The paper examines the nature and scope of existing social protection measures, designed, to protect the internal migrant workers and mitigate dislocation, discrimination, during COVID pandemic and in future.
According to the Economic Survey of India 2017, interstate migration in India between 2011 and 2016 averaged close to nine million people each year. There are approximately 100 million migrants in the workforce, according to other estimates. Since many migrants come from socially and economically disadvantaged groups, they have been driven from their homes and into cities in search of work for decades. In contrast, marginal or landless farmers have inconsistent incomes, little to no access to social security or entitlements, and limited access to credit, training, or alternative sources of income. They largely find employment in the unorganized sector with no protection against workplace-related accident/injury, wage or job loss, and limited social protection. They are compelled to live in filthy, congested, and unsafe housing because their company does not supply housing and the formal rental market is inaccessible. Dense living and working conditions make internal migrant workers susceptible to contracting COVID-19. Restrictions on internal travel and the fall in domestic commercial transportation options resulting from the COVID19 has led to distress among migrant labourers. Many internal migrant workers lost jobs and were left without income, food, and accommodation; others sought to return home but have been stranded in transit due to travel restrictions.
The first section sets the context around importance of social protection measures for internal migrant workers in India. The second section discusses the existing social protection measures for this cohort and the third section reflects upon the status of delivery of these social protection measures. In the last section, we present the benefit delivery-related issues and suggestions to improve access to social protection benefits.