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Labor shortage looms as India's migrant workers stay at home

Workforce faced grueling journey out of cities after COVID-19 lockdown

| India
Migrant workers get on a bus to reach a railway station to board a train to their home state of Bihar in Ahmedabad on May 23: will they return in time to meet the rising labor demand?   © Reuters

Ritika Mankar consults with Mumbai-based brokerage Ambit Capital as a thematic specialist and also serves as a director on CFA Society India's Board.

In March 2020, Indian policymakers decided to impose a stringent lockdown to fight COVID-19. The lockdown curtailed construction and restricted manufacturing activity, and e-commerce companies halted deliveries of nonessentials. This set off a powerful force: it drove 30 million blue-collar workers -- at a conservative estimate -- back from workless cities to the villages they came from.

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