MoSPI Released A Report Named ‘Migration In India 2020-21’
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has recently released a report named ‘Migration in India 2020-21. This report is based on the information collected during the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS). The report estimates of indicators related to migration & temporary visitors. During the PLFS exercise, additional information was collected on migration particulars of household members & on the temporary visitors in the household who arrived after March 2020 & stayed in the household continuously for a period of fifteen days to less than six months. Whereas ‘migrants’ have been defined as those, for whom the last usual place of residence, any time in the past, is different from the present place of enumeration
After the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, 0.7 % of the country’s population was recorded as a ‘temporary visitor’ across households during the July 2020-June 2021 period. Over 84 % of these ‘temporary visitors’ moved places for reasons linked to the pandemic — ranging from meeting family/relatives/friends, loss of job/closure of unit/lack of employment opportunities, migration of earning member, closure of educational institutions & health related reasons.
Migration rate was 28.9% in the country. In rural areas this was 26.5% while in urban areas, this was 34.9%. The migration rate was 10.7% for men and 47.9% for women. Among females, 86.8% of the migration was because of marriage, and 7.3% was because of migration of parent/earning member of family. Only 0.7% females migrated to take up jobs and 0.6% in search of jobs. 22.8% of the men migrated in search of jobs while 20.1% migrated to take up employment. 17.5% migrated because of the migration of earning member of family. 87.5% of the migration took place within states, while 11.8% was inter-state. 0.7% went abroad. Migration to other countries was 3.9% among rural men and 2.3% among urban men.
On March 25, 2020, India imposed one of the harshest lockdowns in the world, to prevent the spread of Covid-19. A sudden closure of businesses and drying up of incomes forced many workers & their families to go back to their homes, often in difficult situations. While the most brutal aspect of the reverse migration was captured in the images of poor workers walking on highways, it was not the only disruption to usual migratory patterns. Many white-collar workers switched places once work-from-home arrangements freed them from the need of staying in big cities. Students who were studying outside their homes had to return or postpone their moves.
Research has attributed the fall in inter-state migration to several factors — difficulty in accessing entitlements like the public distribution system and preferential norms as well as domicile requirements in some states for government jobs. Some other references can be drawn by the PLS data. Migration is linked to the uneven economic opportunities offered by states: Kerala, Maharashtra, & Tamil Nadu, therefore, remain the destination of workers from poorer states. It is logical to surmise that these movements will continue if there are disparities in economic growth among states. Policy loopholes must be addressed accordingly. For instance, Health & Working Conditions, the Code on Occupational Safety, 2020 does not address intra-state migrants’ needs, thereby leaving them out of the scope of their protection. This should be rectified.
The poorly planned & executed lockdown in March 2020, which brought unimaginable sufferings to India’s labourers, especially those in the informal economy, also brought about a shift: people remain sceptical about outstation employment. Further transitions cannot be ruled out within India’s migration patterns. This is because the deepening impacts of climate change are prone to affect severe displacement in the years to come. Policy needs to be ready to accommodate & secure climate migrants’ lives in a country whose laws are yet to accord legal protection to climate refugees.
While the data doesn’t exhibit any prominent change in employment status of pre- & post-pandemic migrants, it does capture a higher tendency to fall out of the labour force among those who did not migrate after the pandemic, which contrasts with a higher unemployment rate among migrants who moved for work after the pandemic. It does point towards persistence of business closures even after the hard lockdown ended when read with the larger trend of most post-pandemic migration being urban to rural. On the other hand, migration drivers that would have got a boost during the pandemic, such as migration job & losses because of health reasons, witness a big proportional increase.
The decadal census is the most robust source of migration statistics in India seeking migration-related responses. If the census had been held on time, it would have captured most of the migration in the post-pandemic period. However, recently released data of the 2020-21 PLFS offers a glimpse into the pandemic’s impact on migration. Limited though the survey’s findings are, they confirm the intuitive reasoning & anecdotal accounts of the pandemic’s impact on migration. If it had not been for the lockdown’s disruption, migration would have fallen drastically