The Urbanisation-Construction-Migration Nexus in 5 Cities in South Asia


This report is the outcome of a research project on the urbanisation-construction-migration nexus in five cities in South Asia: Kabul (Afghanistan), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Chennai (India), Kathmandu (Nepal) and Lahore (Pakistan). It outlines the contribution that this nexus makes to an understanding of how the contemporary built environment is intricately linked with consumption, on the one hand, and the demand for ‘transient migrant contract construction labour’ on the other.

The phrase ‘transient migrant contract construction labour’ is used to differentiate between internal independent migrant construction workers and dependent migrant labourers recruited by labour contractors. The term ‘contract’ refers to the relationship between the labour-contractor and the construction migrant worker, where the worker is contracted to undertake work assigned to them over a certain period of time; it does not imply a formal written contract. Such labour is ‘transient’ for three reasons: (i) the seasonal nature of agriculture at workers’ places of origin means they are available at different periods in the year; (ii) the workers move from one construction site to another, upon completion of the tasks assigned to them; and (iii) the opportunities to settle at their places of destination by occupying land are much more limited, in comparison with their migrant worker peers, who arrived several decades ago. Limited options for housing result largely from policies that seek to ‘beautify’ cities in the global South by ensuring that the poor do not squat in the city and those who do are often relocated to the city periphery. ‘Transient’ migrants have two options: to attempt to ‘squat’ tens of kilometres from the city centre or to rent a room in one of the many settlements where the city poor are currently located.

This project has provided a different angle from which to explore the links between urbanisation and migration, and seeks to answer the question “How do investments in large-scale urban construction, and the demand for labour generated, give rise to varied forms of migration?”


Kumar, S.; Fernandez, M. The Urbanisation-Construction-Migration Nexus in 5 Cities in South Asia. LSE, London, UK (2016) 269 pp. [Final Report PO 6425]

The Urbanisation-Construction-Migration Nexus in 5 Cities in South Asia

Published 1 January 2016