The number of Indians emigrating to countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in search of jobs declined by a whopping 34.6 per cent between 2014 and 2016, as per the registry with the ministry of external affairs.
The number of Indian workers emigrating to the six gulf countries - United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain - dropped from 775,845 in 2014 to 507,296 in 2016, the external affairs ministry informed the Rajya Sabha.
"There has been a decline in the number of Indian workers emigrating to the gulf countries for employment due to economic slowdown in GCC countries triggered by the weak oil prices, which has resulted in lack of demand for workers," said the MEA.
"However, it has been reported by the Indian Missions that by undertaking different fiscal measures, these countries have been able to cope with the depressed oil and gas prices," it added.
Subsequently, there has also been a slight drop in overall remittances or private transfers made by Indians working in the Gulf countries as well.
"As per information provided by the Reserve Bank of India, the overall remittances/private transfers made by the Indians working abroad, all over the world, including Gulf countries, as recorded in India's balance of payments statistics has fallen slightly from $69,819 million in 2014-15 to $65,592 million in 2015-16," the ministry added.
This has been attributed to a slowdown in Gulf economies in the aftermath of the oil price fall as also a rise in the number of jobseekers within these countries. Saudi Arabia has especially been encouraging localisation of jobs in order to ensure employment of natives.
"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 last week.
Starting July, Saudi Arabia has imposed a dependant tax on non-nationals residing In the kingdom.
Accordingly, expatriates will have to pay SR 100 (about Rs1,700) per dependent, which will be increased to SR200 in 2018, SR300 in 2019 and SR400 in 2020, according to the Saudi government.
There are around 3 million Indians in Saudi Arabia as per the latest estimates.
For now, official figures do not show any noticeable impact on Indians there. Indian officials had, however, raised the issue with a visiting Saudi delegation on 11 July, the MEA told the House.
There are also instances of layoffs as in the case of Bahrain, where a construction company employing nearly 1,500 Indians laid off around 700 workers but was unable to repatriate them after clearing their dues due to the financial crisis.