• 59% of women migrants from STs backgrounds and 41% of SCs background were short term and circulatory migrants in comparison to just 18% of migrant women workers of upper caste origin. 39% of women migrants from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) backgrounds were also short term and circulatory migrants, although the majority (65%) were long-term and medium-term migrants in comparison to 43% of SC and 32% of ST women in these latter categories $
• While 5% of the female migrant workers and 9% of the male migrants reported having been targets of harassment by local people at destinations, 23% of the women and 20% of the men had experienced violence, threats and being forced to work in the course of migration. Interestingly, among male migrants, contractors were identified as the most common perpetrator, while more than half the women who had faced such harassment/ violence identified the principal employer and the supervisor as the perpetrators $
• 78% of rural and 59% of urban women migrant workers were working as unskilled manual labour; 16% and 18% were in skilled manual work in rural and urban areas respectively. A total of 6% of the rural and 23% of the urban women migrants were in a combination of clerical, supervisory, managerial jobs, or work requiring high professional/educational skills (highly skilled). Ten per cent of the urban women migrants were in the last category of the highly skilled in comparison to just 1% of the rural women migrants $
• Across the board, the overwhelming majority of the workers – more than 93% in the case of rural women migrants and more than 84% in the case of urban – had no provident fund and no health insurance. The worst situation was, however, in relation to daycare/crèche facilities, to which only 3.4% of the rural women migrants and 4.4% of the urban had any access at all $
• Proportion of households migrated to rural areas was very low, nearly 1 per cent. In urban areas, on the other hand, the migrated households constituted nearly 3 percent of all urban households ¥
• The migration rate (proportion of migrants in the population) in the urban areas (35 per cent) was far higher than the migration rate in the rural areas (26 per cent) ¥
$ Migration and Gender in India by Indrani Mazumdar, N Neetha and Indu Agnihotri, Economic and Political Weekly, March 9, 2013, Vol xlvIiI No 10
¥ Migration in India, 2007-08, National Sample Survey, MOSPI, Government of India,
Keeping track of mass migration is an enumerator’s nightmare. Even the Census of India can’t always get this accurately. Before a government agency is able to take note of distress or seasonal migration, people often come back for the harvest season or move elsewhere. Mass seasonal migration has become an almost fixed event for some industries like brick manufacturing or sugarcane farming. Distress and seasonal migration invariably means no education for children, no voting rights for adults, and missing out on BPL facilities at either place of birth or the site of work.
The worst sufferers of seasonal and distress migration are the poorest of poor, the tribals (STs) and the Dalits (SCs), who invariably have meager base of human or physical assets. This is particularly so in the most backward and mostly rain-fed districts of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP, Karnataka and Maharashtra. It is quite common for migrant women to work as agricultural labourers and for men to seek employment in the unorganized sector.
Distress migration also fuels a chaotic growth of unorganized/ informal industries and haphazard expansion of urban slums. Owners of small and informal factories love migrant workers. For they are more willing to work for less wages, are less likely to be absent for trivial reasons, are dependent on labour contractors and are powerless compared to local workforce. Their vulnerability and low wages may be of short-term advantage to the industry, but in the long run they fail to participate in India’s growth story by earning more and consuming more. That is why it is often argued that rural-urban migration can lead to prosperity only when a ‘pull factor’ of better paid work replaces the push-factor of rural poverty.
Between 1991 and 2001, as many as 73 million rural people have migrated (displaced from their place of birth) to elsewhere. But the majority of these people (53 million) moved to other villages and less than a third (20 million) to urban areas and mostly in search of jobs. The number of seasonal or cyclic migration is around 2 crore but some experts believe that the actual number could be ten times the official figure.