Social inclusion of migrant workers in a pandemic: employing consumer vulnerability lens to internal Indian migrant experience

04 July 2022

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to expand the theoretical understanding of social inclusion of vulnerable populations. Employing cross disciplinary literature from marketing and social policy, this paper examines the factors shaping internal migrant workers experience of inclusion and vulnerability in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted a review of social inclusion and consumer vulnerability literature to develop a new and innovative conceptual framework which operationalises social inclusion. This framework was then examined using an illustrative case study of internal migrant worker crisis in India. Data for the case were collected from various national and international media, government and non-government reports published in English on the pandemic related migrant crisis in India. Findings: Access and control over food was fraught with barriers for migrant workers. As the lockdown progressed, access to and control over work opportunities was precarious. Furthermore, the resource-control constraints faced by migrant workers in terms of food, work and transport had a direct impact on their experience of social inclusion. Lastly, the stranded migrant workers found themselves unable to fully participate in economic activities. Originality/value: To the authors' knowledge this is the first paper that integrates consumer vulnerability concept, originating in marketing scholarship into the social inclusion framework. This allowed for anchoring the "aspirational goals" of social inclusion into the concrete context of consumers and marketplaces.