• Between June 2020 and August 2020, NEEV – a multi-stakeholder consortium of partners working to improve worker welfare in the construction sector in India – conducted remote surveys with over 10,000 migrant construction workers (who migrated from the Bundelkhand region to Delhi NCR) to understand the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on their lives, jobs and personal well-being. The surveys conducted were based on Longitudinal Migration Tracking or LMT i.e. prospective migrants were enrolled first, then their basic demographic information was collected and their seasonal journeys to work in the construction industry was tracked.
• Although 59,129 participants were contacted at least once for the study, responses of 18 percent of the total participants (i.e. n=10,464) who completed the survey as per the LMT methodology were finally taken into account to get the survey results. Most respondents were male (97 percent; n=10,106), and belonged to either a Scheduled Caste (65 percent; n=6,999), Other Backward Caste (25 percent, n=2,549) or Scheduled Tribe (5 percent, n=528) community.
• Nearly, one-third of respondents had no formal education (n=3,443; 33 percent), a further 18 percent had only completed primary education (n=1,912; 18 percent), 24% had attained secondary education (n=2,469), while a quarter of respondents had completed 12th grade (n=2,274; 25 percent).
• Ninety-five percent of workers surveyed (n=9,931) reported having a job in construction prior to March 2020, compared to only one-third (n=3,493) as of August 2020, indicating a 65 percent decrease in the number of participants employed in the construction sector during the pandemic.
• It was found that around 52 percent of — or one out of every two — participants (n=5,177) did not have a monthly household income.
• Among participants who were working prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, 72 percent (n=7,421) had received payment for their work while 28 percent (n=2,839) had not.
• Of the respondents who reported that they had not received any financial or in-kind assistance, approximately 58 percent were unaware of the welfare schemes and benefits they were entitled to receive, and a further 27 percent were unable to receive benefits despite having the necessary documents.
• Of the migrant construction workers surveyed, 40 percent (4,241) reported that they had received some form of support (primarily in the form of food rations).
• Participants of this study borrowed money for meeting food requirements due to the pandemic at more than double the rate that existed prior to lockdown, reinforcing that food security is a critical concern for migrant workers in the construction sector at this time. Rising indebtedness among migrant workers in the construction industry increases the risk of modern slavery.
• A significant proportion of respondents reported that they had no savings (34 percent; n=3,536), which not only increases the severity of the COVID-19 lockdown, but also the potential for these individuals to be pressed toward riskier employment ventures.
• The study finds that the primary concern among migrant construction workers surveyed was food insecurity.
• While the amount of ration allocated to each ration-card holder covered under the National Food Security Act was expanded during the crisis through the PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana scheme, the study findings indicate that a significant portion (33 percent of construction workers who responded) were not in possession of a ration card that would allow them to avail these benefits. Additionally, for those migrant workers who have ration cards, the lack of portability of these benefits to destination locations still presents a challenge.
• The majority of migrant workers surveyed reported that they had not received any support from government welfare programmes.
[Shivangini Piplani, who is doing her MA in Finance and Investment (1st year) from Berlin School of Business and Innovation, assisted the Inclusive Media for Change team in preparing the summary of the study by Sattva Consulting and others. She did this work as part of her winter internship at the Inclusive Media for Change project in December 2020.]