Protecting the Internal Migrant Workers

Author: Nasir Iqbal
Publication Year : 2020

With the calls for social distancing and lockdown, the COVID-19 outbreak has shutdown business operations across the country. As projected, millions of people are facing potential layoffs (see PIDE COVID-19 Bulletin No. 4) but the situation is doubly bad for the internal migrant workers who are staying away from homes to earn a livelihood. While we worry about remittances from the overseas workers, these internal migrant workers remain largely ignored in all our discussions. The official statistics show that around 8.51 million migrant workers are working across Pakistan (based on the Labor Force Survey 2017-18). Table 1 shows that of these 45% are engaged in informal activities including day laborers, construction workers, domestic helpers or factory workers. Furthermore, more than 65% migrant workers are residing in only 15 districts across Pakistan, with over a million workers just in Karachi, followed by major numbers in Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Islamabad (Table 1). The closure of business activities would force the owners to lay-off their employees, some have already started doing that. We assume that informal workers, which comprise 45% of the total migrant labor force, would be the first ones to be laid-off. This means around 3.78 million migrant workers would be left without their source of livelihood.