Dr Meena Nair,
Head of Research, PAC
Research or the generation of evidence is a critical prerequisite for the successful implementation of a development project. Data, whether primary or secondary, gathered either through quantitative or qualitative means, generate actionable knowledge. This knowledge guides the team towards planning for interventions that would be relevant, resource-sensitive and sustainable. The Research and Analysis Division (RAD) team of the International Migration Centre – Karnataka (IMC-K) project has been playing a major role in producing relevant evidence to guide the project towards the best path of implementation.
Migration is a complex phenomenon that has spatial, human, socio-cultural, political and very importantly, economic dimensions. When it comes to international migration, the onus of responsibility becomes greater as the State would not have any control once an emigrant leaves the Indian shores unless through the Indian Missions located abroad. So how does one ensure that when skilled migrants leave Karnataka, they go through a safe, humane, orderly and efficient overseas employment pathway and return to a secure employment opportunity as well? The answer lies in the uniqueness of this project – adopting a migration life-cycle approach which ensures that a migrant receives support and guidance at every step, i.e., at the time of –
1. taking the decision to migrate (Pre-decision)
2. following the recruitment process (Recruitment)
3. receiving and internalising information before leaving (Pre-departure)
4. ensuring welfare and protection while working and living abroad (Work abroad)
5. assisting for a safe return and sustainable reintegration (Return)
The implications are huge – each step needs strategic Standard Operating Protocols backed by rigorous research that will form the pillars of standards and processes guiding this project and the institution in the future. This is where RAD plays a role as the guiding light. How will RAD do this will be highlighted in our future issues of the IMC-K Boundaries and Beyond project bulletin.
1. As a recruitment agency it is crucial for Karnataka Skill Development Corporation (KSDC) to establish contacts with the employers in different countries. According to you, what are some of the key sectors and countries we should focus on for potential Foreign Employer (FE) collaborations?
A: Migration opportunities are increasingly getting affected by the COVID-19 situation. Many countries are pushing towards nationalisation of policies especially in the Gulf countries due to economic slowdown caused by the plummeting oil prices but there are some key sectors which will require labour, to include construction, infrastructure, hospitality and health. For instance, Qatar and UAE are preparing to host major sporting events which will spur massive labour demand. The pandemic has brought forth a sharp focus on severe shortage of healthcare professionals in many countries across the world like the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The European economy has taken an unprecedented shock and there is a huge labour market impact. There is a large demand for healthcare jobs and skills, especially in countries like England. Sectors like hospitality, personal care services and leisure activities which faced a setback will receive a major boost and hence require more workforce. In countries like Germany, Italy and Spain, all the essential sectors like food production, utilities, health services and social care will be requiring a labour force. Recruitment Agency-Karnataka, KSDC can tap into this growing demand for a workforce that will arise in the post Covid-19 world and position Karnataka as the preferred destination.
2. With the IMC-K team in the process of collecting and contacting potential Foreign Employers across the globe, what have been some of the insights- advantages and/or challenges that have been generated based on past and present research done by IMC-K so far? How would this be useful from the perspective of the KSDC?
A: The entire IMC-K team has been working tirelessly to conduct research and identify potential foreign employers across 15 different countries. The knowledge and information generated from this exercise can enable effective identification of the required skill sets and job profiles that are most lucrative in the global job market. In the light of the digital revolution, the demand for skill driven jobs in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotics among others are expected to rise. The activity also provides a platform to engage with these employers and employment agencies to understand from the ground level the requirements and processes involved in sending labour in a safe and orderly manner.
This exercise also serves as a comparison with secondary data and information collected for each of these countries which include projections on future population trends, employment growth and the most prominent employment sectors and opportunities. These assessments have helped in shaping and fine tuning the countries of focus for employment opportunities. Based on the preliminary data available on foreign employers, an attempt was made to map the emerging sectors based on real time collection of potential foreign employers with the dominant sectors identified during the Labour Market Assessment using secondary data. Initial trends show a general similarity in findings between the primary and secondary data, with healthcare and construction emerging as the dominant sectors across all countries.
The similarities are especially true in the case of countries under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The rise in jobs in the healthcare sector as indicated by the primary data can be attributed largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, though these jobs were already in high demand. Another finding suggests the increased demand for care-giving jobs in the EU supported both by primary and secondary data owing to the rising ageing population in the bloc. These findings will become more significant as the primary data collected increases. From the point of view of the KSDC as a Recruiting Agency, these findings will assist greatly in establishing contact with potential employers and understand and develop needs-based solutions to providing foreign employment opportunities for people in Karnataka.
3. In the light of COVID 19 pandemic, from KSDC perspective, how important do you think is the role of an employer abroad in protecting the interests of a migrant worker during such unprecedented times?
A: Foreign employers are a crucial part of the entire migration ecosystem and their role becomes even more important during the times such as of COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic has severely impacted the lives of migrants and refugees. Many of the migrants got stuck abroad due to the sudden lockdown. Migrants become even more vulnerable in situations like this. They may face lack of access to healthcare resources, their mental well-being and economic conditions are affected negatively and there might be changes in the social norms and practices related to migration such as stigma and xenophobia leading to social exclusion.
Foreign employers should ensure that all their workers are treated equally with respect and dignity and they don’t face any discrimination based on religion, caste, class, and gender or migration status. The safety and wellbeing of the migrant workers should be the priority of the employers. They should ensure that the workplace is safe enough and should identify, prevent and mitigate the risk of exposure to workers. They should comply with the occupational safety and health measures at workplaces and strictly adhere to guidelines issued by the government in their respective countries. This is especially important in case of the workers who work in precarious conditions. The employer should also educate the workers about the importance of following these guidelines. Apart from the physical wellbeing, the employers should be sensitive to the mental wellness of the workers. Being away from the family, incomplete information and rumours adds to anxiety and stress. In some situations, work permits may expire soon. Employers should consider such unique vulnerabilities and take steps to address them. This can include psychological support, therapy and counselling, ensuring that the workers get only verified news and that they are in continuous touch with their family back home. Just like these there are various steps that can be taken by the employers to ensure the wellbeing of the migrant workers. But it is not just the responsibility of the employers, governments of both the origin and the destination country should ensure that migrants are included in the comprehensive response to the pandemic. During times like this, institutions such as the International Migration Centre- Karnataka (IMC-K) can play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the various stakeholders such the government, foreign employers and migrants. IMC-K intends to provide handholding support and enhanced welfare and protection throughout the migrant lifecycle.
Role of Field Research Officers with respect to Information Education Communication Roll Out
The key objective of IMC-K’s Information, Education, and Communication campaign (IEC) intervention is to create awareness on opportunities available overseas, the pathway for safe and orderly migration and to kindle a sense of aspiration among potential migrants in Karnataka. The campaign also has a holistic, multi -stakeholder approach to bring on board important stakeholders like training centres, colleges, local governments at all levels to recognise IMC-K and their roles and responsibilities in the lifecycle of a migrant from Karnataka.
Field Research Officers (FROs) from PAC present in the four administrative divisions of Karnataka-Bengaluru division, Gulbarga division, Mysore division and Belgaum division- play a key role in carrying out all IEC activities in their respective divisions. The campaign will be carried out in 8 districts (Bengaluru (Urban), Tumkuru, Mangaluru, Udupi, Kalburgi, Bellary, Vijayapura and Hubbali-Dharwad) in the first 6 months as a pilot survey. Stakeholders from departments involved in skilling, training and livelihood will be met and introduced to IMC-K. The introductory meetings and networking will be followed by dissemination of IEC materials in ITI, Diploma and nursing colleges and other skilling centres. In the month of July 2020, the Field Research Officers carried out introductory meetings with YES Kendra staff to get a detailed understanding of the centre’s functioning. However, while there are many restrictions imposed on travel, social gatherings in large numbers and so on due to COVID-19, FROs are taking all the precautionary measures, adhering to all the norms specified by the Government.
Training of YES Kendra Staff
Two familiarisation sessions for the staff in Migrant Information Centres (MIC) & Migrant Regional Centres (MRC) which will be managed by the YES Kendra staffs working at the employment exchange offices at the proposed eight districts viz., Bengaluru, Tumkur, Kalburgi, Ballari, Hubbali, Vijaypura, Mangalore & Udupi districts were held on July 15 and 17, 2020. The sessions saw complete participation from the International Migration Centre teams (PMU, RAD & RAK), YES Kendra staff and the employment exchange officers. The sessions focused on the key roles of the YES Kendra staff pertaining to the registration of the potential migrants on the Management Information System (MIS) portal. The forms for collecting the data pertaining to the potential migrants, visitors with a grievance & registration by foreign employers were explained in great detail. The mechanisms involved the coordination between MICs & MRCs with the Recruitment Agency – Karnataka at the head office in Bangalore, the process of recruitment, the procedures involved, grievance redressal mechanisms and the submission of grievances was explained.