Magazine 2014
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Beena Narayan  
The construction sector in Mumbai has ongoing demands for the workers. The sector has to always  
depend on migrants as local workers are unable to fulfil the needs. This paper considers life style and  
working conditions of the construction workers to suggest measures for improving the quality and  
efficiency of the migrant workforce in construction sector. As most of the workers lack formal skilled  
education. The suggested solution needs to add introduction of informal education centres, lifestyle  
improvement guidance, more responsibility of contractors to provide safety gears etc.  
Keywords : Labour market, construction workers ,migration,socio economic status, training  
Construction Sector Management: status of construction workers in Mumbai  
The limited employment opportunities in the rural areas have always attracted large number of people  
from rural and semi urban areas towards the cities. Migration is an important source of livelihood and  
more job opportunities are obtained in urban location. (Banerjee Arpita,RajuSaraswati 2009)Migration  
is considered as a prime factor in affecting socio-economic development of upcoming economies.  
The changing socio-economic environment have deeply affected the process of  
migration.(Lusome2006)Migrant workers are always considered valuable for construction sector.The  
construction industry is one of the largest source to absorb the migrant work force. With limited skills  
and less or no formal education and training they enter in the job market and struggle in for employment.  
Due to lack of awareness about work rights they are unable to improve quality of living. The state of  
workers in construction sector shows significant problems and issues. Except few, most of the  
construction sites workers lack formal job training, safety measures and decent living conditions.  
The construction sector in India heavily depends upon its natural linkage between agriculture and  
villages.The large number of workers temporarily shift from villages and during peak farming season  
they go back to their native places which also drops construction activities in cities.Thus an average  
migrant worker in construction sector tries to compensate income during no cropping season.Most  
often they are paid less as they do not carry certified skills. They get expertise in workplace mostly by  
learning from their seniorswhich also put them in a less bargaining position. Their ignorance about  
skill,safety law and basic rights grants a condition for employers.Most often the workers migratealone  
leaving their dependents at native place. As a result they bear dual burden of expenses and compromise  
with sub normal living conditions in cities. Due to an emotional separation from their land and families  
they work under mental pressure leaving their dependents also suffering from insecurity. Looking  
closely the condition of construction workers problems it appears that it is complex in nature and  
needs to be understood at the grass root level.  
The study is an attempt to understand the characteristics of construction workforce in Mumbai  
Maharashtra) city and an attempt to provide evidences for what the construction industry most values  
in its workers?  
The relationship between workers attitude and how the industry compensates them both in wages  
and basic facilities provided to them? The study describes the characteristics of labour force and their  
socio- economic status.  
The study aims to develop a profile of migrant construction workers in Mumbai.Do the migrant  
themselves benefit when they move to cities for earning livelihood?What is the status of the  
family,consumption pattern,children education and various other aspects of life?  
Research Design and Methodology  
Mainly aiming the socio economic status of migrant construction workers in Mumbai. The study  
presents the characteristics of total 160 construction workers in different residential and government  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
run projects.The workers were interviewed at construction sites during working hours.Some cases  
were also interviewed on holiday in their huts provided by the contractors in sites.Various categories of  
workers were interviewed such as unskilled labors,carpenters,helpers,mason,electricians,fitters and  
supervisors. The survey was conducted in the month of January-February 2010.  
Literature Review  
Nickelsburg, Jerry (2007) studied the decline of construction employment in Los Angeles.Birchard,  
Karen (2001) studied the health hazards aspects among construction workers.Li, Binggin; Peng,  
Huamin(2008) studied the migratory nature of construction workers and the risk they face.Anonymous  
2008) mentioned that construction workers face more risk for accidents and injuries during winter  
season.Ozikowski, Don (1996) studied the case of African islands larger construction company and  
various laccune for construction labourerswelfare.Clinkard, John (2005) studied various aspects of  
limited supply of suitable skilled workers in western Canda.Reibstein, Richard J., ESQ; Nixon, John A,  
ESQ ; Schulder, DanA, ESQ ; Shorenstein, Stuart A, Raspberry, Tiffany (2008) studied the  
misclassification of workers at construction industry.SEWA (2000) studied the socio-economic aspects  
of the women construction workers in Ahmedabad Gujarat.Oberai A.S., Singh Manmohan H.K. (1904)  
studied migration, unemployment and the urban labour market and suggested urgent need for  
appropriate policy for suitable life style for migrated workers.ShaKaixun and Jiang Zhenjan (2003)  
studies extensive issues of rural labourors status in China’s construction industry.Waldron, Hilary (2007)  
presented trends in mortality, differentials and life expectancy for male social security.Haupt John  
2005) presented a study on the emergence to maintain and promote construction workers health and  
productivity.Covey, Lirios, Evnst L. (1992) examined the relationship between occupational status and  
smoking habits among men and women.Jayawardane A.K.W.(1958) studied human resource  
development issues in construction industry of Sri Lanka.Brady Jan (2006) examined the hearing  
protection behaviour in construction workers.  
Due to time constraints the study was conducted on limited numbers and selected sites. A similar  
study with larger samples covering multiple sites might yield different experience and results.  
The study is exploratory in nature and it provides direction for future use. One could empirically test if  
recognition of such placement provides different results. Also it needs to be confirmed if the new  
perceptions were due to kind of samples, projects or any other reason.  
A future study comparing status of construction workers in different states and their engagement in  
infrastructure and industrial construction can be conducted to have a holistic view of unorganized  
construction sector in Mumbai. In this study only few parameters of socio –economic aspects of  
construction workers are. It would be useful to see other measures like in-depth study of their health,  
sanitation and socializing habits in cities.  
Findings of the study  
Demographic & Social Status  
The largest number of the respondents i.e. 100 (65%) were in the age group of 18-25 years. 24% (37)  
were in the age of 26-32 years 8% (13) were in the age group of 33-40 years and 2% (3) respondents  
were in the age group of 40 years above.(Fig.1)  
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3% of the surveyed workers had origin from Bihar, 25% were from Bengal .10% were from Orissa,  
Uttar Pradesh &Jharkhand respectively. 3% were from Assam and Karnataka and 2% had come  
from Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan and from Northern India.  
About 76% (116) of the total construction workers were Hindu, around 24% (36) were Muslims and  
only 1% (1) were Sikh. As per the communities distribution among minority groups about 31% (48)  
belonged non-backward community 63% (37) were from backward category and 5% (8) categorically  
mentioned themselves as scheduled castes.56% (36) respondent workers were married and 44%  
67) were unmarried.(Fig.2)  
Educational Profile  
The educational status among construction workers was seen generally Poor. Out of total 21% (32)  
workers were Illiterate, 42% (65) studied up to primary level, 24% (36) had upper primary level education.  
% (11) workers were metric pass, 4% (6) were higher secondary passed & 2% (3) were graduate &  
post graduate. The better educated workers told that they came to the city for better jobs & life style  
but could not find it and adopted construction works for livelihood and now they find it difficult to go  
back to their native place.(Fig.3)  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Income Status  
The income of the construction workers depended on the type of skill they have. The labour, carpenter,  
helpers, mason, painters, supervisors, fitter, electrician, machine operator, and welders were paid  
differently as per their levels of skills and experience. It was found that 20% (31) workers were earning  
less than Rs. 5000 in a month. 12% (19) workers were earning Rs. 5001-7000 per month, 26% (40)  
works were earning Rs. 70001-9000 per month, and 23% (35) workers were having Rs. 9001-11000  
monthly income. The study showed that the lowest income group belonged to less experienced labors  
and helpers; they were able to earn only Rs. 160in a day.  
Family Status  
Since majority of the construction workers were migrants, we tried to know family members status of  
working. The workers normally leave old age family members, females and children in the native place  
and migrate to work. They have joint family systems so that dependents have each other’s support.  
Their families depend on the money sent by them. It was seen that 36% respondents were the single  
earners in the family. 39% respondents had two, 14% respondents had three members . 7% respondents  
had four, 3% respondents had5 and 2% respondents had 6 members working in the family.  
Housing status and basic amenities  
0% respondents had thatched house in their villages. 46% respondents had pucca& tiled house.4%  
have no houses of their own. In Mumbai 6% respondents were staying in chawls, 20% were living in  
slums, 71% respondents were living in huts made in construction sites and 4% were living in the space  
provided by their employer.  
We noticed that construction workers do not live in healthy conditions. Their sanitation, drinking water,  
bathing and toilet facilities are not appropriate.The following figure shows the room sharing status  
of the construction workers. (Fig.4)  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Family Status  
Most of the construction workers were migrants. It was seen that 82% respondents were not staying  
with their family, 18% respondents brought their family in the city. We found that few workers wives  
were also working in the construction site.  
Those respondents had come without their spouses share place of stay with their co- workers. There  
are various reasons for staying together such as to share loneliness, monetary expenses, household  
tasks like cooking, cleaning utensils and washing clothes. Minimum three to maximum fifteen people  
depending on the shelter size provided by the employer stay together. All the workers mentioned that  
electricity connection was available and water facility was accessible outside the shelter. The water  
was stored in the drums keep outside was not a healthy option for drinking.  
4% respondents were not having children. 14% respondent had one child. 31% respondents had  
two. 20% respondent had three, 8% respondent had four & 3% respondent had five children to look  
We tried to know the size of the family. 55% respondents had five members 32% respondents had ten,  
2% had 15 & 1% respondents had more than 15 members in the family.  
The Expenditure Status  
The average expenditure of the respondents shows that12% respondents were spending Rs. 1000 -  
000 monthly expenditure. 46% respondents were Rs 2001- 3000. 23% respondents were having  
Rs.3001- 4000 monthly and 19% respondents were spending Rs. 4001-5000 as monthly expenditure.  
The food expenditure of labor showed that 23% respondents had less than Rs. 1000 per month. 61%  
respondents had Rs. 1001-2000 and 16% respondents had Rs. 2001-3000 per month.  
The amount of expenditure on cloth per month showed that 82% respondents were spending less  
than Rs. 500. 18% respondents told that they spend Rs. 500-1000 per month.  
The monthly expenditure on medical treatment showed that 39% respondents spent less then Rs.  
00. 34% respondents spent Rs. 201-400 and 27% respondents were spending Rs. 401-600 monthly.  
8% respondents told that they were saving money after meeting their daily expenditure. 12%  
respondents mentioned that they were unable to save.  
As construction activity involves risk of accident as well as life risks. We tried to know whether the  
workers were aware about insurance and social security. The study showed that 34 respondents were  
aware about insurance and they had taken a policy. 66% respondents had no knowledge about  
insurance schemes.(Fig.5)  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
The children amount spent on children education was ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1500 per month.  
0% respondents were spending less then Rs. 500 per month, 36% respondents were spending between  
Rs. 500-1000 and 5% respondents were spending Rs. 1001-1500 monthly.  
Poor earnings,huge family responsibilities and dual economic burden forces the workers to meet their  
ends by borrowings. 24% respondents had to pay loans. It was seen that among those had taken loans  
only 3% have borrowed from the banks. 31% had borrowed from the employer. 44% had taken from  
the money lender and 22% respondents had taken from their friends. (Fig.6)It was seen that the  
maximumpercentage of loan seekers were either for agriculture or for marriagesfollowed by housing  
3% respondents mentioned that they were able to save at least Rs. 500 per month, 25% were saving  
from Rs. 500-1000 monthly and 63% were saving more than Rs. 1000 monthly.  
The Food Habits  
The food habits of the construction workers were studied. 84% respondents were non vegetarian &  
6% were vegetarian. Among the non vegetarian 20% respondents were able to afford non-vegetarian  
food every alternate day. 35% respondents were consuming weekly once, 25% were consuming weekly  
twice. 21% respondents told that they eat non-veg. food occasionally. From the non-vegetarian items  
they mainly consume mutton, beef and eggs.  
Physical Status and medical facility  
In this study we tried to know the status of their physical well being. Only 7% respondents accepted  
that they were suffering from diseases. 93% accepted that they had no serious physical problems.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Most of them had common problems such as skin allergy, frequent cough-cold and body ache. 30%  
respondents accepted doctors visit in worksite. 52% respondents were unaware about it. 18% were  
unaware about doctor’s visit at construction site. Only 14% respondents accepted that in case of  
routine sickness they visit to government hospitals. 72% respondents told that they prefer to go to  
private practioners and 14% were aware about medical facilities available for them at ESI hospitals.  
The workers were asked about accident cases at site and their treatment facilities. 34% respondents  
accepted that first aid facility was available at work place for minor injuries. 64% respondents told that  
in case of major injuries friends & co workers take them to the hospital. Only 2% workers respond that  
site van drops them to the hospital in case of injuries and accidents.(Fig.7)  
% respondents also told us that they receive wages when unable to work due to injuries or sickness.  
5% respondents reported that wages were not granted in case of absence. A question was asked  
whether they receive any compensation for sickness? 76% workers accepted that there was no  
compensation for sickness or for loss of employment due to injury. In the case of accidental death  
some amount was paid from the contractor. 10% respondents accepted that compensation was paid.  
7% respondents were completely unaware about compensation policy.  
Construction workers work under strenuous conditions and they were addicted to many harmful things.  
2.5 respondents accepted that they were consuming tobacco, 26% respondents were using gutkha,  
and some respondents told that they consume maximum 8-10 packets of gutkha in a day.8%  
respondents were smoker of beedi & cigarette, 9% were consuming liquor. Only 12% workers in the  
survey were not having any addiction. (Fig.8)  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Concluding Remarks  
The construction workers surveyed were living in extremely poor conditions. Their huts were made of  
tins and floor was dusty. One bulb and electricity connection was provided. The water for drinking and  
other uses was stored outside the huts via tanker supply and it was kept without proper covering. The  
sanitation and toilet conditions were pathetic. The labours were bathing in open outside their huts.  
The women workers made a temporary shed for bathing.  
The health aspects of workers were completely ignored. They were not paid for medical expenses.  
Women workers were not granted maternity leave. Safety measures like gloves and shoes, safety  
belts, eye care protection were not provided and in some cases the labours were having casual attitude  
to use such protective gear.  
Most of the labours were earning only for six days in a week. Male workers were aware about working  
skills. They were cooking twice and their food consists of pulses, vegetables, rice, chapatti and weekly  
non-vegetarian items. Every labour was approximately consuming 250 ml. oil in a week. They were  
using kerosene stoves. The huts had no proper ventilation. Most of them were using plywood sheets  
for sleeping. Children were seen wandering around construction sites. Besides health hazards in  
work sites continuous use of tobacco and gutka may lead to additional health problems.  
Construction workers contribute their services into vast areas of building sector such as residential,  
commercial, and industrial and infrastructure. They are involved either in new construction or repairing  
and renovation. In the process of building they use small as well as bigger tools and machines. Thus  
their work needs care and precautions otherwise accidents and casualties may occur.  
There are various health hazards in construction work. They come into the contact of various dust  
particles such as cement ,wood and metal. Due to lack of protective measures it affects to health. Due  
to use of various chemicals and gases allergy and skin problems were commonly seen.Besides that  
excessive noise and heat also affect them.  
Since most of the workers were migrated with poor level of education and training, we found two  
exceptional respondents among them one was a graduate and another was post graduate in education.  
He came to Mumbai from Rajasthan in search of job in the field of education but failed. To survive in the  
city he entered in the field ofconstruction as a worker and today he has expertise in the marble fitting.  
When interviewed he told that he never wanted to go back and face embarrassment from the people  
of his native place. There might be instances where in desperate situation to survive migrants have  
entered into construction.There is conscious need to create awareness among contractors who engage  
them in work. Unless better sanitation and hygiene is provided quality of work cannot be expected. To  
control absenteeism also the contractors training and guidelines are necessary.  
Creating awareness among workers about communicable diseases, consequences of drug uses must  
be informed via welfare agencies.  
Informal classes of self care at construction sites may motivate construction workers. Insurance and  
banking habits development can be helpful by an authorized mobile agency.  
In this study we observed that workers have no access to television or connect to media. Though they  
were having mobile sets occasional documentary films can be shown to workers.  
ESIC needs to come forward and arrange camps for the workers in site for health safety. Fire brigade,  
scouts and MSS workers can play a major role in arranging camp on construction sites.  
Contractors need to be responsible at construction sites to make a primary analysis of risks. Any  
unsafe system of work must be avoided in case of unavoidable situation responsible people and safety  
measures should be available.  
Management institutions can impart their education by sharing their knowledge such as team building,  
stress release and ethics for improving quality of workers.  
Large construction companies should share their quality and ethical practices at construction sites  
with small construction companies.  
Every workers living with the family at construction sites must be ensured by the contractors to enroll  
children’s name in nearby municipal school.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Anonymous(2008) “Workers are more at risk for accident injuries on construction sites during the  
fall and winter” Business Wire (New York).  
B.Arpita, R.Saraswathi (2009) “Gendered Mobility: Women migrants and work in Urban India”  
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Birchard, Karen (2001) “Underground Construction Workers face respiratory risks:diesel particulates  
may be cause of inflammation” Medical Post 37.11:61  
Brady; Jan;(2006) Hearing Protection: ‘Work Climate and Hearing Protection behaviour in construction  
workers’. Professional safety Vol.51, Issue 11, P.18-26  
Clinkard, John (2005) “Lack of skilled workers threatens to limit future construction employment  
growth in western Canada’. Journal of commerce 63:7.  
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Government of India, Page 347-362.  
Nickelsburg, Jerry (2007) “Where are the Unemployed Construction Workers” Inland Empire Business  
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Reibstein, Richard J., Nixon, John A, Schulder, Dan A, Shorenstein, Stuart A., Raspberry, Tiffany  
(2008) “Construction industry misclassification of workers”. Construction Accounting and Taxation,  
SEWA (2000) “Labouring Brick by Brick: A study of construction workers” Sewa R. Centre, Bhadra,  
ShaKaixun and Jiang Zhenjan (2003) Improving rural labourer’s status in China’s construction  
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Waldrow, Hilary (2007) ‘Trends in mortality differentials and life expectancy for male social security  
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Ms. Beena Narayan : Professor of Economics, IES, MCRC, Mumbai.