Migrants’ livelihoods during the pandemic: Challenges and opportunities -Dr. Janvi Gandhi Kanakia and others

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published Published on May 1, 2022   modified Modified on May 2, 2022


Informal migrant workers in metropolitan cities of India have faced multiple forms of vulnerabilities in the last two years of the pandemic. Linkages across schemes for such workers are absolutely critical to creating a social security net that protects them from falling into similar cycles of poverty and destitution during macro and micro economic distresses.

ON the occasion of International Labour Day, or ‘May Day’, we explore the dimensions of vulnerabilities faced by migrants working as informal labourers in metropolitan cities of India during the last two years of the pandemic.

There are three distinct aspects of migrants’ livelihoods during the pandemic, which require critical scrutiny.

* Poor wages: A wage labourer’s wage is undercut by other bigger players in the corporate value chain. Did you know that a Rs. 40 mask prepared in a small garment manufacturing unit during lockdowns was prepared under Rs. 2 by an assembly line for four labourers? The Oxfam Inequality Report 2021 titled ‘Inequality Kills’ throws an alarming statistic: “It would take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment company earns in a year.”

* Lack of mediation mechanisms during wage losses: During the national lockdown, which led to sudden factory closures, migrant workers were denied their rightful wages. On non-profit organization Aajeevika Bureau’s Labour Line, in 2020, hundreds of distress callers who were casually employed as head loaders, or in construction and hospitality, complained of being defrauded of their wages by their employers (small and big) due to the lockdown. There is a critical need to set up fast-track wage and employment mediation cells and courts in all major cities and industrial areas, to deal with such cases.  
* High indebtedness among workers: The level of indebtedness among workers has gone up significantly. Community and survivor centric not-for-profit organization Jan Sahas conducted two separate surveys in September 2020 and 2021 among 3,500 migrant construction workers after the second lockdown. It found that 31 per cent migrant workers had taken loans. Of these, 8 per cent had taken loans from multiple entities, and 79 per cent were unable to pay their loans back.

Please click here to read more. 

Leaflet.in, May 1, 2022, https://theleaflet.in/migrants-livelihoods-during-the-pandemic-challenges-and-opportunities/

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