NEW DELHI: Percentage of Indians opting for Gulf jobs has dropped briskly, possibly due to slowing economies of countries part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which have been hit by weaker oil prices. The decline has been significant between 2014 and 2016.
According to official figures, the number of Indian workers immigrating to the GCC countries was 775,845 in 2014 which fell to 507,296 in 2016.
Though disruptions due to the Islamic State were largely in Iraq-Syria, the instability affected perceptions about the region as a whole.
The percentage of fall in Indian workers opting for Gulf jobs is seen to have impacted remittances from these countries. The overall remittances as recorded in India’s balance of payments statistics fell slightly from $69,819 million in 2014-15 to $65,592 million in 2015-16.
In terms of number of Indians emigrating, Saudi Arabia showed a sharp decline from 329,882 in 2014 to 165,356 in 2016, almost a 50% drop.
Fall of Saudi economy due to low oil prices also adds on to the list. But for the past few years, Saudi Arabia has been following what the Indian government calls a ‘Saudization’ policy, which is aimed at employing more Saudi nationals rather than foreigners.
“This is to encourage the private sector to employ greater number of Saudi nationals as well as to reducing reliance on expatriate workers. Further, against the backdrop of declining oil prices, the Saudi government has introduced a number of new taxes/VAT so as to augment the sources of government revenue,” the foreign ministry told Parliament this week.
One of these is the dependant tax, which started on July 1. From this year, Saudi Arabia has begun levying a dependant tax on non-nationals residing in the kingdom.
“The tax rate is SR 100 (Rs 1,700 approx) per month on each dependent. It will be increased to SR 200 in 2018, SR 300 in 2019 and SR 400 in 2020 per dependent member of the expatriate family,” Saudi government said. There are around 3 million Indians in Saudi Arabia. Indian officials had, however, raised the issue with a visiting Saudi delegation on July 11, the MEA told the House.
In Bahrain, a construction company employing nearly 1,500 Indians fired around 700 workers. Instances of mistreatment of Indian workers could have added to the slowdown.