“The life of the Indian construction worker,” from Jonathan Pattenden

Pattenden’s article, Will ‘decent work’ or Victorian brutality mark India’s dash for the top?, is on OpenDemocracy.org. It is a great summary with excellent references of the conditions of Indian women construction workers and what I saw while in India.

This is what the the members of “Building Bridges 2017:  The First US Tradeswomen’s Delegation to India” will bear witness to next January.

“Research in a number of Indian states has shown that migrant construction workers in India often face dangerous working conditions and harsh living conditions. Many live in blue plastic tents without access to basic amenities. Many are recruited by intermediaries who distance workers from principal employers, and may quieten them with ‘advances’ that facilitate the underpayment of already low wages, and may constrain labourers’ movement.

Migrant construction labourers face a perfect storm of adverse conditions.

Widely subjected to violence on and off site, women’s working days are lengthened by their shouldering of the bulk of reproductive labour. It is far from unusual for female construction workers, who remain confined to lower-waged ‘unskilled’ tasks, to be paid 50% less than their male counterparts for similar work.

A number of laws theoretically provide construction workers with minimum conditions and some access to social security, but employers are shielded from their legal responsibilities by complex subcontracting chains. Although most migrants’ incomes rise, many see those gains wiped out by health costs and an almost complete lack of access to social security. Health-related provisionssupposedly available to informal workers do not cover outpatient services, leaving most with little choice but to pay unregistered doctors for treatment.

Access to the provisions of the Building and other Construction Workers Welfare Boards, meanwhile, remains minimal: in the state of Karnataka less than half of one percent of the funds collected by the Labour Department had been spent on workers’ welfare by the start of 2016. Migrant workers’ access to government-subsidised food grains, moreover, is compromised by impediments to the public distribution system’s portability, while the provision of crèches (nursery/daycare) is minimal both among migrant workers and those settled in non-notified slums.”

Thank you, Jonathan.


About susanmoir2015

Researcher, feminist, labor activist.
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3 Responses to “The life of the Indian construction worker,” from Jonathan Pattenden

  1. mjperlman7 says:

    What is your most important reason for bringing the group to India?


  2. Marcus McClanahan says:

    We as Americans sometimes take things for granted, reading this helps keep me humble and grateful. Looking forward to being apart of this team.


  3. Marcus McClanahan says:

    This is heart breaking, and hopefully we will bring new ideas to the table to help the women in the construction industry in India to move forward.


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