Working Nomads

Construction workers building the much-anticipated extension to the Boshan Hotel in Mapusa, Goa, are hired from other parts of India. Given that Goa has the fifth highest unemployment rate in India, around 10.6% and is currently experiencing a contraction of its once lively tourist trade, it is difficult to understand the need to import labour.

But this new economic order of labour mobility is not unique to Goa. As national and transnational corporations are no longer constrained by borders, so too, with the cooperation of governments, is their workforce. Mobile labour ensures that there is always a ready supply of workers willing to compete for any available jobs. And it is this competition that reduces labour costs and working conditions.

For the construction workers at the Boshan Hotel, their lives now revolve around a suite of makeshift shacks at the back of the construction site. While they clearly enjoy greater prosperity than other non-skilled labourers in the tourist industry, their lives are consumed with the daily grind of a 10 hour shift, two days leave per month, and a loss of interaction with their hometown communities in West Bengal.

In Australia the dislocation from family and community of fly-in-fly-out workers has resulted in an increase in suicide and mental illness. In 2015 this stood a full l0% above the national average.

As I watch the Boshan construction workers relax after their shift, I wonder whether the notion of suicide has ever crossed their minds.

Created by Susanna van Aswegen and Rachel Shapiro

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