September 10, 2007

Jobs Abroad Support 'Model' State in India

TRIVANDRUM, India — This verdant swath of southern Indian coastline is a famously good place to be poor. People in the state of Kerala live nearly as long as Americans do, on a sliver of the income. They read at nearly the same rates.

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Border Crossings

Lost Luster

This is the fourth in a series of articles examining global migration and its consequences.

James John Pereira with his wife, Hilda, right, daughter Jacqueline, left, and a granddaughter, Reshma. Three of Mr. Pereira's children and Jacqueline's husband work abroad.

With leftist governments here in the state capital spending heavily on health and schools, a generation of scholars has celebrated the "Kerala model" as a humane alternative to market-driven development, a vision of social equality in an unequal capitalist world. But the Kerala model is under attack, one outbound worker at a time.

Plagued by chronic unemployment, more Keralites than ever work abroad, often at sun-scorched jobs in the Persian Gulf that pay about $1 an hour and keep them from their families for years. The cash flowing home now helps support nearly one Kerala resident in three. That has some local scholars rewriting the Kerala story: far from escaping capitalism, they say, this celebrated corner of the developing world is painfully dependent on it.

"Remittances from global capitalism are carrying the whole Kerala economy,"

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