Published on People Move

Internal Migration – Improving Welfare of the Rural Poor

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Salauddin, a farmer, migrated to Dhaka (the capital) from a rural area of Bangladesh because of severe drought. He is now one of half million rickshaw-pullers. He spends only tk 100 a day and saves the rest; when having saved tk3000 (usually in a three-week time), he goes home to see his wife and children. His wife says, “thanks to this money, I can now cook this meal.”
The World Bank’s KNOMAD (Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development) held a conference on internal migration and urbanization in Dhaka on April 30 – May 1, 2014, in collaboration with the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, University of Dhaka. The conference aimed to better understand the multifaceted aspects of internal migration and found the following.

People’s mobility gets intensified with economic development and urbanization – e.g., a construction boom in economic centers drawing unskilled workers from rural areas. Unlike international migration, greater mobility among the poorest is found. More and more females are on the move just as in international migration.
Why do people move? It appears the key reason is to earn better income – from a low wage area to a higher one. Others are to find jobs, to cope with extreme adverse events (such as typhoons), to access to better public service (including education), and to avoid violence. We should also not forget that people also out-migrate because of the lack of trust among people and the weak enforcement of labor contracts.
What are the constraints to the internal mobility? It was unanimous that people should freely move from one place to another. Rigid residency registration requirements can in fact deter internal migration, and can result in irregular migrants in the new destination who have limited access to basic entitlements (e.g. in China and India). Even if small, financial supports can facilitate the mobility. Other binding constraints include the lack of affordable housing, skill mismatches, the lack of social networks, and limited information on job opportunities.
What are the impacts of internal migration? Various country case studies reconfirmed that internal migration and resulting remittances help improve welfare of rural poor migrant households (poverty reduction, more education, and better healthcare). Moreover, remittances help cushion households’ income during bad times. Migration offers urban income opportunities for females, which consequently offers them stronger decision-making roles in family planning and financing plans, and brings positive changes to behaviours, leading to better gender equality.
In conclusion, internal migration issues can be successfully addressed with migration policies not in isolation but in connection with other policies and strategies, including economic development strategies (especially to formalise the shadow economy), urban development planning, land reforms, and improving the quality of education. Policy recommendations can be country-specific; but the implementation of policies needs to be monitored and regularly evaluated in order to enhance their effectiveness.


Soonhwa Yi

Senior Economist, Development Economics – Global Indicators Group (DECIG), World Bank

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