Migrant work population crosses 2.5 million in Kerala

While Malayalis are known for their penchant to go to far-flung places in search of jobs, it seems an irony that Kerala has now a whopping 2.5 million migrant labour population engaged for manual works in various sectors including construction.

Interestingly, the size of the migrant work force in the state almost matched the estimated size of Malayalis working abroad, especially in the Gulf.

Not just that, the workers-- mostly from West Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Uttar Pradesh-- are pumping in about Rs 17,500 crore to their home states a year, according to a study conducted by the Gulati Institute of Taxation here.

The survey-- jointly conducted by Dr D Narayana, Dr C S Venkiteswaran and M P Joseph-- found that migrant worker presence in the state could rise as high as 4.8 million in 10 years going by the local demand, especially in construction sector which employs nearly 60 per cent of them.

About 75 per cent of the workers come from West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and Orissa.

The study titled 'Domestic Migrant Labour in Kerala', tabled in the state Assembly on Friday by Labour Minister Shibu Baby John, said about 2.35 lakh migrant workers continue to arrive every year in the state.

The total remittances to home states through the banking channels are pegged at Rs.17,500 crore as over 70 per cent of them earn as wages above Rs 300 a day. The work force consisted of almost entirely single men of 18 to 35 years and they mostly work under contractors.

Besides the construction sector, they also find work in hotels and restaurants, manufacturing units, trade, and agriculture sectors. They include unskilled workers to skilled carpenters, masons and electricians and work for eight to 10 hours and are reputed for their dedication and sincerity.

Relatively higher wages compared to their home state and prompt payment are the vital factors that lure them to Kerala, a state known for paying labourers well. But in most cases they live shacks or in crowded rooms close to work sites with poor water supply and sanitation.

The study has recommended a common single-point one-time voluntary registration system to be executed by local bodies on behalf of the Labour Department.

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