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Social Security for Migrant Workers during COVID-19

The unprecedented public health crisis due to COVID-19 has thrown the vulnerability of migrant construction workers into sharp relief. Most of them are not enrolled in any social protection scheme, and those who are, have been only provided with contingencies. These measures are inadequate to address the multidimensional deprivations and fundamental causes of vulnerability arising due to globalisation and a changing labour market, which has been exacerbated by the current crisis.

The literature on the health and safety of workers in the construction sector emphasises the importance of social security measures in combination with social protection (Comaru and Werna 2013; ILO 2017; Lawrence and Werna 2009; Srivastava and Jha 2014). While it is imperative to draw a distinction between social security and social protection, it is also important to examine whether the applicability of such a concept is only valid during ordinary circumstances and becomes invalid during an unprecedented huma­nitarian crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has immediate consequences for the health and lives of the people.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), social protection is a human right and is defined as “the set of policies and programmes designed to ­reduce and prevent poverty and vulnerability throughout the life cycle” (ILO 2017: xxix). Social protection constitutes one of the four pillars of the “strategic objectives” of the ILO to promote decent work. Also, in recent times, it has been at the centre stage of the political discourse since a majority of the construction workers lack welfare measures or social protection.

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Updated On : 16th Oct, 2020

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