Internal Migrants: Asset Or Burden


The former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban-Ki-Moon once aptly said that migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family. Migration is a truly global phenomenon, with internal and external movements both within and across borders. 

The UN-DESA in 2016 (United Nations- Department of Social and Economic Affairs) has estimated that more than 244 million international migrants and 763 million internal migrants are in the world.  Migrants make up more than 1 billion people, or one-seventh of the world’s population.

Internal Migration is occurring within a country from crossing political boundaries, either within a state or between states, whether urban to rural, urban to urban, rural to rural, or rural to urban. The pull factors (better education, healthcare, employment and other accessible urban services etc.) and push factors (poverty, illiteracy, inadequate healthcare, unemployment, etc.) responsible for migration which therefore, is bifurcated into Emigration and Immigration. Globally internal migrants for example in Russia, 88% resettle within the Russian Federation.  According to the 2010 census, China has more than 220 million internal migrant workers, which is more than 90% of the world’s international migrants. In Europe, as of January 2016, 19.3 million people were residing in a different EU Member State from the one where they were born.

The main cause for Internal Migration is diversity and other reasons are both pull and push factors such as unemployment, marriage, inadequate education, cultural assimilation, contra-acculturation, environmental and disaster etc. induced factors. As per 2013 Lok Sabah report, around 50 million people have been displaced over last 50 years in India in the name of developmental projects. The optimistic outcomes are the opportunities and benefits availed by migrants, the labor demand and supply, employment, better education and healthcare, remittances, return migration as a brain gain, skill development, composite culture or a melting pot.

Are internal migrants an asset or a burden for local economies? This perhaps, remains a big question, in fact unaddressed one. Let’s not go into the binary, but take it judiciously, through the detailed account of both quantitative and qualitative data which is mammoth in numbers may show us worrying inference but there is a way to deal with it. Internal migration is a much bigger phenomenon that impacts the huge population; it has attracted much less attention. In case of India’s internal migration, the interstate migration doubled between 2001 and 2011 compared to the previous decade, growing 4.5% annually and in average 5-6million migrants a year. The economic survey of India 2017 estimated 9 million in 2016. Internal migration flows is mainly driven by the states with important economic inequities. Bihar, followed by Uttar Pradesh , Madhya Pradesh etc. has the highest outflows of domestic migrants has a per-capita income roughly equivalent to Somalia’s (approximately $520) and a birth rate of 3.4 children per woman. On the contrary, Delhi, Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat etc. are the destination for in-migrants. For example, Kerala has a per-capita income four times that of Bihar’s (approximately $2,350) and a birth rate of 1.6 children per woman, on par with Denmark.

Internal migrants are people of the same nation as the Indian constitution provides under Article-19, Right to ‘’Move freely’’ inside the country is a Fundamental Right. Hence, state is restrained to discriminate the internal movement on such grounds. As the internal migrants similar to international migrants have to confront many impediments. Hence, is risky and challenging such as, employment in informal economy, identification of documents, housing, financial access, access to healthcare, social and political exclusion, education of children (UNESCO’S 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report, shows 80% of migrant children across seven Indian Cities did not have access to education near worksites) but information about internal migration is unfortunately limited or outdated. The data on internal migration has not attracted cautionary consideration. 

Internal migration affects the lives of as estimated 763 million people. Major portion out-migrants work in construction industry followed by agriculture, manufacturing, trade and transport. But state is free to make policies, welfare schemes and legislations for the welfare of migrants, The potential negative costs and risks of migrant worker are need to be mitigated include, women trafficking, poor and unsafe working conditions, diseases, unscrupulous labor agents, forced labor, Dalit discrimination, son of soil theory, gendered migration discrimination etc.. The Government of India in 2005 launched the scheme of MGNREGA and has been attracting the highest budgetary allocations. It has brought psychological change in India and provided the compulsory right to work of around 100 days to people around their vicinity. It covered mainly the illiterate, poor, socially deprived and low skilled labor migrants. Sexual harassment in workplace (SHE-Act 2013) was also formulated to mitigate the risks of female migrants in employment at workplace. Maternal benefit (Amendment) Act-2017, six months full paid leave to take care of her child.

 Internal Migrants are indeed an asset if they are provided with decent work and if there is stimulating public awareness on migration. Migration is crucial to development and there is need for protection of their human rights, vocational education, literacy and regulation  of placement agencies and agents. Integration of migrants in the development agenda of state, building positive public perception of migrants also can lead towards development of big asset on local economies. The demographic dividend can be achieved if migrants are provided with skill and expertise in different fields and they can be sent to different states which face work force deficiency. State has a key role in turning these migrants into an asset rather than a burden.




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