Dealing with Migrant Labourers

by Jul 24, 2023Governance0 comments

More and more internal migrants of the country need to navigate the welfare schemes that the central government is implementing


It is well-known that Ninety (90) per cent of Indian workers earn their livelihoods in the informal sector. And here, millions of them happen to be migrants from poor areas to the big cities or urban centres.

In fact, migration of workers from one state to another state is a continues process, and dynamic in nature. As per Census 2011 data, the total number of Inter-State migrant workers in the Country are 4,14,22,917.

As per the Report Migration in India, 2020-21, based on Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2020-21, released by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), the total migration rate in India was 28.9% and in rural was 26.5%.

Out of the total migrant persons, around 10.8% persons were migrated due to employment related reasons. The employment related reasons include in search of employment/better employment, for employment/ work (to take up employment/ to take up better employment/ business/ proximity to place of work/ transfer) and loss of job/closure of unit/lack of employment opportunities.

It is a matter of appreciation that the Modi government has responded to the challenges faced by these migrants with new welfare schemes, including access to free food grains, affordable rental housing and opportunities for training.

The Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA) was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 20th June 2020, with a mission to address the challenges faced by returnee migrant workers to their home States.

On the lines of the GKRA, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) undertook demand driven skilling / orientation under Centrally Sponsored and Centrally Managed (CSCM) component of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY 2.0) 2016-2020.

GKRA under PMKVY CSCM-STT coverage was in 6 States namely Bihar, Assam, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh. Based on inputs received from district committee, targets under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) were allocated. RPL Training was implemented in 6 states i.e., Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The RPL Project focused on certifying migrant workers who had experience in the same trade to obtain better employment opportunity within or outside the district.

However, despite all these things researchers like Shareen Joshi, Georgetown University point out that migrants suffered significant losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Analysis from the International Labour Organization found that Indians aged 15–64 lost an average of 14.6 per cent and 6.3 per cent of their work hours in 2020 and 2021 respectively — nearly double the global rate. Another study showed that formal workers’ wages fell 3.6 per cent and informal workers’ wages fell 22.6 per cent.

There is also evidence that migrants are scared to return to the cities despite the losses they incurred, Joshi says. According to her, a longitudinal study found that while some male migrants have returned and even recovered their pre-pandemic incomes, many men have chosen to remain in rural areas, despite earning just 23 per cent of their previous income on average. Women migrants have regained less than 65 per cent of their pre-pandemic incomes regardless of where they are.

The point that is made is that India’s labour market has also changed since the pandemic. Some migrants find that their old jobs are not paying what they used to. A complicating factor here is that India does not have a uniform minimum wage. India’s Economic Survey 2018–19 acknowledged that there are 1915 different minimum wages defined for various scheduled job categories across multiple states.

Of course, the Government is reportedly considering to bring out a new proposalthat would limit the number of unique minimum wage rates to between 4–12 per state.

Besides, there is also the possibility that expanded welfare programmes that the central government have brought about could discourage migration. The government is in the midst of launching a new registration systems for unorganised workers. It has also rolled out new health insurance and social security schemes for them. India’s largest public works program, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, was also expanded.

All these schemes are helpful, no doubt, but a lot more needs to be done. Because, coverage of the migrant workers is relatively small.

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