Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

High cost of living traps migrant workers in Ghaziabad: Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra

Circular migration in India is likely to grow, and the government, NGOs and other stakeholders must take steps to make it a more remunerative and less painful process for the poor. In this light, Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra (Uttar Pradesh) undertook a study on the expenditure pattern and saving habits among construction workers, domestic workers, rickshaw pullers and pillow makers in Ghaziabad, as a part of their project: Reducing Vulnerability of Migrants at Source and Destination- with due focus on their rights, entitlements and access to services.

Their study set out to determine expenditure patterns, constructive usage of earning, saving methods and awareness and accessibility of schemes and policies meant for their economic empowerment.

Ghaziabad as a labour intensive town

Ghaziabad is a labour intensive town with nine prominent labour points, where 3500-5000 labourers collect every morning. Despite this large influx of migrant workers, there are few provisions for their social security. SSK emphasises that municipal corporations and the Labour Welfare Board do not display accountability towards these migrants; and because they do not fall within the Board’s criteria of wage labour they are not considered fixed workers, but mobile population. Though there is a strong trade union, this does not cater to the unique needs of migrant labourers.

High cost of living in urban areas

The high cost of living in urban areas accounts for a major part of migrant workers’ expenditure. Over 44% of the expenditure of pillow makers was on accommodation; and 42% of the expenditure of construction workers was on food. This reflects the fact that despite migrating for financial reasons, the high cost of living poses serious challenges to the possibilities of saving.

Financial emergencies and debt traps

Most migrant workers spend a large portion of their income on everyday expenses due to the high cost of living. When financial emergencies such as health problems and marriages arise, they take loans on interest from moneylenders. Because they are unable to save, or avail of institutional policies such as health insurance, these expenses create debt traps from which they are often unable to escape.

SSK’s intervention: Legal support, interfacing and skill development

Most of the domestic workers, rickshaw pullers and pillow makers surveyed did not have bank accounts or any kind of insurance. They were unable to access state support mechanisms. SSK documents a felt need for a dedicated space where migrants could access legal support, and thus worked towards making the services of Shramik Sahayata Kendras or Migration Resource Centres more visible and accessible to migrant families. They worked to create a mechanism for legal counseling centres and interfaced with Panchayats, urban municipal bodies, and institutions like trade unions, hospitals, and insurance companies.

SSK suggests that youths who plan to migrate are often unable to match the skills and education they possess to the work they procure in destination areas, and are thus forced to take up low-skilled and low-paying jobs. Thus they identified a need for focused skill development for migrant youths, and designed a strategy for vocational training and skill development to enhance employability.

There is thus a pressing need for increased awareness amongst migrant communities regarding their rights, and state provisions for social security; as well a need for the sensitisation of institutional bodies to the unique concerns of migrant communities.

Source: Expenditure Patterns and Saving Habits among the Construction Workers, Domestic Workers, Rickshaw Pullers and Pillow Makers in Ghaziabad (SSK, 2015)


Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra logoSSK is a support organisation and centre for participatory learning, which works for the empowerment of socially and economically backward communities by promoting their participation for good governance through capacity building of CSOs, CBOs and institutions of self-governance.


Radhika M. Chakraborty

Radhika M. Chakraborty

Radhika M Chakraborty has completed a degree in English Literature from Delhi University and a Master's degree in Women's Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Her research interests include gender and migration, diasporas, Partition, internal displacement and Sindhi culture.
Radhika M. Chakraborty

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One Response to “High cost of living traps migrant workers in Ghaziabad: Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra”

  1. […] Shiksha Kendra (SSK) has extensive experience with migrant workers in Ghaziabad, and their previous study on expenditure patterns in Ghaziabad, explored the major labour chowks of Ghaziabad where migrant […]

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