What is the effect of the COVID pandemic on construction labourers?
As per a McKinsey analysis, roughly 51 million workers are employed in construction-related jobs in India. After the farming sector, this industry employs the most people. The consequences of the COVID-19 virus were predicted to be extremely large when it initially reached the nation in February 2020. A lot of citizens lost their employment and were unable to feed their families because of the lockdown and shut down of many projects and locations. The daily wage labourers were the hardest hit. The migrant workers evacuated and wanted to return to their hometowns because they were terrified. We are all familiar with the large numbers of migrant workers that walked back to their homes in various states.
The industry reached a stage where it was operating at one-third capacity, which had a negative impact on on-the-ground developments. Since the nation was placed under heavy lockdown in June 2020, the scenario has remained bleak ever since. After July 2020, the markets resumed partially, and construction work continued gradually. Several workers now did not have enough money to return to these cities. By the time the cities witnessed the return of the labourers, the arrival of the pandemic's second wave had exacerbated the situation.
Fearing a lockdown, construction workers who had come to the city began returning home once again. As a result, housing and infrastructure projects suffered greatly. Because of such factors, the government did not entirely halt big projects like Delhi's Central Vista. Developers, on the other hand, believe that their constant efforts to provide food and lodging to workers have kept the migration activity under control and that the impact this time has been less severe than in the past. When asked to rejoin the activities, several workers were unsure of the third wave. As a result, several of them launched confectionery shops and other small businesses in their local communities.
Neev is a multi-stakeholder partner collaboration. They have been attempting to enhance worker welfare in India's construction industry. They performed remote surveys with around 10,000 migrant construction workers between June and August 2020. The goal was to learn how the Covid-19 lockdown affected their lives, occupations, and personal well-being. We will be talking about the survey results, specifically highlighting the discoveries that are most relevant to the construction businesses.
This research contributes to the identification of gaps in the present pandemic-specific policies and service delivery. This is accomplished through gaining a better understanding of the changes in the vulnerability of migrant construction workers as a result of Covid-19. This study also informs public and private sector partners about the implementation of construction worker-focused programming.
THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY, OLD EMPLOYERS, AND JOB LOCATIONS
70 per cent of workers who were unemployed at the time of the poll said they wished to return to the construction industry once the limitations were relaxed.
However, just 55 per cent of those polled wanted to return to their previous employer.
Furthermore, approximately 33 per cent of workers were indecisive about migrating to a destination this year, and 10 per cent stated that they would not migrate at all this year.
WORKERS' AND THEIR FAMILIES' TOP PRIORITIES
61 per cent of workers said food was their top priority in the near future.
The two more top concerns were educational and agricultural needs.
TAKING ON DEBT IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE PANDEMIC
Six out of ten participants said they intended to incur debt or take on extra debt in the near future to suit their funding requirements.
Only three out of ten said they had accepted borrowing before the pandemic.
On October 10, 2020, labour union members from colleges associated with the Karnataka State Higher Education Department protested under the banner of the All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC). On Thursday morning, it was held in Mysore, near the Office of the Joint Director of Higher Education, on Hunsur Road. They demanded the State Government to discharge all pending payments for college labourers. On July 2, 2021, AIUTUC activists and construction workers held a demonstration in Bangalore. They were requesting federal assistance with COVID-19.
According to the protesters, the labourers in the unorganised sector are in serious debt. The sole explanation was reported to be due to the slowness of activities owing to the lockdown and the general circumstances emerging out of the pandemic. The Karnataka State Construction Workers Welfare Board demanded that the labourers be compensated ₹10,000 for three months. However, the administration announced a ₹3,000 one-time relief. According to the Karnataka State Construction Site Workers Association, this is insufficient.
The association responded by stating that this sector has taken the most damage. According to the report, the economic slowdown has impacted not just the construction sector but also everyday wagers. As a result, it urged that the government raise the amount of relief. This is necessary to assist them to get through the financial crisis.
Even the sum announced by the government had yet to be credited to the workers' accounts. The Association requested that it be handled as soon as possible. Other demands included the distribution of grocery kits and other necessities.
Recommendations also came in from a variety of sources, including NGOs such as Jan Sahas, Nirmana, and SEWA. They advocated for increasing construction worker aid from Rs 333-500 per month to Rs 1,000-1,500 per month for a six-month term. They also requested that labourers engaged under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act be paid pending payments totaling roughly Rs 2,000 crore (MGNREGA).
The COVID-19 crisis has affected both developers and construction workers by the end of July 2021. The government's economic policies is a start in the right direction. However, if the country is to be hit by a third wave, much consideration must be given.
About the Writer
Anchal Srivastava is an architect, urban planner, writer, researcher and scholar. She is a certified GIS specialist from IIRS, ISRO, Dehradun. She is a graduate of the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi and Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technical University (APJAKTU), Uttar Pradesh. She has experience working at the Town and Country Planning Organisation Delhi, Jabalpur Smart City Limited, Suresh Goel & Associates (SGA), APS Green Architects & Associates, and as the head architect at SSAP and Shantiniketan Buildtech Pvt. Ltd.
About the Editor
Srishti Mehta is the author of From the Land of Mist and Snow: Haikus from Antarctica. She is a creative writer, editor and publisher. She is the Editor-in-Chief at Zeyka. She is a graduate of the St. Xavier College, Ahmedabad, and the H.R. College of Commerce and Economics, University of Mumbai (MU). She has been the India Ambassador of the International Antarctica Expedition (2018) with 2041 Foundation. She has diverse volunteer experience in natural field studies, explorations, and journalism with numerous organisations including the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai.
About the Illustrator
Ayadi Mishra is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal. She is a writer, illustrator and graphic designer. She has experience working with An Architect, Ethos India, WPF Creatives, Nivedha Foundation, SkyManga. She has attended summer school at the Hunnarshala Foundation for Building Technology & Innovations, Bhuj, and has been a finalist in Solar Decathlon India.