Movers and shapers: On Migrant workers

Synopsis: Targeted terror attacks in Kashmir have triggered an exodus of migrant workers. But this is not the sole challenge faced by migrant workers in India.


Attacks on migrants in Kashmir have received nationwide attention. However, the challenges posed by nativist politics for migrant workers have gone unnoticed.

Migrant workers provide cheap labor to the destination state and remittances to the home state (source state). But states have chosen to ignore this economic logic.

Haryana passed a bill granting reservation to locals in private jobs. However, due to labor crunch, it faced after the lifting of lockdown, it had to call back migrant labors.

Similarly, many other states have either passed laws or are willing to do so for reserving jobs for locals.

What is the significance of migrant labors for destination states?

In urban and robust agricultural societies, low-paying or back-breaking jobs refused by locals are done by migrant workers.

Alternatively, there are also fast-progressing states short of high-skilled human capital, who require educated migrants.

These laws (mentioned above) push up labor costs and drive away, the employers or industrialists.

What is the reason behind the resistance faced by migrant labors?

In the past, the economic stagnation of socialist years (before 1991) triggered the anti-migrant sentiment in states like Maharashtra and Jharkhand.

However, after the acceleration of economic growth after 1991 liberalisation, these sentiments were quieted and accelerated migration.

Similarly, whenever there is an economic slowdown, it increases the competition for jobs and drives the localism emotions up.

Source: This post is based on the article “Movers and shapers” published in The Times of India on 20th October 2021.

Print Friendly and PDF