A SURVEY conducted among migrant workers who were repatriated from the Middle East during the first wave of the pandemic shows that 39.1 per cent of them faced non-payment of wages.
The report on wage theft among Indian migrant workers was published by Migrant Forum in Asia, Centre for Indian Migrant Studies and International Institute of Migration and Development (IIMAD). It was authored by IIMAD chairman Prof S Irudaya Rajan and research fellow C S Akhil.
Wage theft consists of non-payment of a worker’s remuneration, payment of salaries below the minimum wage and non-payment of overtime among others.
The survey was conducted among 2,252 migrant workers from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, who were repatriated during May 2020 and December 2020. These two states accounted for a significant share of the repatriated migrant workers. Among the respondents, 49.1 per cent returned from UAE and Saudi Arabia.
According to the survey, while 39.1 per cent of the workers faced non-payment of wages, 8.8 per cent worked during the pandemic without any wages and 18.2 per cent faced wage cuts.
Among the returnees, 45.5 per cent chose repatriation due to job loss and 28.4 per cent returned due to fear of the Covid-19 virus.
Among those who lost jobs, most of the workers (30.18 per cent) were asked to resign. Notably, 18.7 per cent of the workers were advised to travel back home without payment of their salaries, and a few workers (2.6 per cent) were threatened with termination. Among these, only 12.79 per cent received a favorable option of returning to their home country with wages and dues.
Among the respondents, 32.2 per cent were employed in the industrial sector, while workers from construction and hospitality sectors constituted 15.1 per cent and 12.3 per cent, respectively.
According to the data, only 0.79 per cent of the total returnees are government employees. The low share of government returnees indicates that the private and informal sector in the Gulf suffered the most, a trend seen in other parts of the world.
According to the report, Indians filed 11 group cases of wage theft, comprising 741 workers. The UAE and Saudi Arabia received the highest number of grievances on wage theft from Indian workers (324 and 124 respectively).
The Kerala government’s NORKA Department has so far received around 600 cases about wage theft, which have been taken up with the Indian mission in the Gulf.