For Migrant Workers In Kerala, Job Market Still Remains Weak

Growth improved to 6.3% in September quarter, but is still below the rate needed to generate employment for one million people entering the workforce every month.

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Labour department sources suggest that around 25% migrants left for homes soon after demonetisation.

Thiruvananthapuram: Job creation remains a big worry even as higher growth is predicted by the Economic Survey for the next fiscal. S Suresh, a migrant worker from Tamil Nadu, has returned to work at a restaurant in Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram after five months. He was one of the five staff members who were sent back indefinitely on leave soon after demonetisation. "Business is still slow due to money problem. We all were sent one after another on leave. Things are slow," said the migrant worker.

Experts within the hospitality industry say the sector is still to recover from job losses. "The hospitality sector provides employment to around 1.5 million in Kerala. And we are talking about job decline of 15 per cent, which would affect around 1.5 lakh people," EM Najeeb, chairman of ATE group, told NDTV.

A study by Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation states that there are around 25 lakh migrants in Kerala. But the recent state government estimates peg it around 10 lakh based on the registration of migrants for Aawaz health insurance scheme, which covers migrant labourers. Still, the discrepancy in existing data and the lack of data on most counts is a huge challenge.

The country's GDP growth slumped to 5.7 per cent in June quarter, the slowest pace in three years, on lingering impact of demonetisation and destocking ahead of the July 1 rollout of Goods and Services Tax. Growth improved to 6.3 per cent in September quarter, but is still below the rate needed to generate employment for one million people entering the workforce every month. The Economic Survey, which was tabled in the Parliament on Monday, expects GDP growth to accelerate to 7-7.5 per cent in 2018-19, from 6.75 per cent this fiscal. And in the Budget 2018, to be unveiled on Thursday.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to focus on small businesses and the farm sector.

Rajesh Chethri, a migrant worker from Assam returned to Thiruvananthapuram eight months back, in the hope of better jobs and wages in the construction industry. He had gone back to Assam in February 2017 after he was left jobless for almost 25 days post demonetisation. Last week he got three days of work in a week.  

Reghuchandran Nair, President of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India, told NDTV, "In the last one year, you cannot say there is a drop (in the number of jobs). Definitely it may not be a drastic increase but it was consistent in the construction sector. Work is on. It's just that no new work was getting added to the list for a while. "  

Labour department sources suggest that around 25 per cent migrants left for their homes soon after demonetisation. This segment was among the worst hit when it came to jobs, according to the state planning board report.  Despite the recovery in demand for migrants, industry experts say, jobs are fewer.

K Biju, the Labour Commissioner and Director of Employment, Kerala, told NDTV, "In the government sector there were issues because of delayed payments. But that could also be due to demand and supply. So as business sentiments improve, as well as the economy in the construction and infrastructure sector improves, we will witness changes."

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