TODAY -

Appraising trajectory of migration in India

Reimeingam Marchang *



The recently released 2011 Population Census of India on migration data (provisional) shows that about 0.45 billion of India’s 1.21 billion populations were migrants. In India, migration continues to be dominated by rural migration with about 68%.

About 23% of migrants were from urban areas and the rest nine percent were from unclassifiable (as rural or urban) areas. Rural dominated migration phenomenon, apparently a seasonal migration, attributes to seasonal employment in agriculture as well as seasonal non-farm activities mostly in construction or industry during lean agricultural season in the vicinity.

Studies have shown that seasonal migration is an important form of labour mobility with an increasing shift of labour force from agriculture to non-agriculture sector. Rural to urban migration is essentially driven by non economical agricultural work and income, landlessness, educational issues among others in rural areas.

Interestingly, large shares (54% in 2001 and 64% in 2011) of migrants have increasingly migrated for long duration of more than 10 years that corroborates with life time migrants; while the rest shares have migrated for shorter duration of less than ten years.

Migration was assumed to be predominantly a male movement; while females were considered to be either residual in the process of migration or dependent followers. However, empirical evidence shows a predominance of female migration manifested by high sex ratio of migrants, unlike for population, with 2369 in 2001 which roughly declined to 2218 in 2011.

Stream wise distribution of migrants highlights that about half of the migrants were rural to rural migrants, about five percent of migrants were urban to rural migrants, 18% were rural to urban migrants and the rest 18% were urban to urban migrants.

Various studies have concluded that urban migration trajectory, especially urban to urban, are essentially mostly confine among affluent and educated class for enhancing their well being; and rural migration trajectory, particularly rural to rural, for marriage.

Moreover, in India, migration was growing, decadal growth rate, at 44% during 2001-2011. Migration growth in urban areas (75%) was more rapid than in rural areas (29%) indicating that people increasingly prefer to migrate towards urban areas due to better availability of infrastructure, social security, social equity and economic opportunities among other favourable factors.

Migration rate :

People in India are increasingly becoming more mobile as the rate of migration, i.e. ratio of migrants and population, has substantially increased from 31% in 2001 to 38% in 2011 that is presumably increasingly attributed by chain migration through social network. Studies have shown that chain migration can be delayed family migration i.e. when family members relocate from origin to destination in lagged stages; and serial migration i.e. when interactions involves between individuals who are not family members.

Among Indian migrants the tendency to migrate towards urban areas was visibly high. In 2011, 48% of the urban population were migrants which have increased by 12 percentage points from previous census. Even in rural areas, data reveals a slight increased in the rate from 28% in 2001 to 33% in 2011. The rate of migration has increased for both genders and areas that are attributed by improvement in transportation connectivity and accessibility systems.

The mobility of females is increasingly and considerably greater than their male counterpart, largely due to social reason like marriage across intra and inter district or state, as the rate of migration was substantially higher for females when compared to males especially in rural areas. For example, in rural areas, 14% of the males were migrants, against 53% of females in 2011.

Among Indian states and union territories (UTs) the state of Goa recorded the highest rate of migration with 77% that is likely attributed by tourism sector. Coincidentally, Goa has the highest per capita income and occupied the fifth rank in terms of literacy rate among Indian states and UTs.

Chandigarh has the second highest migration rate with 67% followed by Daman and Diu (64%), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (59%) and so on. J&K has the lowest migration rate with 23% followed by Manipur with 26%. These two states have socio-political issues and are among bottom ten in terms of per capita income. J&K and Manipur are ranked at 30th and 16th position respectively in terms of literacy rate in India. Despite of Delhi being the National Capital Territory the rate of migration was 46% and is ranked at 10th position in India.

Migration reasons :

Furthermore, 2011 census data reveals that people migrated mostly for marriage purpose. However, segregated data for males and females tells a different story. Majority of the females migrated for marriage and a substantial share of females also migrated along with their household or family. This is in conformity with some findings of previous studies that Indian females migrated predominantly for marriage and associated reason i.e. accompanying their migrant husband.

In case of males, employment appears to be the primary reason for migration. Migration along with household and migration after birth constituted a major reason for male migration in India. Migration for business and for education remains very low especially for females partially due to risk involvement in business and son preference by parent respectively.

Migration for work or employment, business, education, moved after birth and moved with household has increased portraying a decline of employment and poorer educational system at the origin of migration; and increase of family migration due to the transfer of jobs of primary family income earner or in search of livelihood means of entire family.

Both males and females have increasingly migrated for pursuit of education. Strikingly, the share of migrants who have moved after birth, in particular, and with their household has considerably increased. It is attributed by an increase in children migration occurring due to child delivery at origin of migration or at their parents’ home.

It is also due to chain migration where parents migrated, for example for employment, initially then family members migrated later. The considerable increased of the share of migrants who have moved after birth portrays an increased among the migrants who have migrated for the first time.

An increased in share of migrants who migrated along with the households indicates reallocation of place of living arising due to transfer of job, exertion of social and economic hardship and pressure to the household at the origin of migration and migration of bigger household size. The extent of migration for marriage remains almost unchanged.

It rose, unusually, for males, unlike for females, perhaps due to inter-community and inter-place marriage with development of social networking and matrimonial advertisement in media. However, migration for the reason others has declined resulting to more accurate classification of migrants within different reasons for migration other than the reason others.


* Reimeingam Marchang wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 06, 2017.


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