International students in the US – there are at least 200,000 from India – might have to leave the country or risk deportation, if their universities shift to online-only mode. The US also suspended for this year the H1-B visa programme, used by a lot of skilled Indian workers, last month. Kuwait’s parliament has passed a bill putting quotas on the migrant population that could force 800,000 Indians to leave the country. And closer home, the Haryana government has issued an ordinance to reserve 75% private sector jobs for applicants from the state.
All are clear signs that the pandemic, and the economic disruption it has inflicted, has added to the already growing backlash against free movement of labour across the world.
At a time when India has also imbibed self-reliance as the cornerstone of post-pandemic recovery, there is a need to seriously examine the implications of such a sentiment.
World Bank data shows that India received the highest amount of personal remittances, $ 83.1 billion, in 2019. This is more than combined amount received by Mexico and Philippines, countries ranked second and third that year. Net personal remittances, or remittances received after subtracting remittances paid, for India were $75.6 billion in 2019. These numbers have been continuously increasing.
The net remittances received in 2019 amount to 2.6% of India’s GDP. To put this in perspective,the amount is more than double of what India spends on health. As is obvious, India will stand to lose the most if there is a major backlash against immigrant workers.
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