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Almost a third of Indians, or over 300 million people, are migrants

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  Photo © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

India’s Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has just released the “Migration in India 2007-08” report (June 2010) based on the 64th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS). This nationally representative survey includes 125,578 households (79,091 households in rural areas and 46,487 households in urban areas) which together have 572,254 individuals. The report has many interesting findings on internal and international migration and remittances in India, which you can read in the press release. I have highlighted a few that I found interesting:

Almost a third of Indians, or over 300 million people, are migrants. 28.5 percent of Indians (some 325 million people, out of a population of 1.14 billion in 2008) are migrants, according to the survey. 35 percent of people in urban areas and 26 percent of people in rural areas have moved from their place of usual residence.However, migration in India is largely confined to within the same state. 72 percent of migrant households in urban areas and 78 percent in rural areas have migrated within the same state.

Employment seems to be the most important reason for migration. Some 67 percent of migrant households in urban areas and 55 percent in rural areas reported migrating for employment-related reasons.

Females migrate more often than males in India, primarily for marriage. 46 percent of females in urban areas were migrants compared to the 26 percent of males (48 percent of females and 5 percent of males in rural areas). However, 61 percent of urban female migrants and 91 percent of rural female migrants migrated for marriage.

Income and education appear to play a major role in male migration. The migration rate for urban males in the bottom income decile was 10 percent, far smaller than the 46 percent for those in the top income decile. In rural areas, 3 percent of those in the bottom income decile are migrants, compared to 17 percent of those in the top income decile. For urban males, the migration rate was lowest among the ‘not literate’ (17 percent) and highest among college graduates (38 percent). For rural males, the migration rate is 4 percent among the ‘not literates’, and 14 percent for college graduates.

Some 4 million Indians have migrated internationally. The survey finds that 0.38 percent of Indians, about 4 million people, have migrated out of the country. This is smaller than the 10 million Indian international migrants that we have from destination country data (see India page of Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008). However, origin country surveys often underestimate the extent of cross-border migration, as these do not capture entire families that have moved.

International migrants send larger amounts of remittances on average than internal migrants. International migrants sent an average of Rs. 57,100 (about $1,418) in 2007-08, while internal migrants sent Rs. 14,600 (about $363); both international and internal migrant sent remittances about 5 times a year. The data for international remittances seems to be underestimated as well, since India received $37 billion in remittances in 2007 and $50 billion in 2008, or between $3,700 and $5,000 on average per international migrant.

Update on June 21: The original blog post on June 16 stated that "nearly 300 million" Indians are migrants. Based on the survey finding of 28.5 percent migrants (285 migrants per thousand Indians), the correct figure is 321-325 million migrants out of India's population of 1,125-1,140 million during the period of the survey in 2007-08.


Sanket Mohapatra

Associate Professor, IIM Ahmedabad

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