Urbanization and the Transient Migrant Labourer
In Nepal, as in other developing countries, migration has been considered a powerful factor for social change. The construction industry and contemporary investments in infrastructure are potentially acting as powerful pull factors for internal labor migration, including for more specialized construction labor throughout the year –the share of the construction industry in non-agricultural wage employment in Nepal has grown from 30% during 1995/96 to 37% during 2010/11
This paper will present findings of research on the urbanization-migration nexus with the construction industry as a proxy for urbanization in Kathmandu, Nepal. It examines how investments in urban construction and its concurrent demand for labour is giving rise to new and varied temporal forms of migration. The study is based on 83 in-depth interviews conducted with people working in the construction industry, mainly laborers (men and women), professionals, contractors and petty contractors engaged in three different construction sites in Kathmandu valley from September 2014 to March 2015. More specifically, the study explores the migrant workers’ paths and trajectories leading them from their place of origin to the present construction project. It also highlights the contractual arrangements between the worker and the contractor/company with a focus on the contracting process, wages, and benefits, the worker’s living arrangements and access to services. Finally, it looks at the aspiration of workers vis-a-vis their future plans for work and residence and their assessment of what has been lost and gained in the migration process.
Study results indicate that unless there is an explicit policy privileging the recruitment of locals, urbanization as exemplified by the growth of construction industry, is fuelled largely by migrants, both internal and from India. The study also demonstrates that due to benefits accruing to migrant workers and their families especially in the form of internal remittances, internal migration serves as a crucial livelihood strategy for the poor and hence can have a positive impact on development and poverty reduction. There is a need to create increased awareness, especially through additional study on the potential contribution of internal migration to poverty reduction and economic development.