Following are the 8 main states where unskilled labors coming to Kerala.

West Bengal


Workers from West Bengal constitute one of the largest proportions of the footloose labour in Kerala. They were available at the labour nakas in all the districts along with workers from Tamil Nadu. The minor construction sector had absorbed a lot of them.A large proportion of the migrants from West Bengal were Muslims. A mason who earned Rs 200 in Murshidabad got Rs 800 and above in Kerala.Families from West Bengal were clustered in various panchayats near Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district and Nelliyampathy in Palakkad district.




Migration from Assam to Kerala started in the late nineties as the plywood industry in Assam collapsed in 1996. While the first wave of migrants from Assam constituted predominantly Bengali Muslims with Nagaon as the focal point, the latest wave of migrants includes Hindu and Christian men and women from most of the districts. Migrants from Assam came to work in the plywood industry in Perumbavoor first. Now the plywood sector in Perumbavoor as well as Valapattanam in Kannur engages workers from Assam. Workers from 24 districts in Assam were found working in Kerala during 2016–2017. Unlike Bengali Muslims from Assam who are found in large numbers across several districts in Kerala, single Hindu and Christian men from Lower Assam were found to be the majority in the laterite mining sector. Men from Assam, who never had any previous experience in fishing, worked as deck hands on fishing boats that operated from several harbours. Several migrants from Assam were also engaged as labourers, loading and unloading ice and fish, at various fish landing centres. Men and women from Assam also worked in the hospitality sector across the state. Assamese families were also found working in the plantation sector in Idukki and Wayanad.


Uttar Pradesh


Migration from Uttar Pradesh was mainly from the Rohilkhand and Purvanchal regions in addition to Saharanpur.Migrants from 18 districts in Uttar Pradesh had been found working in Kerala. Primarily it was single men from Uttar Pradesh who had migrated to Kerala seeking work. There were men even aged 60 years and above working in the factories at Kanjikode. A lot of the street Pan Masala vendors in Kerala were also from Uttar Pradesh. Nellikuzhi and Binanipuram in Ernakulam district and Kanjikode in Palakkad were the major residential pockets of workers from Uttar Pradesh who had come with families. Although a few in numbers, there were also migrants from Uttar Pradesh who had come as labourers and had graduated as entrepreneurs




Odisha is the first state beyond south India from where workers came to Kerala in significant numbers. Migrants from 22 districts of Odisha- Western Odisha, Coastal Odisha, Southern Odisha and Northern Odisha, regions which have been identified as having distinct migration patterns, were found working in Kerala. A lot of workers from Odisha belonged to Mayurbhanj, Malkangiri, Gajapati, Rayagada, Kandhamal and Sundargarh, districts in Odisha with more than half of the population belonging to tribal communities. There were also Christian families among the Odiya workers. Some of them had moved out of Odisha during or after the Kandhamal riots in 2008.Except in the seafood, apparel and construction sectors, migration was driven by social networks. Traditional fishers from coastal Odisha worked on boats that operated from various harbours in Kerala.Women and girls from Balangir, Malkangiri, Sundargarh, Kandhamal, Ganjam, Nabarangpur and Rayagada worked in the textile and apparel sector in Kerala. Odiya families were concentrated in and around Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district. An Odiya service is available on Sundays at a church in Perumbavoor, Ernakulam district. A nursery school for children of Odiya workers has been functioning on the premises of the Keenpuram industrial estate at South Vazhakkulam for several years now. A majority of the children were from Rayagada.




Workers from more than two-thirds of the districts in Jharkhand were engaged in various jobs in Kerala. Many of these districts such as Khunti, Gumla, Lohardaga, Simdega, Pakur, Dumka, Latehar and West Singhbhum are concentration areas of tribal populations. Families from Jharkhand worked in several plantations in Idukki and Thrissur districts. A lot of them belonged to the Oraon tribe. The textile and apparel industry engaged workers, mainly women and girls, from Jharkhand.Migration from Jharkhand appears to be mostly organised labour mobilisation through a network of intermediaries. However, of late, network driven migration has become more prominent. The Dhanbad–Alappuzha Express is now one of the top ten most crowded trains in India according to a recent report.




Workers from a majority of the districts in Bihar were found in Kerala. Migration from Bihar is predominantly driven by social networks; however, there is also organised labour movement to the construction industry. Large scale construction in Kerala depended heavily on workers from Bihar. Brick kilns in Wayanad, Kollam and Alappuzha also had workers, including families, from Bihar. Plantations in Idukki too had families from Bihar. Binanipuram in Ernakulam district is a residential pocket of migrant workers from Bihar.



Tamil Nadu


Contrary to the popular perceptions that migration from Tamil Nadu has significantly reduced, a 2017 research reveals that Tamil Nadu continues to be one of the major sources of footloose labour in Kerala. Among the eight leading source states, Tamil Nadu, along with Assam, had the largest number of districts from where workers were found in Kerala. Migrants from 24 out of the 32 districts in Tamil Nadu worked across all the districts in Kerala. The migration was mostly to Thiruvananthapuram and also to Kollam and Palakkad, three cities that share border with Tamil Nadu. Both men and women came from Tamil Nadu. In a lot of cases, both husband and wife came for work leaving the children behind with other family members. Migrants from Colachel in Kanyakumari district, Rameswaram in Ramanathapuram, Cuddalore and Thoothukudi districts constituted the majority among the traditional migrant fishers from various states who worked on boats that operated from Kerala coast. The plantations in Idukki and Wayanad also engage workers from Tamil Nadu. In most towns in Kerala, workers from Tamil Nadu were available and stayed in rented facilities scattered in and around the city.




Migrants from 17 districts in Karnataka worked in Kerala during 2016–2017. Migration from Karnataka to Kerala was mostly confined to the three districts of Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod which share borders with Karnataka A lot of workers from Karnataka came with their families that included small children. Kannadigas constituted the majority of the footloose labour in Kasaragod and Wayanad . Plantations in Wayanad and laterite mines in Kasaragod and Kannur engaged workers from Karnataka in significant numbers. Women from Karnataka also worked in the seafood sector in Alappuzha and in the apparel sector in Ernakulam district.

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