While preventive measures of lockdown and curfews were imposed to contain the virus, its brunt was largely borne by the daily-wage workers as the fear of getting contracted by the virus forced them to head towards their respective hometowns on foot leaving their jobs behind. With daily wage labourers migrating to their native hometowns the numbers of unemployment touched 11.4 crores in April 2020 in the first wave and within two months of April-May 2021 during the peak of the second covid wave, India lost a total of 2.25 crore jobs out of which the daily wage workers owned a lion’s share of 1.72 crores according to CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy).
The sad state of the daily migrants caused by the lockdowns became more visible when a report from Stranded Workers Action Network revealed that 58 percent of the migrant families were hungry for days. The unprecedented times of the pandemic have thrown the migrant workers in tough dilemmas, where if they choose to go back to their native place their income becomes zero whereas if they chose to stay back in their hometown there are no employment opportunities. This further widens the gap between rich and poor and pushes more people under the below poverty line.
In such cases, a skill mapping of the migrant workers might seem to be a respite from the shackles of unemployment.
During the peak of the second covid wave, India lost a total of 2.25 crore jobs out of which the daily wage workers owned a lion’s share of 1.72 crores according to CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy).
Can there be a skill mapping initiative like SWADES for the daily wage workers as well?
For Indian citizens returning from abroad who were stranded in the pandemic, the government under ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ has launched SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) a joint initiative of the skill ministry, the ministry of civil aviation and the ministry of external affairs to conduct a skill mapping exercise for creating a database of qualified citizens based on their skill sets and experience to fulfill the demand of Indian and foreign companies.
Certain skill mapping initiatives should also be launched for the daily wage workers to create a database of what they did in their previous jobs. The collective information on hand can help the central and state government understand apart from the previous job, in what they can be trained to be employable where the manpower requirement is high. For instance, due to losses in the hotel and restaurant industry an ex-waiter can be further trained for welding metals in a metal fabrication company or can be trained to become a taxi driver as well. This might be a win-win situation for the native workers of the states that earlier due to the migrant workers, were unable to get the job. With the migration of daily wage workers, the state government can leverage the skill database and employ and train the ones present in the state. If this step, skill mapping exercise for daily wage workers is deployed in every state it will eliminate the need for workers to leave their respective states to find a job. Thereby giving them a source of income opportunity.
A collaboration with MSMEs and Central or State Government Needed
Several MSMEs are forced to shut down as they are not able to scale the operations due to manpower crunch. Several skilled workers have not yet returned from their native places. This opens a host of employment opportunities for the daily wage workers present in the state where the government by leveraging the skill mapping can upskill the workers to get employment in MSMEs where there is a severe manpower shortage.