Institute for Social and Economic Change

Established in 1972 by Professor V K R V Rao, ISEC is an All-India Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Training in the Social Sciences

Facets of Covid-19 on Migration and Informal Sector workers – isec

Facets of Covid-19 on Migration and Informal Sector workers


Institute for Social and Economic Change

ISEC Golden Jubilee International Conference
sponsored by the ICSSR

Two-Day International Conference on

Facts of Covid-19 on Migration and Informal Sector workers

on 24th and 25th November, 2022 at ISEC Bengaluru

Organised by

Centre for Economic Studies and Policy(CESP)
Centre for Research in Urban Affairs(CRUA),
Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru, India

Call for Papers

The last few decades have witnessed the rapid urbanization and currently 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. This proportion is expected to increase to 68% by 2050 as per UN estimates (2020). Africa and Asia, which are already having urban population more than Europe, Latin America, or North America – have seen steep increase in their share of urban dwellers in the last 70 years (World Economic Forum 2020). India has also witnessed an increasing trend in urban population. In the last fifty years, the population of India in absolute terms has grown two and a half times, whereas urban India has grown almost five times and is expected to be 50% (Bhagat 2015). The growth of urbanization is highly discernible in south Indian states with more than 35 per cent of the population living in urban centers, barring Andhra Pradesh, while Karnataka’s urbanization has increased from 33.9 per cent in 2001 to 38.57 per cent in 2011.

Along with the natural increase in population, the significant contribution towards Indian urban population has been fueled by migration, which in turn is shaped by many economic and non-economic factors like unemployment, low income, dependence on agriculture, high poverty, environmental degradation, depletion of natural resources in rural areas. The employment opportunities, especially in the urban informal sector ensures livelihood to migrant labours, which is comparatively better than their ???????native place. These migrant population are mainly absorbed in the destination as domestic workers, construction workers, cleaners, manufacturing sector workers, vendors etc., which represent 3D jobs (dirty dangerous demeaning jobs). The National Sample Survey of 2014 documents that 94 per cent of workforce earned livelihood as informal workers. These workers have no contract, social security, compensation for injuries, access to drinking water, health care and no safe workplaces. For instance, in India, construction sector is considered as the major source of informal sector employment in India. And most of the employees in construction sector are migrants. Most of them are seasonal migrants and landless from economically weaker regions of the country.

Among others, an increase in urban population demand for the development of infrastructure sectors, which in turn increases construction activities tremendously resulting into the steady movement of labour from rural to urban areas. According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) the biggest increase in non-agricultural employment has been in the construction sector, where the share of employment in rural areas has increased from 14.4 per cent in 1999-00 to 30.1 per cent in 2011-12 (India Labour Market Update, July 2016). This could be largely because, the construction work has taken as a means of immediate employment. They are socially backward, unskilled, and uneducated with low bargaining power and are most vulnerable due to their temporary nature of work and lack of a definite employee-employer relationship. As argued in the literature they suffer from cycles of excessive seasonality nature of their job, scattered workplace, and lack of formal employee – employer relationship, bondage, and indebtedness of employees (Jacob, 2011). As a policy response, the government both central and state government have tried to uplift their work and living condition through various interventions/schemes.

Given the multitude of problems that the migrant workers were already encountering, COVID-19 was the ultimate threat that life could offer to their already vulnerable lives. Earlier study highlights that the construction workers enrolment into Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (BoCW) is almost non-existent, thus denying them the benefits during such unimaginably difficult times. For instance, the plight of the migrant construction worker is well reflected in mass exodus from metropolitan city to their natives when the government announced the lockdown. This is among other issues due to lack of savings to survive in the absence of daily wages. The struggle represented the state of ‘no life’ if ‘no livelihood’ in the ‘metropolitan city’ for informal workers. The segment that contributes immensely to the urban structures have no existence if they are not able to contribute. Many governments announced that registered migrant construction workers would be paid ranging from Rs 1000 to Rs 5000 for their survival due to Covid-19 outbreak. But the big question was how many of them would have access to such benefits from the government as majority of them were not registered under BoCW Board due to various reasons. The NSSO (2009-10) estimates reveal that approximately 4 per cent of the construction workers in Karnataka have registered under BoCW. Similarly, a study conducted in 2019 also revealed that 2% of the construction workers in Bengaluru were members of BOCW (Kambara et al, 2020). As they are the wage earners, the next question will be how many of them would have had active bank accounts? If they did not have bank accounts, then what was their plight? In this backdrop the proposed two days international conference aims to bring the major issues/challenges surrounding migration and informal worker during the Covid-19 to the fore.

The specific questions that we intend to explore are (but are not limited to):

  • How the different Indian states have responded to the COVID 19 situation?
  • What is the gender dimension of the covid, migration and informality?
  • How has it affected the lives and livelihood of the informal workers?
  • How has it affected the life of children and their overall wellbeing?
  • What are the coping strategies adopted by the migrants?
  • What are the social constraints encountered by migrant workers and have they been welcomed in their home?
  • How many of them have preferred to migrate back to city post lockdown?
  • What roles were played by NGOs?
  • Did informal workers’ skills matter in coping with the pandemic?
  • What were the challenges in managing basic needs of food, health, and sanitation?
  • How were they treated by the agencies/developers/builders?

Venue: The Conference is planned to be conducted in hybrid mode at Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bengaluru.

About ISEC: The Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) is an All-India Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Training in the Social Sciences, established in 1972 by the late Professor V K R V Rao to create a blend of field-oriented empirical research and advances in social science theories leading to better public policy formulation. For more information, please check ISEC website

Objective of the Conference: The central objective of the conference is to explore the relevant themes and aspects embedded in the migration of informal workers during the pandemic, while doing so we intend to call papers that explore changing discourse both in theory and practice.

Who can participate: The conference will be virtual as well as physical event depending on the pandemic situation in the state. Besides invited keynote speakers, the proposed Conference will invite papers from eminent scholars, academicians, practitioners, and experts from India and abroad to discuss the various dimensions of migration and construction workers during the pandemic. The proceedings of the conference offer a key take home for building better tomorrow for most neglected informal sector workers.

Submission Procedure: Interested applicants wishing to present original research should send their extended abstract by September 15, 2022, to The extended abstract should comprise of 750-1000 words. Intimation regarding shortlisting of abstracts will be sent by 30th September 2022. The deadline for sending full papers with a word limit between 7000-8000 words in MS Word format is October 30, 2022.

Conference Fee: There is no conference fee.

Accommodation and Travel Support: Selected paper presenters (from outside Bangalore) will be provided accommodation and travel allowance (AC Three Tier train fare).

Publication: Outstanding conference papers will be considered for publication in an edited volume by a reputed international publisher.

Organizing Committee:

  • Dr Malini L Tantri, Assistant Professor, Centre for Economic Studies, and Policy (CESP), ISEC.
  • Dr. S. Manasi, Associate Professor, Centre for Research in Urban Affairs, ISEC.
  • Dr. Channamma Kambara, Assistant Professor, Centre for Research in Urban Affairs, ISEC.

Important dates:

  • Abstract submission: 15th September 2022
  • Notification of short-listed abstracts: 30th September 2022
  • Submission of full papers (to: 30th October 2022

Conference: 24th and 25th November 2022

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