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Address by Secretary (CPV&OIA) at FICCI LEADS 2021 Seminar on Future of Partnerships (September 14, 2021)

September 14, 2021

Migration and mobility - partnerships for the future

1. Thank you for inviting me to LEADS 2021 on Future of Partnerships. I hope this initiative of FICCI will promote dialogue and encourage collaborations to address two key developments, as we look to the future - structural change in economic systems and disruptive technological transformations. How do we leverage change to our advantage, how can a dynamic economy and youthful population respond, and how can domestic priorities be linked to a global perspective. I shall share my thoughts on the trends in India’s external migration and mobility, in that context.

2. The idea of India was based on harmonious coexistence with nature, search for excellence in our pursuits and sharing our heritage with the global community. Our philosophy of peace and tolerance, our achievements in mathematics and science, our rich tradition in literature, art and architecture, our finest products such as cotton and spices, and above all our friendly and entrepreneurial people, travelled to the farthest corners of the world and spread the spirit of India.

3. In ancient times, we travelled to south-east Asia and China, in the east, as well as to Arabia and Africa, in the west, to share our culture; its legacy is still present. In colonial times, Indians went as indentured labour to Fiji, Malaya, Mauritius, Africa, Caribbeans and also as traders and scholars; today, they have a presence in economic and political spheres. After Independence, highly qualified professionals went to Europe and America and low skilled migrant workers to the Gulf region. Again, wherever Indians went, they earned the admiration and respect of the locals.

4. Following the information revolution, in the era of data and new industry, we saw the tectonic shifts in economic systems and in technology and innovation, that I referred to earlier. The Covid pandemic exacerbated the situation. Migration and mobility had to adjust to the new normal. Two trends were discernible - first, there was need for skilling and second, new destinations were emerging - thus new partnerships were needed.

5. In the Gulf, where most workers went, there was economic churn, localisation and changing pattern of labour demand. However, Indian workers remained their preferred choice and Indians too found it comfortable terrain. We entered into new G-G agreements with Gulf partners to maintain our privileged status and provided wider welfare measures to the vulnerable. The integration of online migration platforms, which began with UAE and Saudi and was extended to other GCC countries, ensured transparency of information and security of terms of employment. A new thrust was needed in skilling, involving not only government but also private sector. Skill mapping and skill matching could be captured on migration platforms to leverage advantages for our workers in a changing environment. We noticed increase in demand for certain skills, especially in health, logistics, IT and new industry. Moreover, high-tech and data services saw a boom, helping them rise up the value chain. Stakeholder consultations were enhanced for agility and efficiency to provide the right person at the right time to the right place. A new era is on the horizon.

6. Tapping new destinations in developed countries for mobility was a new and exciting area requiring policy intervention. Economic and demographic changes in many countries made them turn to India as a reliable partner. Our outstanding professionals had established a strong reputation for knowledge and innovation. Building on this goodwill and the positive outlook of the Indian economy, we embarked on developing G-G relations with several countries to give an edge to our professionals. Government can create an enabling environment and private enterprise must seize the opportunities.

7. Most are familiar with the success of our professionals in USA and H1B visa provided to them; we can contribute even more. With EU, we began a dialogue for the India-EU Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM). We discussed, among other issues, options for the mobility of Indian professionals, while adhering to norms of safe and legal migration. We have, since then, negotiated Mobility and Migration Partnership Agreements (MMPA) with France, Germany, Denmark, UK, Benelux, Portugal and others. MMPAs provided, on bilateral terms, avenues for Indian professionals to work in EU, Indian students to stay in EU for work after their graduation and Indian youth to undertake internships. Some MMPAs also provided for the movement of skilled workers. Similarly, the Special Skilled Workers MOU with Japan was path breaking in opening new vistas for Indian workers. We are working for similar facilitation in Korea, Taiwan and Mauritius. Coupled with Social Security Agreements, mobility partnerships with the developed world provide win-win solutions, leveraging our demographic dividend for better remuneration and exposure to high technology, while filling gaps in destination countries.

8. The migration ecosystem of the future will be dynamic and we will have to

(a) respond to demand, technology and opportunity,
(b) coordinate policies with the Gulf region and new destinations,
(c) develop new age skills for countries getting older or facing skill shortfall,
(d) be aligned with the Global Compact for Migration, and
(e) promote safe, legal and smart migration.

9. A new Emigration Bill will soon be in Parliament, for approval. It will provide a simplified structure for transparent and dynamic interplay of all stakeholders. For the integration and alignment of our domestic priorities with our external environment, it is crucial that our emigration policy be mainstreamed in development process.

Thank you.

New Delhi
September 14, 2021


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