ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
-A A +A

Sustainable Development for Migrant Workers


The challenges facing migrant labourers in the country are quite complex. The Census 2011 found that India has approximately 139 million internal migrants. The Covid-19 pandemic has made the issue of the migrant labourers come out in the open as the effects of the lockdown on them were quite devastating.

The government needs to craft a sustainable strategy for these migrant labourers. Unless we view migrant workers as a dynamic part of a changing India, we will not be able to solve the problem of urbanisation. The central government, after 41 years since the Inter-state Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 was implemented, has now regarded these migrant workers as an entity that can be given social security and health benefits through the Employees’ State Insurance corporation. The importance of migrant workers in the economy can be seen in numbers, as 43% of Delhi’s and Mumbai’s population are migrants.

The states are responding to these challenges. For example, Madhya Pradesh (MP) has decided to create a database of all the migrant workers from the state. So, even if the labourers go outside the state for work, the MP government can track and help them if the need arises. MP, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar governments have decided to create a skill register wherein all the migrant labourers’ skill sets will be recorded and prospective employers will be connected to the labourers as the requirement arises. The MP government has already rolled it out and named it as “Rozgar Setu” or employment bridge wherein industries can see the workers’ availabilities and their skill sets online.

Large states affected by migrant workers’ issues have decided to focus on skill development. State governments like that of Punjab have decided to go for a survey for job requirements in the state and focus on self-employment schemes. The Uttar Pradesh government has formed a migration commission to identify the skills of returning migrant workers and provide employment to them. The Bihar government is committed to giving employment to the workers as per their skills. Self-employment and skill development have become the mantra for dealing with the migrant workers’ problem.

The issue that arises is how should the government plan for the sustainable development of its workers?

As per the research conducted by the Indian Institute of Management Indore, a state government can implement a two-step process for the sustainable development of the workers’ community.

In the first step, the state government needs to acquire data from the bottom of the pyramid. The gram panchayat, through the panchayat and family members of rural workers, can give information about the ground realities and the skill sets that the workers possess. Once village-wise data is collected, block development officers come in at the second stage, wherein data from the villages coming under a particular block can be collected and analysed. Similarly, with multiple blocks, district-level skill development requirements and availabilities can be mapped and taken in a consolidated whole to the state level.

Governments can then take inputs from various value-creation partners like industries, educational institutes and experts for the skill sets available as well as required by them in the present and in the future. This process needs to be agile and updated periodically.

Each worker needs to be given a unique ID linked with Aadhar. This will ensure data set management plus distribution of social benefits, health benefits, insurance, and a seamless distribution of other benefits.

Once the availability and requirement (present and future) of skills are mapped, a three-pronged strategy can be implemented. Connect: In this stage, the state government can connect the skills available with the industry requirements. State governments can use various institutes and agencies to marry the value-creation partners together. This will also ensure that proper facilities, benefits and working conditions are available for the workers.

Creation of skill: In the creation stage, state governments need to develop/upgrade the skills required by the state industries and other segments of value creation. State governments need to come up with proper planning and use educational institutes as well as manufacturing and service firms’ facilities for internship training of upskilling its workforce. The National Skill Development Corporation and state skill development councils can be of great help.

Catalyse: State governments need to take two steps—one, give insurance, medical and educational facilities to workers and their families, and two, help industries and allied areas to flourish. Entrepreneurship, allowing contemporary technologies, interest rates, land reforms, and other strategies that help industries to start, expand and grow need to be crafted and implemented. Certification of skill development courses can be a good analysis of quality and employability potential. For self-employment, financing, facilitation of selling their produce, the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India model can be implemented.

These steps are feasible and achievable. The benefits will go a long way in building a self-reliant India.

Prashant Salwan



Updated On : 27th Jul, 2020


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top