With the growth of cities, projects to build housing and inter-city infrastructure such as roads and railways have created a large number of jobs in the construction sector. Employment in this sector nearly doubled between 2004 and 2011. Currently, the construction sector accounts for 21% of all non-agricultural jobs in the country.

Importantly, the construction sector employs the largest casual labour workforce--around 84% of those working in construction are casual labour. The implementation of social protection measures should hence be an urgent priority. Moreover, apart from manufacturing, construction holds great potential to absorb the exodus of workers leaving agricultural jobs, spurring the need to widen and effectively target the reach of social security measures.

This sector typically employs low-skilled labour and has large workforce participation in the states of Jharkhand (22%), Odisha (20%), Kerala (20%), Bihar (17%) and Jammu and Kashmir (16%). Of these, most jobs are in the construction of buildings (9%) while the rest are in civil engineering, site preparation and finishing activities for buildings. These figures are inclusive of migrant workers as well, but the PLFS does not separately document or delineate their numbers as a part of this larger employment survey. Moreover, there is a possibility of undercounting the migrant population, especially those living in construction sites.

Based on the last Employment, Unemployment and Migration Survey of the National Sample Survey's 64th Round, July 2007–June 2008, a recent study estimated that 50 to 60% of construction workers were short-term circular migrants, including both interstate and intrastate. About 30 to 40% of the construction workers were commuting or non-migrants, and 10% were long-term migrants.

The author acknowledges the contribution of Divij Sinha, IIHS Urban Informatics Lab, who helped with data visualisation.

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