries of south Europe.
The paper says the proportion of return migrants was between 1% and 2%. Mostly, return migrants were those who had migrated to Gulf countries for work and were either too old to work or fell ill abroad.
It also came to fore that 50% of scheduled caste (SC) migrants and more than 78% other backward classes (OBC) migrants were in Gulf countries. The proportion of migrants from landowning caste groups was only 15%. Higher proportion of migrants from others social groups migrated to traditional immigration countries like Australia, Canada, USA and UK. Wages were higher in developed countries of the West, also due to stronger currency, and these countries also provided opportunity for permanent settlement and immigration, unlike Gulf countries.
What’s needed from policymakers
Improving quality of education and skill sets of youth
Meeting aspirations for employment
Mainstreaming marginalized sections of society through support for social sector schemes
Breaking the nexus of agents and smugglers who entice youth to immigrate illegally
Ensuring safe work environment in destination countries
Incentivizing legal migration through government to government cooperation in skills recognition
Promoting programmes for temporary migration
Assessment of labour market of destination countries