Key Influencers of Propensity to Migrate among India's Labor.

AuthorInamdar, Nirad

Introduction & Literature Review

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has caused a number of unprecedented crises. While most crises which had occurred earlier affected only one or two fields, Covid-19 has had an adverse effect in different fields--macroeconomics, microeconomics, medical and health, geopolitics, technology, social relations and so on. Moreover, in terms of damages, most of the earlier threats were geographically confined to a city, region, country or continent. However, this pandemic is a more severe threat, since it has had adverse effects across the world. They include not only losses of nearly a million human lives, but also a global economic slowdown. Developed, developing and less developed--all types of nations have had to suffer contraction of growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Developed countries are in a relatively better position to recover, but developing and less developed countries face a daunting task of getting back on track. Over a quarter of their populations live below poverty line (BPL). Covid-19 has thus impacted the livelihoods of millions of citizens in developing and less developed countries, especially in Asia and Africa. It has led to direct consequences like reduction of income, increase in unemployment and hence, in poverty levels. There are some indirect consequences as well in the form of social evils like increased alcoholism, substance abuse, increased domestic violence, conflict in relationships and disruptions in the law and order system. Worse, from an individual perspective, the pandemic has resulted not only in an increase in health troubles and medical ailments, but also increased incidences of psychological disorders like mental stress, clinical depression and hyper anxiety.

Undeniably, Covid-19 has affected all sections of the population and the poor sections are worst hit. In India, in particular, it has brought into limelight the plight of migrant workers across India. The Central Government's 2011 Census pegged the total number of internal migrants in the country (accounting for inter- and intra-state movement) at 453 million, that is, 37% of the population. Of these, 139 million are casual workers, many of whom live a hand-to-mouth existence. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were the biggest source states, with Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal closely following them; the major destination states were Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. To devise policies and provide relief measures for the benefit of migrant workers, the Government must have a realistic account on them and an understanding of their mobility patterns. An important study is by Lusome and Bhagat (2006), which showcases a longitudinal analysis of data from 4 rounds of Census (1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001). It provides the trends of migration within India and clearly shows the distinction between women and men.

Considering the urgency of the situation of migrant workers and its importance for the Indian economy, we have drawn motivation to study the patterns of migration in India. Our research aims to understand the main factors influencing migration in various ways. United Nations (1993) defines it as a move from one migration defining area to another, usually crossing administrative boundaries made during a given migration interval and involving a change of residence. The change in residence can take place on a permanent, semi-permanent or temporary basis, according to Premi (1990). It is possible in different ways viz. within the same district, to a different district within the same state, to a different state and abroad (to a different country). A person is considered as a migrant if birthplace is different from place of enumeration.

Several scholars assert the fact that over one third of India's population is enumerated outside their respective places of birth indicating the importance of migration as a major demographic process in India. de Haan (1999) provides a comprehensive review of literature on this topic. It concludes that development studies have paid insufficient attention to labor migration, and makes a plea to integrate analyses of migration within those of agricultural and rural development. The relationship between migration and development is in focus, indicating that more research is needed to understand this relationship properly, and that perhaps no generalizable finding applies. Mukherji (1985) argues that circulation of Indian wage laborers occurs within, and in turn reinforces, the syndrome of poverty and mobility. Thadani and Todaro (1984) explore social determinants of migration, but other modifications have continued to focus on the economics of the migration decisions. A key development in the literature was by Stark (2006), who laid emphasis on family and family strategies as crucial elements in migration decisions. Various factors determine the decision to move from one place to another--economic, social, cultural and political and the effects of these factors vary over time and place.

Census 2001 classifies the reasons for migration into seven broad groups--work/employment, business, education, marriage, moved at birth, moved with family and others. The data on reasons for migration are useful to understand the motivational factors behind movement of people. A key aspect of work / employment and business is urbanization of livelihood opportunities. Under urbanization as a source of migration, Kundu (2003) estimates the contribution of net ruralurban migration. In terms of education, migration rates are high among both the highly educated and the least educated, while there is a preponderance of illiterates among seasonal migrants. The relationships between income and migration run deep in the literature. One of the latest papers is Sangita (2017), which sets out to investigate the interlinkages between rural to urban migration in India and income and ownership of assets. It finds that the inverted U hypothesis regarding the relationship between wealth and migration holds, but only to some extent.

Along with the possible reasons and compulsions for migration, we are interested in studying this issue specifically from the perspective of women. Upadhyaya (2015) mentions that in India, migration is strongly gendered, with regional and class differences. Four other papers are noteworthy, which focus on female migration. Fawcett et al (1984) categorizes this phenomenon into three distinct types--autonomous female migration, relay migration and family migration. Shanthi (2006) examines the extent of employment-oriented migration of females in India and the inter-state variations in its magnitude using National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data. Using Census data, Singh (1998) studies various aspects of this topic, like volume, distance, duration, stream and reasons. It finds that among females and males, marriage and employment respectively are the main reasons for migration. Associational reasons--movement on account of accompanying parents or any member of family--is the second most important reason among both females and males. Mahapatro (2010) highlights the changes in population mobility in the post-reform era using data from two NSSO rounds. Further, it compares the findings and results from NSSO and Census datasets. Thus, it...

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