Introduction

Migrant workers engage in several front-line jobs in cities across India. In a survey we conducted on more than 700 workers across eight Shahi garment factories, we found that migrant workers were 33% more likely to suffer moderate mental distress, and around 75% more likely to suffer severe mental distress than the average worker. These facts highlight the need for a program that provides support to new workers on how best to adjust to life in an urban environment, and successfully navigate the complexities of working in a garment production setting.

The buddy system is a mentorship program that seeks to overcome the challenges of a new work and life environment by pairing new workers with an ethnically, linguistically, and geographically similar worker with longer tenure.

Design

The program has undergone successful pilot implementations in eight Shahi factory units, wherein a total of 376 workers have been covered to date; of these, 330 were still working at Shahi six months after the start date. This implies an average monthly attrition rate of less than 3%, substantially lower than the overall rate of monthly turnover throughout Shahi of above 10%.

Status of the project

The Lab intends to implement a full scale-up of the buddy system in randomized phases to rigorously evaluate the impact of the program at full scale. We will collect outcome data on worker mental health, and job satisfaction as well as workplace outcomes like attendance, retention, and productivity. This research design and monitoring plan will allow us to not only confidently and precisely measure the welfare impacts of such a program on workers, but will also allow us to calculate the return on investment to the firm to motivate scale up.