As the Uttar Pradesh government nears the end of its massive exercise to profile the skills of over 30 lakh migrant workers who have returned following the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, analysis of the data has revealed the extent both of their contribution to the economies of other states and the challenge before the UP government to provide them with employment within the state.
Almost half of this labour pool is unskilled, and a significant percentage have got work under MNREGA. To connect the skilled workers to industry, the state has formed a labour commission, and is developing a web portal with skills data.
The Indian Express looked at the exercise in progress, and the numbers it has generated so far, to understand the profile and nature of skills of one of the country’s largest workforces.
What do the numbers show so far?
* Out of about 30 lakh workers whose skill-profiling has been done by the UP government so far, about half, i.e., close to 15 lakh, are unskilled workers.
* The largest numbers of skilled workers are construction workers. As per the profile that has emerged so far, there are about 5.33 lakh construction workers among the migrant labourers who have come back to the state.
* The next big number is that of labourers other than construction and factory workers. There are about 91,000 painters or those associated with painting or plaster of Paris (POP) works.
* There are about 66,000 agricultural labourers among those who have come back.
* Other significant numbers include about 65,000 of those associated with carpentry; and about 62,000 tailors or those associated with stitching or embroidery.
* There are about 45,200 drivers, 21,093 cooks, about 17,400 electricians, 13,231 plumbers or those associated with plumbing, and 11,609 automobile mechanics.
* Among the workers who have returned are women, the bulk of whom are ayahs or those who make their living looking after children. There are about 9,000 such ayahs.
* There are 8,941 beauticians, barbers, or those associated with the mehendi art.
* There are about 8,842 computer or mobile repair workers, and 8,600 workers associated with sales and marketing.
* There are about 3,650 female housekeepers or domestic help in the list of migrant workers who have come back.
* The list also includes about 8,300 people who were street vendors, vegetable vendors, or rickshaw pullers in other states; a similar number of those working as security guards in other states too, have come back, as per the data available so far.
* The list also includes those working as delivery boys or in courier services, teachers, packers and movers, and workers in the tourism and hospitality industries.
* There are about 2,000 people who were engaged in the banking or insurance sector, and about the similar number engaged in clerical or accounting jobs in other states.
What is the government’s strategy for their employment?
The exercise to create a profile of the workforce is likely to be concluded soon, and the biggest task ahead will be to connect these people with employment opportunities.
The data will be shared with the industry and on a web portal with the contact details of each worker, so that interested potential employers can contact them.
MNREGA has come as the biggest relief for the state government in providing employment to not just those who have come back from other states but also to those who have lost their jobs within the state. With a large number of people still awaiting employment, daily employment in MNREGA recently reached a peak of about 57 lakh workers – a record, according to the government.
Principal Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Manoj Kumar Singh, said that before the lockdown, the average single-day employment was about 9 lakh, but as more and more people started moving back to their villages, the number saw its peak a few days back – reaching 57 lakh in a day, and has stayed between 51 lakh and 57 lakh since then. In just the past three months, about Rs 1,900 crore in wages have been paid under NREGA, Singh said.
Sources in the department said labourers under MNREGA were engaged in projects such as the deepening of ponds in villages, and in river rejuvenation projects. As many as 22 river rejuvenation works are in progress across the state.
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While there are no specific estimates of how many of the beneficiaries of MNERGA are migrant labourers who have returned to the state, sources in the department said the majority of the about 8 lakh recent beneficiaries were likely to be migrant labourers who have returned.
What about skilled workers who have returned?
With very few employment opportunities still, many skilled workers too are engaged in MNREGA works, sources believe.
There are about 15 lakh skilled workers among the migrant workers who have returned. The largest number are construction workers. The Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Department and the Infrastructure and Industry Department have been given the job of acting as a mediator to link workers with industry.
Principal Secretary, MSME, Navneet Sehgal said, “The state government has signed four MoUs with associations for the employment of workers. Recently, the tailors association had written a letter seeking tailors; they have been provided with the list, and they have started calling workers directly. Also, in the past few days, about 1.5 lakh construction workers have been engaged at private construction sites largely in western Uttar Pradesh, as well as in road projects.”
Government agencies like the Uttar Pradesh Expressway Industrial Development Authority, Public Works Department, etc., are trying to engage labourers at their construction sites for road projects. Work is currently in progress on three expressways in the state – the Purvanchal Expressway, which is in an advanced stage; the Bundelkhand Expressway; and the Gorakhpur Link Expressway, on which work has just started. Sources said that about 12,000 workers are engaged in these expressway projects. Work resumed on April 20 with social distancing measures.
UP has also signed MoUs with the Industries Association, FICCI, Udyog Bharti, and the National Real Estate Development Council to find employment for 11 lakh workers, and for skills training. A senior officer said that the data are being shared with the industry, which would contact the workers directly on their mobile phones.
The Noida Apparel Export Cluster had recently asked for about 2 lakh tailors; it has been given a list of those associated with the tailoring job.
Is there anything for women workers?
Not many of those who were working as domestic helps or ayahs are willing to take up employment under MNREGA, sources said. The state government plans to engage them through Self Help Groups in the manufacturing of masks and PPE kits.
Under the recently launched Banking Correspondent Sakhi Yojana under the Rural Livelihood Mission, women can be deployed in every village to provide all kind of banking help at people’s doorsteps.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Kumar Awasthi said that there are abut 35 lakh migrant workers, whose skill profiling is being completed by the Revenue Department.
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“The work has started to link these workers to the industry, rural development projects, MNREGA etc. Thirty-one districts in Uttar Pradesh have been chosen for the Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyan launched by the Prime Minister, which would ensure additional funds for employment in these districts,” he said.
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