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Research Areas / Internal Migration

Migrant Vulnerabilities: ‘Guest Workers’ in Kerala, India

Published on June 1, 2024



This article explores numerous socio-economic facets of internal migrants from West Bengal, including their subjective conceptions of their social standing and social class, and analyses how these facets are intimately tied to growth in Kerala. In Kerala, a sizeable portion of internal migrants come from North India. With approximately 2.5 million internal migrants in 2013 and a population growth of 235,000 annually, Kerala is a preferred destination state for migrant labourers in India. Migrant workers from outside have grown to be a significant and essential component of the Kerala economy as a result of the state’s demographic shifts and high rates of educated unemployment, which has led to a severe labour shortage for low-wage frontline jobs. Due to the extreme labour scarcity, the state’s unorganised industries are seeing exceptionally high pay rates. Most migrants come from impoverished and marginalised communities and are employed in the state’s unorganised sector. These migrants frequently find themselves on the periphery of society despite being essential to the economy. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to job losses worsening the situation for migrant workers. The article examines the position of migrants in West Bengal, the source state, and Kerala, the destination state. Further, the article explores the governance of labour migration within the context of migration policies adopted in Kerala and examines how the term ‘guest workers’, which is used to describe internal migrants, can be seen as a distinct, complicated social dynamic in and of itself.

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