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According to the report titled: Migration and Gender in India by Indrani Mazumdar, N Neetha and Indu Agnihotri, Economic and Political Weekly, March 9, 2013, Vol xlvIiI No 10 (click here to access):

•    This paper presents a sketch of the key findings of a research project on Gender and Migration at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies. The results of a series of primary surveys conducted between 2009 and 2011 across 20 states have been consolidated to present a summary meso-level view of types of migration, patterns of female labour migration, conditions of work and civic life of women migrant workers. The sectoral composition of paid migrant workers based on the latest available migration survey by the National Sample Survey Office is presented for contextual background, alongside a critical interrogation of the official data’s gender insensitive concepts. Rising rates of marriage migration juxtaposed against falling female work participation rates and the spread of dowry are also touched upon.

•    The Centre for Women’s Development Studies' (CWDS) meso-level consolidation of a series of primary micro-surveys conducted with a common pair of questionnaires between 2009 and 2011 (over consecutive as well as overlapping periods) spanned 20 of the country’s 28 states. It includes comprehensive surveys in 43 village sites in 17 of these states, combined with surveys in select sectors with concentrations of migrant women workers in both urban and rural areas, across all 20 states. Individual-based questionnaires covered 3,073 female migrant workers drawn from village and sector sites and 1,934 male migrant workers (mostly outmigrants) drawn only from village sites. Household characteristics/ details and brief profiles of household members were gathered separately for each of these migrants plus 673 households without any economic migrants from the village sites for comparison.

Types of migration

•    Strikingly, only 42% of the women migrants and 36% of the males were long-term migrants or in other words, 58% of female labour migration and even more of male labour migration appears to be of a temporary nature. (In contrast, the picture that emerges from the NSS (2007-08) indicates temporary migration definitively for only one-third of all labour migration in India, and perhaps a little more if return migrants are also added).

•    Twenty per cent of the migrating women and 23% of the migrating men were circular migrants (longer durations exceeding four months and shorter durations of less than four months in each spell), 9% were short-term seasonal migrants (distinguished from circular both in terms of duration as well as in spending the major part of the working year in their village/place of origin) for both males and females, 2% of the female and 3% of the male migrants were irregular short-term migrants (i.e, outside any established pattern or occupation and driven by abnormal contingencies/desperation). Since all of the above are forms of short-term migration, when taken together, the CWDS surveys suggest that the share of short-term migration at around one-third of labour migration is far greater than accounted for by the NSS.

•    After excluding pre-selected female migrant intensive sectors, the share of short-term migration was much higher at 41% among women migrants and 53% among male migrants, which highlights the reality of large-scale migration from village India beyond just the urbanisation paradigm and indeed a degree of pullback that is rarely touched upon in migration theories.

•    Six per cent of the women and 7% of the men were long distance commuters (across distances outside the perimeter of normal movement for work around any village or within any town/city), 4% of the women migrants and 2% of the men were migrants for family care (for unpaid care work separated from marriage migration with unspecified purposes). Medium-term migration (i.e, for a broadly fixed period of up to a few years in any particular industry/occupation) accounted for 16% of the women migrants and 18% among the men. It is interesting that when village sites alone constituted the universe, the proportions of medium-term migrants dropped sharply to 9% for women, but increased to 21% for men.

Gendered Patterns of Labour Migration

•    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.

•    After migration, 40% of the women workers were in more diversified industry and services in comparison to 51% of the male migrant workers.

•    In rural areas, occupational shifts through migration by women appear to be concentrating in circular migration for brick-making (bhatta workers) across the length and breadth of the country, even though agriculture is the most prominent destination for rural women migrants. The labouring units in brick-making and cane cutting (where female labour is involved) largely comprises male-female pairs (jodis) or family units and generally a cycle of advances and debt-based tying of such labour. Jodi-based wage labour combined with piece rated payment, leaves no scope for independent work/activity and income for women. It was striking that 42% of the rural women migrant workers were involved in such pair, family or ad hoc group-based employment.

•    In urban areas, close to one-third of the migrant women workers (31%) were either unemployed or engaged in only family domestic duties before migration (in comparison to 15% of rural women migrants). Only a small proportion of the urban women migrants had a pre-migration background in agricultural work (13%) and many were in service sector or other diverse jobs even before migration (20% were in paid domestic work and 30% in diversified services before migration). The process of concentration in paid domestic work (whose proportions almost trebled from around 10% before migration to 28% post-migration) was the most gender distinctive feature of urban wards labour migration by women.

Other Migration Processes

•    A little over half of the women migrant workers (rural and urban combined) identified poverty, debt, decline in income, lack of local employment or loss of such employment as their reason for migration. The majority, however (62%), bore their migration costs out of household savings. Women migrated more with family members (43%) while men migrated more alone (43%). Nevertheless, it is significant that close to a quarter of the women (23%) reported having migrated alone and 7% in all female groups, although this is substantially less than the 43% of the men who migrated alone and the 19% who had gone in all male groups. Further, while 25% of the rural and 6% of the urban women migrants were dependent/ mobilised by contractors, 81% of the urban and 63% of the rural women migrants said they migrated independently – whether with families or alone.

•    72% of the female migrant workers with urban destinations were below 36 years of age in comparison to 63% of the male migrants to urban areas. Similarly 61% of the female migrant workers with rural destinations were below 36 in comparison to 56% of rural male migrants. Most striking was the higher proportion of women migrant workers in the age group 15-25. Thirty-four per cent of the urban female migrant workers were in the 15-25 age group in comparison to 22% of the urban male migrant workers and on a slightly lower scale of difference, 24% of the women with rural destinations were in this age group in comparison to 19% of the rural male migrant workers.

•    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.

•    While most women migrant workers migrated with their minor children (67%), only around a quarter of the male migrants (26%) of the male migrant workers took their minor children with them.

Conditions of Work among Women Migrant Workers

•    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.

•    Casual labour in the private sector was the most prominent form of pre-migration employment among rural women migrants (41%), whose share also increased post-migration (44%); but it was the share of contract labour that showed the most significant increase from pre to post-migration rising from 13% before migration to 26% after. Of rural female labour migration (i e, after migration), 70% was for casual and contract work.

•    Among urban migrant women workers, the share of regular employment for private employers showed the most striking and maximum increase post-migration (almost doubling from 21% before migration to reach 41% after), although the insecure nature of much of this “regular” employment was evident with 85% of the surveyed urban women migrants reporting they had no maternity leave and 80% had no medical leave.

•    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.

•    In rural destinations, the majority of women workers (68%) worked for eight hours and below per day, but in peak season the majority (68%) worked well over eight hours with 41% working above 10 hours of which around half (20%) worked over 12 hours a day. In urban destinations, 78% worked eight hours and below in normal periods, but this dropped to 57% in peak seasons, with 21% working up to 10 hours, 15% from 10 to 12 hours, and 6% above 12 hours.

Modes of Payment and Wages

•    Around 20% of both rural and urban women migrants were on daily wages. The average daily wage/income for these women migrants in rural areas was Rs 136, and in urban areas, it was Rs 141. Prominent among women migrants with rural destinations who were daily wage/income earners were agricultural workers (47%), brick kiln workers (28%)13 and manufacturing workers (8%). In urban areas, construction accounted for 67% of daily wagers, vendors/petty traders for 9% and manufacturing for 7%.

•    In rural areas, 22% of the women migrant workers had monthly payment of wages – of an average amount of Rs 4,778. In urban areas, 64% of the women migrants received wages on a monthly basis – of an average amount of Rs 6,729. Of the women migrants in rural areas, 29% received payment at the end of contracted work periods (mostly brick kiln and agricultural workers).14 Only 4% of the urban women migrants were so paid.

•    Thirty-two per cent of the rural and 45% of the urban women migrants were paid at minimum wage rates, and only 5% of the rural and 11% of the urban received wages above the statutory minimum. Of the rural women migrants 64% and 44% of the urban women migrants received either below the minimum wage or did not know about minimum wages.

•    Among daily wager rural migrants – 13% of the women earned less than Rs 100 in comparison to just 3% of the men, while 23% of the men earned Rs 250 and above in comparison to a mere 0.2% of the women. The same pattern was visible among weekly earners in both rural and urban areas. However, among urban daily wagers, while 17% of the women migrants were earning less than Rs 100 in comparison to just 2% of the men, only 2% of the urban daily wager migrants – men and women – received wages/ incomes of Rs 250 and above. Twenty-eight per cent of the rural women migrants were paid on a weekly basis in comparison to 13% of the urban.

Of Remittances and Civic Amenities

•    Of the women migrants with rural destinations 32%, and 33% of those with urban destinations sent or brought no remittances to their source areas. At the other extreme 9% with rural destinations and 11% with urban destinations remitted their entire incomes.

•    At their destinations, 76% of all the women migrant workers (rural + urban) did not have any ration card, 16% had below poverty line (BPL) cards, less than half a per cent had Antyodaya cards and 7% had above poverty line (APL) cards. In comparison in their source areas, 34% of these migrants had no ration cards, 40% had BPL cards, 6% had Antyodaya cards and 20% had APL cards. Loss of public distribution system (PDS) entitlements  through migration was thus quite widespread. It was found that 91% of the women migrant workers had never availed of any public housing scheme, 79% had no National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) job cards, and 96% had never been employed under any public employment programme or scheme.

•    75% of all the women migrant workers did have electoral cards, but again the majority of them (almost three quarters) had their voting rights at area of origin and only around 28% of those with electoral cards had voting rights at destination areas. Of the women migrants 10% had voted in the last parliamentary elections at destination in comparison to 46% at area of origin. For state assembly elections 13% had voted at destination in comparison to 47% at area of origin. For panchayat/ municipality, again 13% had voted at destination but 52% at area of origin.

Rural Expert

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