Overview of Construction Industry
The construction industry is the second largest employment provider in India, next to agriculture, according to the Economic Survey 2017-18, tabled in Parliament.
The workforce in the real estate and construction sector is expected to reach over 66 million people by 2022, according to the National Skill Development Council (NSDC).
This growth is attributed to stable government support for infrastructure development such as smart cities project etc.
In comparison with high growth rate of the construction industry, the quality of life of construction labourers, the so called backbone of the industry, is very pitiful and are constantly exposed to accidents, ill-health, extreme level of harassment and poor quality of work life.
About 90% of the workforce employed in the real estate and construction sector are engaged in construction activities, while the rest 10% workforce is involved in building completion, finishing, electrical, plumbing, other installation services, demolition and site preparation.
The workforce in the construction sector can be divided into three categories: skilled, unskilled and specialized.
The maximum number of people employed in the real estate and construction sector are minimally skilled (unskilled).
The skilled workforce account for over 9% share and the rest are the specialized labourers are engaged in specialized areas of work.
According to the National Sample Survey Office, estimates, the construction sector is also one of the most predominant sectors employing labour migrants.
A focus on the lives of construction workers brings into picture key issues related to work conditions, recruitment patterns, migration, and cycles of exploitation.
Millions of unskilled labourers leave their native villages to find a source of income to fight extreme poverty and construction industry is where they end up, as the industry is highly unorganized.
These migrant workers are spread across the country and travel from one area of work to another along with their families, including children.
They live in temporary settlements, sometimes provided by the construction company, or the middlemen contractors who hire these workers, for the duration of the construction project and then move to another site.
Time spent at each site can be anywhere between few months to years. They usually belong to the poorest section of the society and most of them are illiterate.
The workers are poor and vulnerable and often treated as second-class citizens, deprived of means to protect their dignity.
The typical conditions of labour camps are comparable to some of the worst housing conditions we see.
People are cramped together with poor sanitation, poorly built structures, and do not have access to clean drinking water or basic medical facilities.
Such pitiable conditions make the construction workers and their family members, including children, vulnerable to health risks.
The workers often must work in very hostile conditions, with no security or safety measures provided by the builders or adopted by them while working and are prone to injuries and accidents.
There is no specified time limit/frame of work for them and often must work in continuous shifts and are even deprived of their minimum wages.
The construction workers have no social security & benefits in terms of Labour welfare measures & provisions.
Their employment is mostly temporary in nature and hence do not get any economic benefits associated with long term employment like pension and insurance schemes, maternity leave, accident and death claims, concession loans and financial aid for children's education and medical needs.
A Change Is Possible
The construction industry has recorded an annual growth of over 10 per cent over the last five years, and as we know it is the second largest employer, while the overall condition of the labourers in the construction industry is highly inacceptable.
The builders & developers can contribute to the well- being of this socially and economically poor segment of the society, by treating them as fellow human beings and providing them with a safe work environment and a clean, hygienic place with basic amenities to live.
They should also take the responsibility to see that the labourers are paid their wages on time. Enforcing compulsory disclosures would bring accountability and transparency on the part of the builders.
There are various government welfare schemes set up for the upliftment of labourers.
A strict enforcement of these Government policies & schemes can benefit the labourers immensely.
But above all it is important help the labourers aware of their rights and set up of mechanisms for grievance redressal, which will ensure better health, safety and welfare of the construction labourers.