Where migrants move in search of livelihood in India

  • Census 2011 says 45 million Indians moved outside their district of birth for work opportunities—be it employment or business.
  • Of the 640 districts in 2011, just 5 accounted for 15% of all migrants who moved in for employment opportunities

Census 2011 says 45 million Indians moved outside their district of birth for work opportunities—be it employment or business. That’s 10% of all domestic migrants, down from 10.4% in 2001. Here’s where they moved and why.

Which districts led in work-based inflow?

Of the 640 districts in 2011, just 5 accounted for 15% of all migrants who moved in for employment opportunities. Each was home to more than a million migrants who moved there for work—Thane (1.6 million), Bangalore (1.5 million), Mumbai Suburban (1.3 million), Pune (1.2 million) and Surat (1 million). That’s in absolute terms. In relative terms, there are less prominent districts where the share of work-related migration is larger, indicating the presence of employment opportunities there. This list is led by Daman, and includes two districts from Nagaland and one from Arunachal Pradesh (see map).

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How do inflows and outflows vary?

In terms of inflows, there are only 57 districts across India where more than 20% of migrants moved for work reasons. These are the districts that hold the promise of employment opportunities. On the other hand, there are 196 districts where this figure is below 5%. Among them are 36 of Bihar’s 38 districts and 44 of Uttar Pradesh’s 71 (see map). In terms of outflows, Uttar Pradesh (3.8 million) and Bihar (2.4 million) accounted for 47% of all migrants moving for work reasons. Across India, 25% of migrants who changed states did so for work. Only 8% of intra-state migrations were for work and employment.

Is moving for work a rural-to-urban phenomenon?

It’s also urban-to-urban. Three-fourth of work migration within India was to urban areas. Of 34 million who moved to urban places, 20 million came from rural areas and 14 million from urban.

How does migration vary  between  genders?

Immensely. Of the 450 million people who migrated within India, 68% (306 million) are women. But most of them are not moving for work reasons. Only 2% (7.2 million) of migrant women moved for work, as opposed to 26% of men. The top five districts where women migrated for work are Bangalore, Thane, Pune, Rangareddy (Telangana) and Mumbai Suburban. As with men, women from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar lead in terms of share of women migrants moving for work, (19% and 11%, respectively).

What’s the share of migrants in business?

Only 8% of migrants who moved for work reasons are self-employed. But the rural-urban variance in the overall moving-for-work level is absent in the moving-for-business category. As many people who migrate to rural areas are in business as in urban areas. Three of the five districts with the most migrants in business are in Gujarat: Ahmedabad, Surat, and Rajkot. They are followed by Thane and Bangalore. These five account for 15% of self-employed migrants.

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