Migrants in construction work: Evaluating their welfare framework

12 June 2017

More than two decades after the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996 came into force, the efficacy of this framework remains in question. Correctional steps have the potential to extend social benefits to construction workers, especially migrants who face particular vulnerabilities.

Available data regarding implementation of the Acts by States presents a picture of overall tardiness and delay with wide variations. States need to ramp up worker registration; data suggests that lowering entry barriers for migrants improves registration and consequently, access to welfare benefits. While collection of cess funds has improved and is broadly proportionate to construction activity, their utilisation remains dismal. States need to think strategically on how to spend accumulated cess funds—especially on housing, occupational health and safety, grievance redressal and legal aid—and sustain welfare provisions over time. Accumulated unspent funds offer an opportunity for big-ticket, one-time expenditures. Examples from some States show that collaboration with civil society organisations could improve outreach, particularly to migrants.