Results from our twinned surveys of 383 migrant workers and 657 resident workers, are now available. The findings present a clear picture of worker invisibility in social security schemes, that led to much hardship for both migrant and resident workers, across all sectors of work. Very few are considering coming back to the cities for work any time soon, and it remains an open question of how the surplus labour in rural areas will find sufficient work. An article based on the surveys has been published here, and the survey has also been used in Dvara’s COVID-19 Impact on Daily Life (CIDL) Survey.
Migrant workers survey done in 3 phases, during lockdown #2, #3, #4:
- Migrant workers are engaged mostly in factory work, or as daily wage labourers in construction or agricultural work. Overall, only 20% reported being registered under any welfare boards, PF, or ESI like social security schemes. Clearly most migrant workers are invisible.
- As a result of this invisibility, between 60-70% workers have reported not having received any cash transfer support from the state or central governments. With 85% reporting not having had any income at all through the lockdown, about 30% had to borrow money from others and 8% had to sell their assets for cash.
- 62% of those in wage work did not get any help from their employers either.
- Stranded without food or cash, around 50% have wanted or tried going back home. Even with the Shramik Special trains, 80% have either walked back, cycled, or hitched rides on trucks, under precarious conditions.
- Of those who reached their native places safely, only about 28% have stayed in the quarantine centres, the rest have self-quarantined at home. 63% of those staying in the quarantine centres report that these centres were unclean or irregular on food timings.
- A significant fraction report having faced some kind of discrimination, both at their place of work and upon coming back home. More than 55% of returned migrants plan to engage in agriculture related work, and only 10% show any inclination of going back to the cities for work any time soon. With factories having resumed at diminished capacity and only employing permanent workers, work is likely to be scarce in the cities. It remains a question if at home, agriculture or MNREGA or other works can absorb this surplus labour.
Resident workers survey done in 3 phases, during lockdown #2, #3, #4:
- Resident workers are engaged mostly as daily wage labourers in construction or agricultural work. Overall, only 15% reported being registered under any welfare boards, PF, or ESI like social security schemes. Clearly most resident workers are invisible, including many street vendors and daily wage workers.
- As a result of this invisibility, 66% workers reported not having received any cash transfer support from the state or central governments. With close to 85% reporting not having had any income at all throughout the lockdown, about 32% had to borrow money from others and 15% had to sell their assets to get cash.
- Of those in wage work, 60% did not get any help from their employers or contractors either.
- 66% have still not been able to resume their work, and this is true for people in all categories of work including self-employment, daily wage labour, factory work, street vendors, etc.
- Most of them hope to start work again in farming or agricultural labour, or MNREGA like non-agricultural work. Only 8.7% show any inclination of going to cities for work.
- 32% reported that MGNREGA work has still not started in their areas despite governments announcing that returned migrant labourers will be provided work promptly. Whether the rural economy will be able to absorb surplus labour because of many returned migrant workers is an important open question. Around 42% believe that agriculture related work will not be sufficient enough to absorb the surplus labour force, and 50% believe that wages will get suppressed as well.
- While the most significant concern on people’s mind is related to employment, they are also concerned about household level stress and tension, and the lack of space in the house, with more people at home now.