Planning Interventions for Migrant Labourers

AbstractIn the developing countries, internal migration is the biggest challenge and is one of the colossal survival strategy for the labourers who are seeking in for better livelihood opportunities. The migration happens within varied towns and cities and differs in duration of their migration. Migrant labourers face the unique problems of housing and housing related conditions. The policy intervention for the migrant labourers has become the need of an hour. The article would throw some light and give some brief perception about the initiatives to be taken to subsidise the migratory informal workers. Whenever the cities fail to accommodate the housing need and demand, it turns out into the formation of high-density informal settlements with inadequate housing amenities. Therefore, the system needs to have a robust network in providing and enabling the social rental housing to the migrant labourers. The households which are below the affordability line, should be subsidized trough rental vouchers and night shelters.


Key Words: Migrants, Labourers, Internal Migration, Rental Housing, Rental Vouchers


    Migration is defined as the geographical mobility of the people from one place to another in search of the job and employment opportunities. Migration deals with the intention of migrants to settle temporarily or permanently or semi-permanently in their work cities. There are a range of reasons for migration which includes- economic (livelihood, economic imbalance, job opportunities etc.), environmental factors, demographic reasons (family migration, movement of young and retired persons) or political reasons (refugee movements etc.).

    The types of migration are varying from informal to formal. Informal workers are unskilled labourers who work largely in unorganised sector. Chiefly, migrants move from rural to urban/semi-urban areas in search of work and better livelihood opportunities. Therefore, informal workers include a big number of migrant workers. Informal workers, many of whom are migrants, work on the daily or the seasonal basis, for the short stretch of time. They work within the low skilled precincts and not within the mainstream of the sectors. The work places of these migrant labourers are mostly small, unorganised and informal part of the sectors. Historically and culturally, it has been observed that migration is one the globally adopted coping strategies to sustain the livelihood. There have been ample evidences of both voluntary and forced migration. Forced migration certainly happens to occur when there is a social problem of poverty and indebtedness and natural problems like Natural calamities, failed monsoon, consequent famine, and the search for better livelihood options. Labourers and workers migrating within a country are basically the internal migrants who usually move from less developed regions to more developed ones. The migrant labourers are the essence of the developed economy of a region or a place. These migrant labourers work in their respective work cities and migrate after a period. It can be clearly seen that the policies and programmes are formed for the permanent informal labourers of the city, but no intervention has till date benefitted any migratory working population.

    As recorded in Census 2011, India’s total population, stands at 1.21 billion. The internal migrants of the country count in as 454 million which therefore constitutes 37 percent of the entire population. That said, internal migration remains grossly underestimated owing to empirical and conceptual difficulties in measurement. The number of internal migrants is expected to cross 550 million by 2021.Policies such as the National Smart Cities Mission have also contributed to this phenomenon. From 2001-2011, India came across the rise in the migrant workforce of 139 million people.     The internal migration almost doubled in 20 years—from 220 million in 1991 to 454 million in 2011.Programmes like National Smart Cities Mission have also contributed to this phenomenon. In India migration is studied in two types: (a) long-term migration, resulting in the relocation of an individual or household; and (b) short-term or seasonal/circular migration, involving back-and-forth mobility between their actual homes and workplaces. With the increasing unit of migration in the country, the problem has arisen regarding the effective health care services to the migrant workers. The policies and programmes must be formed and incorporate certain measures and strategies to sustain the migrants in the cities.

    Taking the case of the current situation in the world, where the pandemic has hit the people ineptly, the informal workers and labourers are the most affected population in the developing countries like India. In this standstill situation, the migratory labourers who have been grounded in the cities where they work with the least and poor measures of survival are the most vulnerable and the worst affected in the nationwide lockdown.

The planning interventions should be adopted to secure the migrant labourer:

1.     Registration and Identity of the Migrant labourers

In the absence of any identity proof or any legal document which represents the existence of the  migrant labourers in the city, the labourers are excluded from the legal  rights,  public and semi-public services  and  social protection programmes accorded to residents, on account of which they are recognised as the second-class citizens. As a result, these internal migrants face obstructions and hurdles in accessing the subsidised food, housing and housing related amenities, and banking or other funding services. Urgently the policy should be initiated to assure the perseverance of the migrant labourers in a region. The optimistic approach to provide the UIDAI (Unique IDentification Authority of India) for the internal migrants. This biometric proof of each individual migrant would help them in availing the socio-economic entitlements anywhere in the country.

2.     Intervention of individual housing

Migrant labourers have always faced difficulties in accessing housing and other basic amenities like portable drinking water supply and sanitation. Due to informality in their jobs they tend to live in the slums, with no adequate planning. The migrant labourers are temporary in their workable cities. Shelter is one of the biggest challenges faced by the developing countries these days. Therefore, shelter solutions can act as one of the pertinent solution for the migrants. The decent rental housing unit should be provided to the migrant labourers to improve their housing related condition, until the time they work in the respective cities. The housing units on rent can be provided by enabling the rental policy which includes the informal migrants who live in the informal structures and require adjustments in rental units. The objective of the policy targets at enabling the market to provide adequate rental units at lowered rates.

·        Provide financial and regulatory support for the Households living in the substandard units which are to be catered in the rental housing.

·        Initiating social rental housing strategy for the migrant workers who are live in the informal units or are almost homeless. The gap of rent must be bridged for the household below affordability line by providing subsidy of the rental vouchers.

 Integration of Labour Market

    Majority of the migrant labourers are indulged in the informal working centres working as construction labourers, painters, hawkers, vendors, rickshaw pullers, house helps etc. Devoid of social security and legal protection, they are forced to work under poor conditions and face labour market discrimination.  They are often defied with the Minimum wages and employers bear no responsibility for health, shelter, and other basic requirements of migrants. The NGOS’S should come into the picture to organise the capacity building programmes and enhance the skills of the workers. In today’s world, it has become very important to augment the unskilled labourers into the skilled workers. The upgraded skills would help them getting the certificate of their every work done, which would further help them in reaping the better job opportunities and competing well in the labour market. There should be a labour bank of skilled workers, which would help in joining forces with the unskilled ones including painters, plumbers, carpenters, masons, and agricultural workers.

    There are already few organisations who have been working in this aspects and helping the migrant labourers getting better employment options. The DISHA FOUNDATION, has certified the labourers and has helped them in accessing better job options with increased incomes. Similarly, Labour Net in Bangalore has also launched a skills training and job linkages programme. 

4.     Access to food items

    Public Distribution System (PDS) is the soul of India, in providing essential food items at the subsidised rates to the people who are deprived of the basic food amenities. It maintains a web of more than 4,62,000 fair price shops distributing commodities worth more than 30,000 crore annually to about 160 million families, the PDS in India is perhaps the largest distribution network of its kind in the world.

    The policy is to be discussed including the portability of the PDS in every state. Migrants are unable to access the PDS system at their workable places. The intervention at central level involves the access to PDS by interstate and intra state migrant workers. To get the access to grains and other food items, the beneficiaries and their household must present a ration card or health which would be provided to them at their own residence and which is not transferrable.


    The quantum of internal migration is increasing and will keep on increasing in the coming times.  With this, the problem of providing the effective health care services and housing related amenities to the migrants would challenge the system. To avoid this situation, the system should ensure that all the policies and programmes initiated should include the migrant population. The interventions discussed above if incorporated ethically could help in addressing and subsidising the migrants in the form of health and housing related conveniences. The urban health plans should associate with special intervention for the migrants.


1.     1) Ajoke Basirat Akinola, A. K. (2020). Health equity for internal migrant labourers in India: an ethical perspective. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.

2.    2)   India, M. o. (n.d.). Policy, Strategy and Operational Plan.

3.    3)   RAJAN, S. I. (2020). The way forward on migrant issues. MIGRANT ISSUES.

By Nehmat KhoslaNehmat Khosla is a qualified urban planner and a Housing specialist. She is from Amritsar , Punjab. She has keen interest in researching about the urban planning related problems and finding solutions to them. She has a deep understanding of urban planning and its related issues in the country. She comes up with the new thoughts and ideas for the better and sustainable planning in the country.Her acumen and keenness is high in planning for all and not for a particular sector.  

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