By Mukta Naik, Senior Researcher, CPR
Government and civil society initiatives in skill development, formalisation of informal jobs and portability of rights can improve labour market outcomes for the ‘working poor’
Improving the livelihoods of the ‘working poor’, many of whom migrate out of their villages in pursuit of livelihood, is a key challenge for India’s economic growth as social cohesion. The SHRAMIC event on ‘Making Labour Markets Work’ held in Delhi on 13 February 2015 brought together government officials, policymakers, industry experts and representatives from a pan-India network of NGOs working under the Tata Trust’s Migration Initiative to deliberate on the mechanisms to make labour markets more inclusive for the working poor, especially for migrant labour.
Inaugural session highlights convergence of efforts
The convergence of government and civil society efforts was a key recommendation of the inaugural panel at the event. “It falls upon the government and new institutions to address this issue of integrating the migrant into mainstream economy,” said Jagan Shah, Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). Improving skills and employability, enhancing the quality and productivity of jobs in the informal economy and finding ways to formalise informal employment while supporting entrepreneurship were some of the areas where convergence of efforts would be particularly fruitful, participants suggested.
To this end, Prof. S. Mahendra Dev, Director (Vice Chancellor), Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) suggested “productive employment” as a goal that can be “explicitly tracked” for government and industry initiatives going forward. PP Mitra, Principal Labour & Employment Advisor, Ministry of Labour and Employment commented on the need for transparency in making government schemes like the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) that offers health insurance and the Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF) portable so that migrants can access them. “The lack of evidence based research hampers policy,” said Sanjiv Phansalkar, Program Director, Tata Trusts as he reinforced his organisation’s commitment to bring out relevant research to “get the notice of policymakers.”
What’s the role for cities and insitutions?
Moderated by Padma Shri VR Mehta, the first panel looked at the landscape of skills, employability and jobs in improving labour market outcomes in cities and advocated improved urban infrastructure, skills certification and matchmaking between skills and jobs as steps forward. Other panelists were Rakesh Ranjan, Advisor, Niti Ayog, Government of India, Sabina Dewan, President & Executive Director, JustJobs Network, Gauri Gupta, National Skill Development Corporation and Megha Aggarwal, Founder & CEO, Leapskills.
How can governments and courts improve migrant experiences, access to opportunities?
A second panel looked at the social experiences and vulnerabilities of migrants, focusing on the role of government, judiciary and the corporate sector. While panel chair Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President, Centre for Policy Research (CPR) pointed out that migrant rights are no different from that of any citizen in a legal sense, panelists agreed that the vulnerabilities that migrant populations face need to be addressed specifically.The other panelists were Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Vice President, Bhartiya Janata Party, Shankar Venkateswaran, Chief – Tata Sustainability Group, Tata Sons Ltd and Kamala Sankaran, Professor, University of Delhi.
Strengthen and Harmonize Research and Action on Migration (SHRAMIC), an initiative funded by the Tata Trusts, has supported a network of grassroots NGOs and reputed academic institutions, including CPR, IGIDR and NIUA to better understand migration and labour market issues across India and South Asia and enable evidence-based policy formulation.
Media coverage by Dainik Bhaskar can be accessed here