Dimensions of wellbeing and recognitional justice of migrant workers during the COVID-19 lockdown in Kerala, India.

  • 2023•05•05

    Mishal Alice Mathews , Geert De Neve & Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson

    The lockdown of March 2020 in India witnessed one of the largest movements of migrants in the country. The state of Kerala was quick and efficient in responding to the challenges posed by the lockdown on its migrant population and in supporting its ‘guest workers’. While many studies have researched the material resources of migrants during the pandemic, such as income and food, few have investigated the subjective measures and emphasised the lived experiences of migrant workers. Drawing on the Wellbeing in Developing Countries (WeD) approach which examines three dimensions of wellbeing, namely, (a) material, (b) relational and (c) subjective wellbeing, this article focuses on the mental health and wellbeing experiences of migrant workers during the first lockdown in Kerala. By deploying these wellbeing dimensions, the study looks at how migrant workers perceived and experienced the various interventions put in place by state and local governments, as well as voluntary initiatives aimed at supporting them. The study elaborates around migrants’ relations of love, care, and trust, and their reasons to remain in Kerala or return home during the lockdown. The study found that a paradigm shift, where ‘migrant workers’ are becoming ‘guest workers’, was at the forefront of the captured narratives. The key findings in this way contribute to the understanding of migrants’ lived experiences, wellbeing, and perceptions of the different lockdown interventions. We argue that an increased attention to subjective factors helps us understand migrant needs at times of crisis through their lived experiences and thereby enhances policy planning for disaster preparedness.

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