Construction is India’s second largest jobs sector after agriculture, and it is predicted to grow substantially in coming years. A study published by the Arizona State University estimates that it employs 31 million workers, with the expected net increase in the construction workforce from 2010 to 2020 as 97 million. Though it is an industry in need of serious labor reforms, it remains an important source of jobs for the very poor and marginalized.
About half of India’s construction workers are women, and they are the worst off in terms of compensation, work guarantees, and basic workplace facilities. A 2002 study published by SEWA, MHT’s sister organization, found that women construction workers are predominantly in the role of the unskilled laborer serving as diggers, cement mixers, stone breakers, and carriers of bricks, cement, sand, and water. They are rarely found as carpenters, masons, plumbers, and electricians.
Demand is on the rise for workers with tangible construction skills, which tend to be passed from father to son. Skilled workers have actually seen wage increases over time, while manual laborers have not. MHT is helping women re-position themselves in the construction job market.
Learning a skilled trade is a good pathway to a better livelihood. MHT has been training primarily women and some men in developing their construction skills since 1998. In 2003, these activities were consolidated into a program called the Karmika School of Construction Workers. To date, MHT’s Karmika program has trained more than 10,000 workers in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and the capital city of New Delhi. The trainings are on basic masonry, toilet unit construction, hand pump repairing, and basic plumbing. MHT has also trained women on carpeting, bar bending, electrification and laboratory techniques.
Ideal trainees are aged 20 to 40 years old with basic reading and writing skills (or willingness to learn). Those from minority groups and those whose families especially dependent on their income are especially encouraged to get trained. It takes from 3 to 6 months for each batch to complete the training. At the end of the training, they are tested by the Construction Industry Development Commission, set up by the Planning Commission of the Government of India.
Centers of the Karmika School of Construction Workers are decentralized. MHT opens new centers in areas that have high need for training and are easily accessible to the trainees. The school also provides refresher trainings for graduates and training for trainers. Share this information with anyone in your community who might be interested.