Internal Migration in India


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  • The Union government to launch a digitized platform for migrant workers that will enable authorities to direct state-run benefits to them and intervene during crisis.


  • The International Organization for Migration defines a migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from his/her habitual place of residence.
  • Moving within the country can be termed as internal migration


  • The 2011 Census enumerated 450 million internal migrants based on place of last residence, or 37 percent of the total population and 68 percent of all migrants were females.
  • Internal migrants as percentage of population increased from 30% in 2001 to 37% in 2011.
  • The Economic Survey (2017) estimated that an average of 5–6 million Indians migrated annually between 2001 and 2011.
  • Majority of the internal migrant worker population comes from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar followed by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.


  • Pull factors:
    • Employment:
      • Basic reasons for migration within India can be attributed to the search for better employment in industries, trade, transport, and services.
      • It can be seasonal or circular migration
        • Seasonal Migration: People seasonally migrate for employment in different areas and different industries. For example, significant numbers of people from drought-prone regions migrate seasonally to work in brickmaking, construction, tile factories, and agricultural work.
        • Circular migration: It is the temporary and usually repetitive movement of a migrant worker between home and host areas, typically for the purpose of employment.
    • Education:
      • Due to the lack of educational facilities at their place of residence, people migrate to urban areas in search of better institutions.
    • After effect of liberalization of the Indian economy
      • India has seen an upsurge in economic growth since 1991. The 2001 census shows that internal migration has picked up rapidly during the 1990s.
      • The states with higher per capita income and larger dominance of non-agricultural sector show not only high in-migration but also high out-migration rates.
  • Push factors:
    • Lack of security:
      • Political disturbances, ethnic conflicts and communal riots are also one of the reasons for internal migration
    • Marriage:
      • Marriage is one important social factor for internal migration and in case of intra-state migrants majority of the migration is from one rural area to another, due to marriage in the case of females.
    • Disaster-induced factors:
      • There are migrants are forced to move from one area to another as a result of an environmental disaster in the form of drought, floods, heat waves etc, that might have destroyed their homes and farms.


  • Inadequate data:
    • There exists a serious data gap on the extent, nature and magnitude of internal migration which hampers delivery of services for migrants.
  • Identity and registration:
    • Migrants often lack proper personal identification in the destination states.
  • Vulnerabilities related to labour market:
    • Low wages, high risk jobs and the fear of being replaced are the main constituents of vulnerability for migrants in the informal labour market.
    • It is estimated that migrant workers comprise nearly 60 per cent of occupationally vulnerable workers outside agriculture.
  • Contract wage system:
    • The problems faced by migrants in destination states range from contract violation, non-payment of salary, long working hours >> mainly due contractual nature of their employment.
  • Exclusion from social security benefits:
    • Almost all states are apathetic to the needs of migrants, which stops the latter from accessing welfare entitlements.
    • Even if states make provisions for migrants’ access to benefits and support, no measures are put in place to make migrants aware of the relevant schemes and policies.
  • Little or no upward mobility:
    • Informal social networks help migrants in providing access to the urban job market in the initial stages, but do not have any positive effect on upward mobility.
  • Demographic profile:
    • Emigration in large numbers can alter demographic profiles of communities, as most of the young men move out, leaving only the women and elderly to work on the land.
  • Political exclusion:
    • Migrant workers are deprived of many opportunities to exercise their political rights like the right to vote.
  • Education and Skilling:
    • The children of migrants constitute one of the most unrecognized and vulnerable groups among internal migrants.
  • Housing and Sanitation:
    • Most low-income internal migrants live in slum accommodations, often facing difficulties in accessing basic amenities like sanitation and constant threats of displacement and eviction.
  • Health issues:
    • Factors such as their patterns of mobility (regular, circular, seasonal, etc.) and poor work and living conditions impact their health conditions.
  • Alienation and social exclusion:
    • Migrants are looked upon as ‘outsiders’ by the local administration, and their right to the city is denied because of political support for the ‘sons of the soil’ ideology.
    • Exclusion and discrimination against migrants and their negative portrayal in the media widens the gulf between migrants and locals.
  • Increased social tension:
    • Population explosion and the influx of workers in the place of destination increases competition for the job, houses, school facilities etc and a large population puts too much pressure on natural resources, amenities, and services >> result in social tensions
  • Increased slum:
    • Mass migration results into an increase in slum areas, compromising quality of infrastructure and life at the destination, which further translates into many other problems such as unhygienic conditions, crime, pollution, etc.
  • Human capital drain:
    • Source state suffers from the loss of human capital due to migration.
  • Issues faced due to COVID-19
    • Migrant workers face higher risk of infections due to higher incidence of poverty, overcrowded housing conditions, and high concentration in jobs where physical distancing is difficult.
    • Pandemic precipitated a severe ‘crisis of mobility’ because of desperate attempts of migrants to return home by any means available which prompted their clashes with authorities.


  • Labour demand and supply:
    • Migration fills gaps in demand for and supply of labor, efficiently allocates skilled labor, unskilled labor, and cheap labor.
  • Economic remittances:
    • Economic well-being of migrants provides insurance against risks to households in the areas of origin, increases consumer expenditure and investment in health, education and assets formation.
  • Social remittances:
    • Migration helps to improve the social life of migrants, as they learn about new cultures, customs, and languages which helps to improve brotherhood among people and ensures greater equality and tolerance.
  • Skill development:
    • Migration enhances the knowledge and skills of migrants through exposure and interaction with the outside world.
  • Demographic advantage:
    • As a result of outmigration, the population density of the place of origin is reduced and the birth rate decreases.
  • Climate change adaptive mechanism:
    • Migration has also emerged as a possible adaptive mechanism in the context of climate change and the occurrence of extreme weather events like floods, droughts, and cyclones.


  • Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs)
    • It is a new rental housing policy targeted towards migrant workers.
    • This policy aims to achieve “Housing for all” and “incentivise public/private entities to leverage investment for creating affordable rental housing stock” for the low-income migrant workers in cities.
    • It as a sub-scheme under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana- Urban (PMAY-U).
  • One Nation One Ration Card:
    • The scheme is being implemented for the nation-wide portability of ration cards under National Food Security Act (NFSA).
    • This system allows all NFSA beneficiaries, particularly migrant beneficiaries, to claim either full or part food grains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) in the country through existing ration card with biometric/Aadhaar authentication in a seamless manner.
  • Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan:
    • It is a government scheme meant for old age protection and social security of unorganized workers.
  • National Migrant Information System (NMIS):
    • The online portal will maintain a central repository on migrant workers and help in speedy inter-State communication to facilitate their smooth movement to native places.
    • It was developed by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
  • Ayushman Bharat Scheme:
    • Launched in 2018, it is the world’s largest health insurance scheme fully financed by the government.
    • The benefits of the scheme are portable across the country i.e. a beneficiary can visit any empanelled public or private hospital in India to avail cashless treatment
  • Legislative measures to protect labour and migrant workers:
    • Interstate Migrant Workmen Act, 1979
      • It is enacted to regulate the condition of service of inter-state labourers in India.
    • Code of Social Security 2020:
      • It is a code to amend and consolidate the laws relating to social security with the goal to extend social security to all employees and workers either in the organised or unorganised or any other sectors.
  • Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA):
    • To boost employment and livelihood opportunities for migrant workers returning to villages, in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.
    • It involved skill mapping of migrant labourers and linking women with self-help groups.
  • Judicial directives:
    • Supreme court, in its judgment in the migrant labourers case 2021, has laid down numerous guidelines to provide relief to migrant workers in the wake of COVID-19:
      • Supreme court directed the Ministry of Labour and Employment to ensure that the National Database for Unorganised Workers is updated
      • The court also directed the State governments to run community kitchens for migrant workers.
      • The court also recognised the need for direct cash benefit transfer to workers in the unorganised sector.
      • The court also ordered all the States to fully implement the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) by July 31,2021.


  • Initiatives taken by Kerala to protect migrant workers:
    • The migrant labourers are addressed as ‘guest workers’ by the State.
    • The government has started ‘Apna Khar’ project which aims at providing these workers with proper accommodation.
    • Under the ‘Awas’ scheme, each worker can avail free treatment of up to Rs. 25,000 from government empanelled hospitals.
    • Project Changathi is a literacy scheme targeted at migrant children for them to learn Malayalam.
  • Digital databank of migrant workers
    • Tamil Nadu created a digital databank of migrant workers employed in industries, particularly the MSMEs and hospitality sectors, across the State.


Q. India's migrant workforce despite their harsh work and life environments, play a critical role in functioning of cities. Examine.