Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] Support for lives on the move


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Factors affecting migration in India and the need of an internal migration policy


Rising migration

  1. Internal migration can be driven by push and/or pull factors
  2. In India, over the recent decades, agrarian distress (a push factor) and an increase in better-paying jobs in urban areas (a pull factor) have been drivers of internal migration
  3. Data show that employment-seeking is the principal reason for migration in regions without conflict

Effects of migration

  1. Though migration is expected to enhance consumption and lift families out of absolute poverty at the origin, it is not free from distress
  2. Distress may be due to unemployment or underemployment in agriculture, natural calamities, and input/output market imperfections
  3. Despite these issues, internal migration has resulted in the increased well being of households, especially for people with higher skills, social connections and assets
  4. Migrants belonging to lower castes and tribes have also brought in enough income to improve the economic condition of their households in rural areas and lift them out of poverty
  5. Data show that a circular migrant’s earnings account for a higher proportion of household income among the lower castes and tribes
  6. This has helped to improve the creditworthiness of the family members left behind — they can now obtain loans more easily

Rise in the urban informal economy

  1. The modern formal urban sector has often not been able to absorb the large number of rural workers entering the urban labour market
  2. This has led to the growth of the ‘urban informal’ economy, which is marked by high poverty and vulnerabilities
  3. Most jobs in the urban informal sector pay poorly and involve self-employed workers who turn to petty production because of their inability to find wage labour
  4. Then there are various forms of discrimination which do not allow migrants to graduate to better-paying jobs
  5. Migrant workers earn only two-thirds of what is earned by non-migrant workers, according to 2014 data

Costs of migration

  1. Migrants have to incur a large cost of migration which includes the ‘search cost’ and the hazard of being cheated
  2. Often these costs escalate as they are outside the state-provided health care and education system
  3. This forces them to borrow from employers in order to meet these expenses
  4. And frequent borrowing forces them to sell assets towards repayment of their loans

New forms of discrimination

  1. Employment opportunities, the levels of income earned, and the working conditions in destination areas are determined by the migrant’s household’s social location in his or her village
  2. The division of the labour market by occupation, geography or industry (labour market segmentation), even within the urban informal labour market, confines migrants to the lower end
  3. Often, such segmentation reinforces differences in social identity, and new forms of discrimination emerge in these sites

Need for a National Migration Policy

  1. The need for a national policy towards internal migration is underscored by the fact that less than 20% of urban migrants had prearranged jobs and nearly two-thirds managed to find jobs within a week of their entry into the city
  2. In India, the bulk of policy interventions, which the migrants could also benefit from, are directed towards enhancing human development; some are aimed at providing financial services
  3. As government interventions are directed towards poverty reduction, there is a dearth of direct interventions targeted and focussed on regions
  4. Policies on this could be twofold. The first kind could aim at reducing distress-induced migration and the second in addressing conditions of work, terms of employment and access to basic necessities

Steps that can be taken

  1. There is a need to distinguish between policy interventions aimed at ‘migrants for survival’ and ‘migrants for employment’
  2. Continued dynamic interventions over long periods of time would yield better results compared to single-point static interventions, especially in the context of seasonal migrants
  3. Local bodies and NGOs which bring about structural changes in local regions need to be provided more space
  4. Interventions aimed at enhanced skill development would enable easier entry into the labour market
  5. We also need independent interventions aimed specifically at addressing the needs of individual and household migrants because household migration necessitates access to infrastructure such as housing, sanitation and health care more than individual migration does
  6. Government interventions related to employment can be supported by market-led interventions such as microfinance initiatives, which help in tackling seasonality of incomes

Way forward

  1. As remittances from migrants are increasingly becoming the lifeline of rural households, improved financial infrastructure to enable the smooth flow of remittances and their effective use requires more attention from India’s growing financial sector
  2. A national policy for internal migration is needed to improve earnings and enable an exit from poverty
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