Social Networks of Migrant Construction Workers in Goa

By Fernandes, Denzil; G. D., Bino Paul | Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Social Networks of Migrant Construction Workers in Goa


Fernandes, Denzil, G. D., Bino Paul, Indian Journal of Industrial Relations


Goa has been attracting migrants from all over the country on account of its rapid growth and prosperity. The high demand for labour and the high wage rates in Goa have resulted in an influx of migrants in the casual labour market. One of the sectors that absorbed a significant number of migrants is the construction industry. This paper traces the social networks among migrant construction workers showing different phases of the labour market, including the flow of labour market related information, entry into the labour force, allocation of work at the construction sites, friendly relations among them and the flow of credit among the migrant workers in order to meet their financial requirements.

Introduction

Goa was a Portuguese colony for 451 years before its liberation by the Indian Army in December, 1961. Before liberation, there was hardly any movement of people in and out of Goa. However, after its liberation and integration into the Indian Union, there has been a large inflow of migrants from other parts of India on account of its rapid economic growth. One of the sectors that have absorbed a significant number of migrants in its work force is the construction industry. This paper traces the social networks among migrant construction workers showing different phases of the labour market, including the flow of information regarding the labour market, entry into the labour force, allocation of work at the construction sites, friendly relations among them and the flow of credit among the migrant workers in order to meet their financial requirements.

After the migrant worker decides to move out of his/her place of origin he/ she invariably enters the labour market with the help of social networks of the migrant labour force. These networks consist of contractors, agents, former migrants, friends, relatives and acquaintances who have already been working in Goa. Migrant networks facilitate a constant flow of migrant labour into the construction labour market. Migrant workers not only need networks to enter the labour market, but they also require networks with the locals or earlier migrants in order to have a social support system in the place of destination, in addition to the links they maintain with friends and family in their places of origin. The analysis of migrant networks will provide crucial insights into the nature of the highly unorganized construction labour market.

Theoretical Understanding of Migrant Networks

Migration is not just seen as an economic phenomenon but is viewed as a social one, involving collective processes and networks. Migration could also be a result of cumulative causation, it alters the social context within which subsequent migration decisions are made, typically in ways that make additional migration more likely. For example, migration changes the social definition of work. Once migrants are recruited into particular occupations in significant numbers, these jobs become culturally labelled as "migrant" jobs and native workers are reluctant to fill them, reinforcing a structural demand for migrants for these jobs (Piore 1979).

The migrant workers' entry into the construction labour market is assisted by the phenomenon of cumulative causation. There are two processes of cumulative causation at work in the construction labour market in Goa. In the first, entry of migrant labour into the construction sector makes the native workers label the job as "migrant" job. Natives look down on this job and feel that it is culturally unacceptable to join the construction labour force. The withdrawal of native labourers only increases the demand for migrant labour in the construction labour market.

Yet another process of cumulative causation is that the availability of surplus migrant labour brings down the wage rate (NCEUS 2007). The native labourers are not ready to work for a low wage rate and they move out of the construction labour force. …

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