Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

India’s internal migration


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Migration trends in India

This newscard presents data on India’s internal migration considering the mass exodus which was visible during the lockdowns.

The displacement of people during the imposition of lockdown has been described as the second-largest since the Partition of the country.


Also read:

[Burning Issue] Migrant workers amid COVID-19 outbreak

India’s internal migration

(1) Number of migrants

  • As of 2020, India has an estimated 600 million migrants. Roughly half of India is living in a place where it wasn’t born.
  • It would be roughly double the size of the fourth-largest nation on the planet — the United States.

(2) Nature of migration

  • The bulk of the internal migration in India is within one district itself. An estimated 400 million Indians “migrate” within the district they live in.
  • The next 140 million migrate from one district to another but within the same state.
  • And only about 60 million — that is, just 10% of all internal migrants — move from one state to another.

(3) Type of Migration

  • There are other misconceptions as well. Typically, it is thought that most migration happens when people from rural areas move to urban areas.
  • That is incorrect. The most dominant form of migration is from rural to rural areas.
  • Only about 20% of the total migration (600 million) is from rural to urban areas.
  • In fact, 20% of the total migration is from one urban area to another urban area.
  • As such, urban migration (rural to urban as well as urban to urban) accounts for 40% of the total migration.

(4) Comparison with other countries

  • India’s proportion of internal migrants (as a percentage of the overall population) is much lower than some of the comparable countries such as Russia, China, South Africa and Brazil.
  • All have much higher urbanisation ratios, which is a proxy for migration level.
  • In other words, as India adopts a strategy of rapid urbanisation, levels of internal migration will increase further.

Impact of COVID

The reality of a migrant worker’s existence is much more complicated than those sharply defined numbers.

Not all migrants were equally affected

  • The worst-hit were a class of migrants that felt under the group “vulnerable circular migrants”.
  • These are people who are “vulnerable” because of their weak position in the job market and “circular” migrants because even though they work in urban settings, they continue to have a foothold in the rural areas.
  • Such migrants work in construction sites or small factories or as rickshaw pullers in the city but when such employment avenues dwindle, they go back to their rural setting.
  • In other words, they are part of the informal economy outside agriculture.

“Data insufficient”

  • The truth is that even now all the estimates mentioned above are individual estimates.
  • The official data — be it the Census or the National Sample Survey — is more than a decade old.
  • In fact, Census 2011 migration data was made publicly available only in 2019.

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