Introduction and Background Literature

Globalization and liberalization have made migration across the world a common phenomenon. Rapid urbanization and development in the service sector have encouraged labour movement from rural to urban areas. Migration process includes movement of people from one place to another. There are number of causes which are responsible for migration. The causes that force to out-migrate are called Push Factors. These are under development of a region, unemployment, bad economic condition, unskilled and uneducated population, landlessness, and unavailability of health and education facilities, low level of urbanization and industrialization and social problems. All these factors lead to movement of people from one place to another in search of facilities and opportunities. On the other hand, the causes, which act as magnetic force or attract people inwards for in-migration are called Pull Factors. These are urbanization and industrialization of a region, leading to employment opportunities, availability of basic health and education facilities and social security. All these factors attract people for immigration towards the areas where these facilities are available. On the eve of discussion on international migration and development, convened by the UN General Assembly in New York on 3 and 4 October 2013, the experts said—“Migrants are human beings with human rights, not simply agents for economic development”. It was observed that the migrants suffer abuse, exploitation and violence despite the legal human rights framework in place, which protects migrants as human beings, regardless of their administrative status or situation. International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families (ICRMW) takes into account the core human rights of the migrants but this treaty does not give migrant workers special treatment. It does not create new rights nor establish additional rights specifically for migrant workers. It, however, gives specific form to standards that protect all human beings so that they are meaningful within the context of migration. India is a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). General

Recommendation No. 26 on Women Migrant Workers (2008) remains largely unimplemented. It suggests to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of women migrant workers, against sex- and gender-based discrimination.

The present paper rests its argument from the derivation of Lee (1966), Zelinsky (1971), Stark (1991), Taylor (1999) on theorization of migration process. Apart from the personal factors, which are assumed to play an important role in determining migration decisions, different ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors also play in the place of origin and place of destination, respectively. The New Economics of Labour Migration (NELM) assists in recognizing that a migration decision—who goes where and for how long, and to do what are joint decisions taken by the household, and differently for different members of the household. Labour migration within India is crucial for economic growth and contributes to improving the socio-economic condition of people. Migration can help, for example, to improve income, skill development and provide greater access to services like healthcare and education. Women constitute an overwhelming majority of migrants. Female migrants are less represented in regular jobs and more likely to be self-employed than non-migrant women. Domestic work has emerged as an important occupation for migrant women and girls. A gender perspective on migration is imperative since women have significantly different migration motivations, patterns, options and obstacles from men.

Another important fact under which this study is based is the fact that the women workers in ‘construction’ and ‘domestic’ work come from a lower socioeconomic background with no literacy and skills fall in the unorganized sector. National Commission for Enterprise in the Unorganized sector (NCEUS) calculates 86 % in unorganized sector, and among the women it is 94 % employed in agriculture and allied activities, construction, transport, mining, manufacturing, small and medium enterprises and as contract labour. The other service, which demands women worker at a growing rate, is of domestic worker in urban areas.

It is well established through the literature, that most migrant workers experience distress in the places of origin and exploitation at places of destination (Griffin and Soskolne 2003; Iredale et al. 2003). The processes of migration and health are inextricably linked in complex ways, with migration impacting on the mental and physical health of individuals and communities. Health itself can be a motivation for moving or a reason for staying, and migration can have implications on the health of those who move, those who are left behind, and the communities that receive migrants (Jatrana et al. 2006). The challenge is that migrants usually form a class of invisible workers. They work in poor conditions, with no access to government services and schemes, which are usually available to other workers. There are different risks in source and destination areas. Needs of family members, including infants, children, adolescents and elderly who accompany migrant workers who are left behind in source areas also need to be addressed. Therefore, it is important to understand the factors contributing to exploitation and distress, related illnesses; and means to empower them through evolving strategies. Thus, in the empowerment framework and rights-based approach, the present paper will examine job opportunities, working conditions and social and economic security of women engaged in construction and domestic work.

The vulnerability of women worker especially in construction and domestic work is not addressed adequately. Some important studies on construction workers are carried out by Thadani and Todaro (1984), Kaveri (1993), Unni (2000), Mukta (2001), Chauhan and Sharma (2003) and more recent studies by Ghosh (2009), Geetika et al. (2011), Chawada et al. (2012), Singh (2012), Barara et al. (2012).

Gender differentials in these two different work spheres, construction and domestic vary substantially. In the construction sector, women do majorly unskilled labour involving carrying load; and in the domestic sector, unskilled and semi-skilled work restricted to homemaking. The construction women workers are fewer than the domestic women workers. However, the two different sectors have different demands and challenges for these women.

This paper is based on the study ‘Migrant Women Workers in Construction and Domestic Spaces in Delhi Metropolitan Area: An Analytical Study of Empowerment and Challenges’ sponsored by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. It undertakes a comparative analysis to understand the similarities and differences in the nature of work, among the women migrant workers in domestic and construction spheres. The challenges which the city poses to them and the risks which they are exposed to are the major concerns of the present paper. The metropolis that is Delhi, offers numerous opportunities for livelihoods which are also unorganized in nature. Delhi, as a metropolitan city, draws migrant population from various neighbouring states. Urban growth and industrialization in the city have attracted more migrants in recent decades. Rural to urban as well as urban to urban migration streams have broadened over last two to three decades. While urban sprawl has led to the engagement of migrant with the construction industry; increase in work participation rate among women in professional and skilled sector and nuclearization of families have generated demand for domestic workers. Fastgrowing infrastructure development in the capital and surrounding regions draws huge migration by creating work opportunities in construction sector, as well as at homes for domestic helps. Some of the questions, thus posed through this paper are

  • • Who are these women? Why do they have to migrate? What are the push and the pull factors?
  • • Are there any state and social mechanisms which help them adapt to this change from the place of origin to the destination?
  • • Can there be measures to make their transition better and useful?
  • • Can the issues of abuse, exploitation and violence be addressed and how?
  • • What is the legal human rights framework which protects migrants as human beings, regardless of their administrative status or situation?

The specific objectives of the present paper are

  • • Understanding the ‘pull and push factors’ of migration, implications of migration on basic necessities and entitlements of the migrant women like, education, food security, medical facilities, housing, water and sanitation.
  • • To examine the existing conditions of work contract, forms of exploitation and abuse at construction sites and employers households.

• To understand the implications of working conditions on their health and wellbeing, child bearing and child care.

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