India's Internal Labor Migration Paradox: The Statistical and the Real

32 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2018

Date Written: February 26, 2018


Internal labor migration rates in India have been largely static and low in recent times compared with those in other countries. This is a cause for concern because internal migration for economic reasons can promote the agglomeration of economic activity in more productive locations and directly contribute to reducing poverty through remittances. New evidence based on the India Human Development Survey, which provides a more recent source of data compared with the Census and other household surveys, shows that labor mobility is higher than previously estimated -- the stock of labor migrants increased from 16 million in 2004-05 to 60 million in 2011?12. The absolute number of circular migrants, at more than 200 million in 2011-12, is also much higher than previously documented estimates. Tracking the same households between 2004?05 and 2011-12, empirical analysis based on the India Human Development Survey highlights several socioeconomic factors associated with the migration decision: household income, the availability of information, as well as community networks in source and destination areas. There is also a possible administrative dimension to interstate migration barriers, owing to domicile provisions for work and study, lack of portability of social benefits, and legal and other entitlements upon relocation.

Keywords: Education, Educational Sciences, Social Protections and Labor, Social Protections & Assistance, Rural Development, Rural Labor Markets, Services & Transfers to Poor, Access of Poor to Social Services, Poverty Reduction, Economic Assistance, Disability, Labor Markets, Economic Modeling and Statistics, Employment and Unemployment, Fiscal & Monetary Policy, Consumption, Labor & Employment Law, Macroeconomics and Economic Growth

Suggested Citation

Nayyar, Gaurav and Kim, Kyoung Yang, India's Internal Labor Migration Paradox: The Statistical and the Real (February 26, 2018). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 8356, Available at SSRN:

Gaurav Nayyar (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Kyoung Yang Kim

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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