Can we turn migrant workers’ crisis into an opportunity?


Over 400 million informal workers in our country are at risk of falling into poverty as reported in the International Labour Organization study titled ‘ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work’. The majority of these informal workers are migrant workers.

According to a report by the National Sample Survey, about 43% of Delhi’s population are migrants, with more than half coming from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. 43% of Mumbai’s population is also the migrant population. As per the census 2011, there were 454 million migrants in India, and the number would have risen manifold now.

can we turn migrant crisis into an opportunityCan we turn migrant workers’ crisis into an opportunity?

Every crisis brings an opportunity with it. It gives us a chance to retrospect the past events, issues and to prepare an effective plan for a better and brighter tomorrow.

Some of the ways in which we can use the crisis as an opportunity are through the means of skills and education, enabling employers to recruit workers matching their skillsets, building a repository of those seeking employment.

To restart activities like manufacturing, construction, and their allied activities post COVID-19 pandemic, the first step would be to bring the workers back to the workplace, as per their skill set. This also means states and various organisations have to come together to identify the skills, skills gaps, and skill mismatch of the migrant workers. This database will not only help us in understanding the gaps but also in preparing a master plan to map the candidates as per their requirement and skills, with a thorough understanding on new skilling, reskilling and upskilling of the workforce.

Integrating the data from the existing schemes and projects of skill development like the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM), National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY), etc., will also help in understanding the numbers and patterns of the workforce and will eventually help in turning the migrant crisis into an opportunity.

Some states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand among others have taken steps to effectively handle the migrant crisis in India and enable a sustainable livelihood for them in their respective states.

Some of the states effectively handling migrant crisis are:

Uttar Pradesh: One of the states with the highest number of migrant workers returning to their homes during the nationwide lockdown. Uttar Pradesh has recently released its first skill map of migrant workers, which will help the state in providing jobs to them based on their skills and experience. The State has also decided on setting up a Migrant Commission. The Commission will map details of migrants, their skills, provide training, ensure social security, employment, and loan facilities among other things.

Uttarakhand: The Uttarakhand state government launched a scheme called Mukhya Mantri Swarojgar Yojana to provide loans to the migrant workers amid coronavirus pandemic. Earlier, the State government also launched a common platform, where the migrant workers can upload basic details on a website regarding their skill sets based on which they are likely to find suitable jobs in the state.

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Rajasthan: Rajasthan labour department has captured the data of 45.98 lakh workers, including eight lakh migrants, who are in dire need of jobs, amid the raging coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. The Chief Minister had also announced that an online employment exchange platform will be launched soon and it would help migrant workers get jobs and also provide required manpower to industries. The exchange will match the availability of labour with the industry’s requirement.

Assam: The State of Assam has not only taken proactive steps in the healthcare sector but also in bringing back the state’s economy on track. Industries and Commerce Minister of Assam have called upon global companies to invest in Assam. They have requested companies to explore in agri-entrepreneurship and agri-mechanization for employment in the rural areas. With an aim to improve the livelihoods of the farmers in the states and with the focus on agro-marketing, the State of Assam has recently sent a consignment of pumpkins to Dubai through air cargo. Series of discussions and steps have also been taken to support rural artisans, handloom and textile entrepreneurs, and training in digital payments, etc.

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