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Data: PLFS migration report indicates that more than 70% in India migrate due to Marriage


Along with the annual PLFS to estimate key employment and unemployment indicators, the National Statistical Office released the ‘Migration in India (2020-21)’ report which contains estimates of indicators related to migration and temporary visitors. Data indicates that more than 70% migrate due to marriage while 87.5% migrate within the same state.

People move from one place to another in search of temporary or permanent settlements. Migration is considered the barometer of changing socio-economic and political conditions at the national and international levels. It is also an indicator of the existing inequalities and disparities in economic and social conditions across different places. The movement of people can be due to necessity or by choice. Various reasons like career growth, employment, the standard of living, marriage, climate change, calamities, conflicts, and human rights violations among others influence the movement of people. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic-induced movement restrictions resulted in unprecedented migration of workers and labourers back to their native places in rural areas of India. 

‘Migration in India’ report was released for the first time along with the annual PLFS 

Along with the annual Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) to estimate key employment and unemployment indicators in the country, the National Statistical Office released the ‘Migration in India (2020-21)’ report which contains estimates of indicators related to migration and temporary visitors. During the PLFS exercise, additional information was collected on migration particulars of household members and on the temporary visitors in the household who arrived after March 2020 and stayed in the household continuously for a period of 15 days to less than 6 months. 

The PLFS report defines migrants as ‘those whose last usual place of residence is different from the present place of enumeration. Usual place of residence is the place (village/town) where the person stayed continuously for a period of 6 months or more or intends to stay for 6 months or more.’ Close to 1.14 lakh migrants were surveyed, 51.8% in rural areas and the rest from urban areas. 

The migration rate of India was 28.9%

The migration rate for any category of person (e.g., rural or urban, male, or female) has been defined as the percentage of migrants belonging to that category of persons. According to the report, the migration rate across the country was 28.9% during the period from July 2020 to 2021, when the survey was conducted. This means that 28.9% of the total surveyed population were migrants. 

The rate was 34.9% in urban areas and 26.5% in rural areas. Overall, the male migration rate was 10.7% and was 47.9% for females. While the migration rate for females in rural and urban areas was close, the migration rate in rural males was 5.9% while that in urban males was 22.5%. 

87.5% of the migration was within the state

A significant share of migration took place within the same state. 92.6% of females and 65.6% of males had moved within the same state while 7.2% of females and 31.4% of males moved to another state. 2.9% of males and 0.2% of females had moved to another country. Overall, the intra-state migration was 87.5% and inter-state migration was 11.8%. 

Internal migrants are those who migrated within the country. This can include those who moved within states and those who moved interstate. Internal migration can be classified into four categories based on origin and destination, rural to rural, rural to urban, urban to rural, and urban to urban. Among the internal migrants, 55% of the migration took place from rural to rural. Female migrants were the drivers of this trend. More than 63% of the female internal migrants moved from rural to rural, and only 18% of males contributed to this trend. A total of 10.2% of the internal migrants moved from urban to rural, including 20.8% of the males and 7.8% of the females. 

On the other hand, 33.5% of the males, and 15.6% of the females had migrated from rural to urban. 27.6% of the male migrants had moved between urban areas, while only 13.2% of the females had moved between urban areas. Overall, 18.9% of the internal migrants had moved to urban areas from rural areas and 15.9% from urban areas. 

7 out of 10 migrants moved due to marriage

Marriage was the prime reason behind migration for more than 71% of the migrants. 86.8% of females and 6.2% of males migrated for marriage. Migration of the earning member of family or parent was cited to be the reason by 9.2% of the migrants including 17.5% of males and 7.3% of females. A total of 4.8% migrated in search of employment or better employment opportunities while 4.4% migrated to take up employment. Reasons such as natural disasters, political problems, displacement due to development projects, health-related reasons, and retirement accounted for less than 1% each. 

In rural areas, 0.8% migrated for health-related reasons while the same in urban areas was 0.6%. Marriage-related migration accounted for 84.4% among rural persons while it accounted for only 47.5% among urban persons. In all the other cases, the share of urban persons was higher than that of their rural counterparts. 

The general trend indicates that the migration is more among rural males than urban males for all other reasons except employment and migration of earning members. That is, the share of urban males that migrated in search of employment or for employment was higher than the share of rural males. Likewise, the share of urban males migrating due to migration of earning member/parent was higher than the share of their rural counterparts. Similarly, among females, 93.8% of rural females migrated for marriage while the share among urban females was 69.5%. The share of females in urban areas was higher for employment-related migration.

India had a migrant population of 45.6 crores as per Census 2011, up from 31.4 crores in 2001

The decennial national level census is the only comprehensive source of migration data in India. It covers the entire population of the country, unlike the PLFS survey. The Census has a dedicated section on migration. The latest data available is that of Census 2011. Census for 2021 has not yet begun. 

According to Census 2011, the total number of migrant persons in the country was 45.6 crores including 27.8 crores in rural areas and 17.8 crores in urban areas. The number of female migrants was 30.96 crores and the number of male migrants was 14.6 crores. As per Census 2001, the total number of migrants was around 31.4 crores. 

The number of internal migrants was 45 crores in 2011 and 30.9 crores in 2001. Internal migrants constituted more than 98% of the migrants in both the censuses. Though the number of internal migrants has gone up by more than 45% in the decade, the pattern of movement has not changed. Intra-state migrants were 39.6 crores and 26.3 crores in 2011 and 2001 respectively. Intra-state migrants accounted for 86.8% of the total migrants in 2011 and 83.7% in 2001. Inter-state migrants accounted for 11.8% in 2011 and 13% in 2001. According to the PLFS migration report, intra-state migration was 87.5% and inter-state migration was 11.8%, close to what the Census 2011 data revealed.  

As seen above, the majority of internal migrants in India are short-distance intra-state migrants. The share of long-distance inter-state migration in India is considerably less as compared to other developing countries like Brazil and China. According to a 2015 research paper published in Wiley, a low rate of inter-state migration is an indicator of the non-uniform allocation of human resources. This is attributed to the non-portability of entitlements like the Public Distribution System), preferential norms in educational institutions, and domicile requirements for state government jobs. Further, intra-state migration is also an indicator of how development is confined to certain parts of the state. 

Featured Image: Migration in India


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A bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s in social science, she is driven by ardent desire to work with this unique combination to create her own path instead of following the herd. Having served a stint as the college union chairperson, she is a strategist who is also passionate about nature conservation, art and loves solving Sudoku.

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