The case for a portable safety net for migrants

Source: The post is based on an article “The case for a portable safety net for migrants” published in the Live Mint on 19th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation; GS 3 Inclusive Growth

Relevance: Safety Net of Migrants

News: The recently released Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2020-21 shows that 20.8% of total male migration in the country was from urban to rural areas in 2020-21.

What is the certainty effect?

Humans are naturally risk-averse. It means they try to reduce uncertainties in their decisions due to the certainty effect.

The certainty effect suggests people are less likely to select the outcomes that are merely probable, in comparison to the outcomes that are certain.

During the first phase of the covid pandemic, there was a sudden reverse migration from urban to rural. It reflects the phenomenon of the certainty effect. The migrants were trying to avoid the risk, i.e. risk-aversion.

What were the reasons for reverse migration which indicated risk aversion?

The PLFS lists 16 reasons for migration. Few are

(1) Around 6.7% of male migrants have attributed their migration to the loss of a job, closure of unit or lack of employment opportunities.

(2) There were other reasons like health-related uncertainty, lockdowns, the temporary closure of shops and establishments, coupled with the absence of a safety net in some instances.

What are the issues in accessing the safety nets for the migrant labourers?

Although the government policies create safety nets for those who need them, when people migrate, they often miss out on the geographically-fixed safety net benefits.

Some states have safety net provisions, but there are problems with the dissemination of information.

Urban housing for migrants remains a big concern. For example, the slums have mushroomed in tier 1 and tier 2 cities.

The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979 mandates the registration of inter-state migrants. As per the act, the contractor has the duties and obligations to register the migrant labor. But the states have not enforced the act.

What should be done?

States should work with the Centre to reduce uncertainties for migrant workers.

(1) The Economic Survey of 2020-21 came up with a bare necessities index. The Ministry of Statistics could rely on this index to define a safety net in its computations. The Union government has initiated the process of making access to bare necessities portable. This has several benefits.

(2) The government has launched One Nation, One Ration Card and Ayushman Bharat schemes to ensure uniform access to food and healthcare across India. Further, the Union government has introduced affordable rental housing complexes, a sub-scheme under the urban Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.

(3) Before policy intervention for migrants, the government should identify who the migrants are. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979 should be implemented to register the inter-state migrants.

Print Friendly and PDF