laws related to migrant labourers in India

In this article, Shital Dharak Mandhana who is currently pursuing M.A. IN BUSINESS LAWS, from NUJS, Kolkata, discusses laws related to Migrant Labourers in India.

Laws related to Migrant Labourers in India

A large number of studies have found that migration earnings are used mainly for ‘consumption; i.e. food, clothing, house repairs, social events and religious pilgrimages. But this underplays their importance in improving family nutrition and reducing the need to borrow for essentials. Furthermore, new evidence shows that migration earnings are being invested in agriculture, small enterprise, education, health and housing all of which contribute to improving household well-being. On the negative side, male migration from nuclear families can lead to loneliness and increased work burdens for women.

Poor migrants are often employed in risky jobs- industrial accidents, exposure to hazardous chemicals, long working hours and unhygienic conditions are the norm. Especially hazards are dying, other chemical industries, stone crushing, brick making, steel utensil production and loading. Migrants are susceptible to infectious diseases because of the very poor, crowded and unhygienic living conditions (migrants are identified as high-risk group by the National Aids Control Organisation). They often face exclusionary processes that prevent them from acquiring new skills and moving up the job ladder.

Hence, there is a need for laws relating to migrant laborers. Let us take a look a look at, “Laws related to migrant labourers in India

The law related to migrant labourers in India is “Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979” which was passed by both the houses of Parliament and President of India gave his assent on 11/06/1979.

This Act makes provision for availing with the onsite services of interstate workers by the contractors/establishments to overcome only the temporary shortage of required skilled workers in a state. The purpose of this act is not to encourage interstate migration of workers against the interests of local workers as the principal employers would have to incur more cost in deploying interstate workers. (Wikipedia)

Meaning of inter-state migrant labourers under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979

According to section 2(1) (e) of Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, “inter-State migrant workman” means any person who is recruited by or through a contractor in one State under an agreement or other arrangement for employment in an establishment in another State, whether with or without the knowledge of the principal employer in relation to such establishment. (Act)

Historical Overview: (Laws related to Migrant labourers)

The story of inclusion of Inter- State Migrant Legislation in the statutory book is a tale of dispensing social justice to the migrant workmen. There are two crucial factors responsible for influencing the problem of migrant labours.

  1. Firstly, at the international level, when the demand outstripped the ability of Arab State to supply labour because of massive investment program by the oil producing Arab countries and resulting increase in demand for workers from Asia, namely, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Philippine, Korea and Indonesia.
  2. Secondly, South Asian workers accepted job and wages that Arab workers refused to take. However, these factors of migrant labour are not directly or intimately concerned with the problem under investigation, because such problems have altogether a different perception at the international arena for which sufficient studies have been conducted by International Labour Organization.
  3. Thirdly, the inter-state migrant workers accept jobs and wages in other states other than their home states because of extreme poverty and income inequality.

The National commission opined that the necessity of abolition of contract labour has long been felt because of the benefits of the labour legislation not reaching to such class of workers owing to the enlargement of the definition of workers in the Factories Act, 1948, The Mines Act, 1952, The Plantation Labour Act, 1951, The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948. Obviously, since the submission of the Commission report, the policy- makers have been taking various steps to give piece- meal relief to contract labour. The judiciary also discouraged the practice of employment of contract labour since such workers were not getting wages according to law and lack of conducive working conditions.

Applicability of this Act

This act applies to,

  • every establishment in which five or more Inter-State migrant workmen (whether or not in addition to other workmen) are employed or who were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months

  • every contractor who employs or who employed five or more Inter-State migrant workmen (whether or not in addition to other workmen) on any day of the preceding twelve months. [section 1(4)]

Duties of Contractors employing inter-state migrant workers

It shall be the duty of every contractor employing inter-state migrant workers:

To furnish such particulars in the prescribed form to the prescribed authority in State from which the inter-state migrant worker is recruited, within 15 days from the date of employment, and where any change occurs in any particulars so furnished, such change shall be notified to the specified authorities of both the State.

To issue to every such worker, a passbook affixed with a passport size photograph of the worker and indicating in Hindi and English and also in the vernacular language of the worker:

  • The name and place of the establishment wherein the workman is employed;
  • The period of employment; the proposed rates and modes of payment of wages;
  • The proposed rates and modes of payment of wages;
  • The displacement allowance payable;
  • The return fare payable to the workman on the expiry of the period of his employment and in such contingencies as may be prescribed and in such other contingencies as may be specified in the contract of employment;
  • Deductions made; and
  • Such other particulars as may be prescribed;
  • To furnish to the State from which the inter-state migrant worker is recruited and also in which he ceases to be employed, a return in prescribed form, a declaration that all the wages and other dues payable to the worker and the fare for the return journey back to his State have been paid.

The Contractor shall maintain the pass-book up-to-date and cause it to be retained with the inter-state migrant worker concerned.

Wages and other conditions of service of inter-state migrant workers: (section 13, 14, 15, 16)

The wage rates, holiday, hours of work and other conditions of service shall be:

  • In case the inter-state migrant worker works in an establishment, with same or similar kind of work being performed, be same as those applicable to such other workmen.
  • In any other case, as prescribed by appropriate Government.

Provisions under the stated sections

  • The wages payable to the inter-state migrant worker shall be paid in cash.
  • The contractor shall, at the time of recruitment of inter-state migrant worker, pay displacement allowance equal to 50% of monthly wages or Rs. 75, whichever is higher and this amount shall not be refundable and shall be in addition to the wages and other amounts payable to the inter-state migrant worker.
  • The inter-state migrant worker shall be paid an amount not less than the fare from his place of residence in his State to the place of work in other State by the contractor as Journey allowance for both outward and return journeys and shall also be entitled to the payment of wages during the period of such journeys as if he were on duty.

It shall be the duty of every contractor employing inter-state migrant worker,

  • To ensure regular payment of wages to such worker
  • To ensure equal pay for equal work irrespective of sex;
  • To ensure suitable conditions of work to such workers having regard to the fact that they are required to work in a State different from their own State;
  • To provide and maintain suitable residential accommodation to such workers during the period of their employment;
  • To provide the prescribed medical facilities to the workers, free of charge;
  • To provide such protective clothing to the workers as may be prescribed; and
  • In the case of fatal accident or serious bodily injury to any such worker to report to the specified authorities of both the States and also the next-of-kin of the worker.
  • Despite the contribution made by migrants to the National Economy, most remain on the margins of society, contributing cheap labour but unable to influence their pay or working and living conditions, and without political voice, especially where they migrate to other states.
  • Migrants are preferred over local labour by employers because they are cheaper and work harder. As migrants become one of the most important sources of labour across the country, services and support for migrant workers need to be seen as an essential investment for India’s development trajectory.

What if a migrant worker has taken a loan from the contractor or the principal employer? (Section 19)

The loan taken by the inter-state migrant worker shall remain outstanding only till the time he remains in employment of the contractor or the principal employer. On the completion of such term, it shall be deemed to have been extinguished and not suit or other proceedings shall lie in any Court or before, any authority for the recovery of such debt or any part thereof.

Condition of Migrant laborers in Kerala: (Case Study: Kerala)

Inter-state migrant workers migrate to Kerala from West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Orissa and north-eastern states of India. The major reasons to migrate were less daily wages, poverty, indebtedness, and joblessness at origin state. These migrant workers have their basic occupation as agriculture but they are employed in the construction sector in destination place, making them unskilled and unprofessional on site. They receive higher compared to their native state but quite less when compared to the daily workers in Kerala. This helps the employers of Kerala in making huge profit. The migrant labourers also send money to their natives leaving very less in their own hands making them difficult to survive.

Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008

According to section 2(n) of the “Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, “Wage worker” means a person employed for remuneration in the unorganised sector, directly by an employer or through any contractor, irrespective of place of work, whether exclusively for one employer or for one or more employers, whether in cash or in kind, whether as a home based worker, or as a temporary or casual worker, or as a migrant worker, or workers employed by households including domestic workers, with a monthly wage of an amount as may be notified by the Central Government or State Government, as the case may be.

Now let us see the meaning of the term “Unorganized Workers”.

According to section 2(m) of Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008”, “unorganized worker” means a home-based worker, self-employed worker or a wage worker in the unorganized sector and includes a worker in the organized sector who is not covered by any of the Acts mentioned in Schedule II to this Act.

Since definition of unorganized workers includes wage workers and wage workers include migrant workers, hence this act also applies to the migrant workers.

Section 3 of this enactment talks about the social security benefits for the unorganized workers. The scheme framed is as under:

  1. The Central Government shall formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable welfare schemes for unorganized workers on matters relating to-
  2. Life and disability cover
  3. Health and maternity benefits
  4. Old age protection and
  5. Any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government
  6. The schemes included in the Schedule 1 to this Act shall be deemed to be the welfare schemes under sub-section (1).
  7. The Central Government may, by notification, amend the Schedules annexed to this Act.
  8. The State Government may formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable welfare schemes for unorganized workers, including schemes relating to-

    1. Provident fund
    2. Employment injury benefit
    3. Housing
    4. Educational schemes for children
    5. Skill upgradation of workers
    6. Funeral assistance
    7. Old age homes.

The schemes which are included in Schedule 1 of the act for the purpose of the benefit of unorganized workers are,

Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS): (scheme)

Eligibility: All individuals above the age of 60 who live below the poverty line are eligible to apply for IGNOAPS

Pension amount: The beneficiaries aged 60-79 years receive a monthly pension of Rs. 300 (Rs. 200 by central government and Rs. 100 by state government). Those 80 years and above receive a monthly pension amount of Rs.500.

Computerisation of database: A system should be devised so as to credit the amount of pension payable to each beneficiary directly into his account either in a Post Office or in a scheduled commercial bank. In compliance of the said directions and also in order to increase the transparency and accountability in the implementation, it had been decided to computerize the database of the beneficiaries under various schemes of NSAP (National Social Assistance Scheme).

Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY): (scheme)

Applicability: JSY is an Indian Government scheme proposed by the Government of India. It was launched on 12th April, 2005 by the then Prime Minister of India.

Feature of the Scheme: JSY aims to decrease the neonatal and maternal deaths happening in the country by promoting institutional delivery of babies. This is a safe motherhood intervention under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). It is a 100% centrally sponsored scheme it integrates cash assistance with delivery and post-delivery care. The success of the scheme would be determined by the increase in institutional delivery among the poor families.

Janashree Bima Yojana (JBY): (scheme)

Applicability: JBY was launched on 10th August 2000. This scheme has replaced Social Security Group Insurance Scheme (SSGIS) and Rural Group Life Insurance Scheme (RGLIS).

Eligibility: Persons between aged 18 years and 59 years and who are the members of the identified 45 occupational groups are eligible to be covered under the Scheme.

Benefits of the Scheme: JBY provides life insurance protection to people who are below the poverty line or marginally above the poverty line. The monetary benefits to be received are:


On Natural Death Rs. 30,000/-
On Death/Total permanent disability due to accident Rs. 75,000/-
On partial permanent disability due to accident Rs. 37,500/-

 The premium for the scheme is Rs. 200/- per member, 50 % premium under the scheme is met out of Social Security Fund set up in the year 1988-89 which is maintained by LIC. The balance 50% premium is borne by the member and/ or Nodal Agency.

Aam Admi Bima Yojana (AABY): (scheme)

Applicability: AAM ADMI BIMA YOJANA, a Social Security Scheme for rural landless household was launched on 2nd October, 2007 at the hands of the then Hon’ble Finance Minister at Shimla.

Eligibility: The head of the family or one earning member in the family of such a household is covered under the scheme. The premium of Rs.200/- per person per annum is shared equally by the Central Government and the State Government. The member to be covered should be aged between 18 and 59 years.

Benefits under the Scheme:

On natural death Rs. 30,000/-
On death due to accident/ on permanent total disability due to accident (loss of 2 eyes or 2 limbs) Rs. 75,000/-
On partial permanent disability due to accident (loss of one eye or one limb) Rs. 37,500/-

A separate fund called “Aam Admi Bima Yojana Premium Fund” has been set up by Central Govt. to pay the Govt. contribution. Fund is maintained by LIC. A free add-on benefit in the form of scholarship to children is also available under the Scheme.

Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY): (Scheme)

Applicability: RSBY has been launched by Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India to provide health insurance coverage for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families.

Eligibility: Unorganized sector workers belonging to BPL category and their family members (a family unit of five) shall be the beneficiaries under the scheme.

Benefits under the Scheme: The State Governments are advised to incorporate the following minimum benefits in the package/scheme:

  • The unorganised sector worker and his family (unit of five) will be covered.
  • Total sum insured would be Rs. 30,000/- per family per annum on a family floater basis.
  • Hospitalization expenses, taking care of most common illnesses with as few exclusions as possible
  • All pre-existing diseases to be covered
  • Transportation costs (actual with maximum limit of Rs. 100 per visit) within an overall limit of Rs. 1000.

National Scheme for Welfare of Fishermen and Training and Extension: (scheme)

Applicability: The National Scheme on Welfare of Fishermen has ensured that there are a lot of welfare activities being carried out for the service of the fishermen community. This particular scheme was started in 1991-92 by combining two different schemes of Janta Accident Policy and National Welfare Fund for Fishermen.

Eligibility: Assistance under the scheme is provided to all fishermen and fishing villages.

Objective of the Scheme:

  1. To provide basic amenities like housing, drinking water, community hall etc. for fishers.
  2. To facilitate better living standards for fishers and their families
  3. To uplift social and economic securities for active fishers and their dependents and
  4. To update knowledge and improving skills of fishers in regard to modern fishing technology.

Handloom Weavers’ Comprehensive Welfare Scheme:

Two schemes are covered under HWCWS.

1) Mahatma Gandhi Bunkar Bima Yojana (MGBBY) and

2) Health Insurance Scheme (HIS)

MGBBY: (Scheme)

Applicability: The Government of India introduced Bunkar Bima Yojana and this scheme shall be administered by LIC.

Eligibility: All weavers, whether male or female, between the age group of 18 and 59 years are eligible to be covered under the scheme, including minorities, women weavers and weavers belonging to NER. The basic objective of the “Mahatma Gandhi Bunkar Bima Yojana‟ is to provide enhanced insurance cover to the handloom weavers in the case of natural as well as accidental death and in cases of total or partial disability


Natural Death Rs. 60,000/-
Accidental Death Rs. 1,50,000/-
Total Disability Rs. 1,50,000/-
Partial Disability Rs. 75,000/-


The annual premium of Rs. 470/- per member will be shared as under:

GOI contribution Rs. 290/-
Weavers’ contribution Rs. 80/-
LIC’s contribution Rs. 100/-
Total premium Rs. 470

 HIS: (Scheme)

Applicability: The Government of India introduced the Health Insurance Scheme for Handloom Weavers in 2005-06. The weaver should be earning at least 50% of his income from handloom weaving.

Eligibility: The scheme is to cover not only the weaver but his wife and two children, to cover all pre-existing diseases as well as new diseases. The weaver should be earning at least 50% of his income from handloom weaving. The scheme will cover the weaver’s family of four i.e. self, spouse and two children. The scheme is to cover people between age group of 1 day to 80 years.


Annual limit per family (1+3) Rs. 15,000/-
Sub-limits per family:  
All pre-existing Diseases + New Diseases Rs. 15,000/-
Maternity Benefits (per child for the first two) Rs. 2,500/-
Dental treatment Rs. 250/-
Eye treatment Rs.75/-
Spectacles Rs. 250/-
Domiciliary Hospitalisation Rs. 4,000/-
Ayurvedic/Unani/Homeopathic/Siddha Rs. 4,000/-
Hospitalisation (including pre and post) Rs. 15,000/-
Baby coverage Rs. 500/-

Exclusions: Corrective cosmetic surgery or treatment, HIV, AIDS, Sterility, Venereal diseases, Intentional self-injury, use of intoxicating drug or alcohol, war, riot, strike, terrorism acts & nuclear risks.

Conclusion (Laws relating to Migrant Labourers in India)

The socio-legal study of Inter -State Migrant Workmen Legislation reveals that though the industrialization has contributed towards the progressive movement of the society, yet it has its inbuilt problems. This law has been enacted as a war against poverty ridden migrant workmen when they leave their home-state and go to the migrant state in search of some job which may bring lucrative wages. Besides wages, the law also provides certain safeguards to the migrant workmen, namely, security of job, non-exploitation at the hand of the employers/contractors, conducive working conditions, etc, at the hands of the employers/contractors, conducive working conditions.

This was all on laws related to migrant labourers in India. What are your views on laws related to migrant labourers in India? Comment below and let us know.

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