While presenting the Economic Survey, an annual report on the economy, on Tuesday, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian said that two new methods of data analysis, including a railway passenger data based metric, reveal that Indians are migrating in far larger numbers for economic reasons to other states than they did previously.
In 2001-’11, the rate nearly doubled as compared to the previous decade, rising to 4.5% per annum from 2.4% in 1991-’01, noted the Survey. The acceleration in the rate of migration is particularly high for women – during the 2000s, females migrated at nearly twice the rate of males.
Yet, in contrast to international migration trends, the free movement of people across states has not led to poorer states with low health outcomes becoming less poor and more healthy, said the Survey.
The decadal Censuses, of which the last was held in 2011, estimate the annual average number of inter-state migrants in India to be 33 lakh.
The Census defines a migrant as such: “When a person is enumerated in census at a different place than his/her place of birth, she/he is considered a migrant.”
However, the Survey put out new migration figures that are significantly greater than those put out by the Census or any other previous study.
In a chapter on inter-state migration titled India On The Move and Churning: New Evidence, the Survey estimated that between 2001 and 2011, annual inter-state labour mobility averaged at least 50 lakh to 60 lakh people, yielding an inter-state migrant population of about six crores and an inter-district migration as high as eight crores.
It arrived at these estimates using a new methodology called Cohort-based Migration Metric at state and district levels.
This was the first time the Survey used origin-destination monthly railway data on unreserved passenger traffic between every pair of stations between 2011-’16 as a proxy for work-related migrant flow.
“This class of travel serves less affluent people, who are more likely to travel for work-related reasons,” noted the Survey.
For the 2011-’16 period, the Economic Survey estimated that nearly 90 lakh people migrated between states annually. The analysis excluded those traveling within 200 km.
According to the Survey, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and even Kerala are net in-migration states (the rate at which people move in). There was lower in-migration into Maharashtra than before.
Higher out-migration states were Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh. There was lower out-migration in Assam in this period than previous years.
Chandigarh, Delhi, Gurugram in Haryana, Gautam Budh Nagar in western Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest net in-migration. Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh, Churu and Pali in Rajasthan, Uttarkashi and Chamoli in Uttarakhand, Muzzafranagar and Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, Darbhanga and Gopalganj in Bihar were among districts with highest net out-migration.
Language did not seem to be a barrier to the movement of people.
The Survey also found that female migration for work is growing at twice the rate of migration by males. This is so even though in the last few years the growth in the female workforce has not happened at a correspondingly fast rate. Between 1991 to 2001, and 2001 to 2011, men giving economic reasons for migration grew from 2.7% to 4%. Among women it increased from 0.4% between 1991 and 2001, to 7.5% between 2001 and 2011.
Though nearly twice the number of persons are migrating for economic opportunities than before, this has not translated into reducing the gap between well-off and underdeveloped states.
In a chapter on health and income, the Survey found that despite overall growth, there “continues to be divergence in India, or an aggravation of regional inequality”.
It noted: “During the 2000s, China posted a convergence rate of nearly 3 percent in income which implies that the poorest province will catch up with half the level of the richest province in 23 years…The evidence so far suggests that in India, catch-up remains elusive.”
The report said that it is unclear why even the free movement of people across porous state borders is not helping reduce inequalities across regions.