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Asian Population Studies

ISSN: 1744-1730 (Print) 1744-1749 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/raps20

SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY


LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA
Kunal Keshri & Ram B. Bhagat
To cite this article: Kunal Keshri & Ram B. Bhagat (2013) SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS
OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA, Asian Population Studies, 9:2, 175-195, DOI:
10.1080/17441730.2013.797294
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17441730.2013.797294

Published online: 19 Jun 2013.

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Date: 18 October 2015, At: 22:53

Asian Population Studies, 2013


Vol. 9, No. 2, 175195, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17441730.2013.797294

SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS
OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION
IN INDIA
A regional analysis

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Kunal Keshri and Ram B. Bhagat

Temporary labour migration has rarely been studied at macro level despite its high prevalence in
India. Drawing from the recently available Indian National Sample Survey (200708), this paper
aims to study the basic differentials between temporary and permanent labour migration at the
national level and examines the socioeconomic determinants of temporary labour migration at
the state level. The study shows that temporary migration is seven times larger than permanent
migration, and is largely a rural phenomenon dominated by rural to urban migration. A regional
pattern in temporary labour migration is evident in the low-income Central and North Indian
states. Low economic, educational and social status significantly induces temporary labour
migration in contrast to permanent labour migration. As such, temporary labour migration
appears to be a survival strategy of the rural poor in India.
KEYWORDS: temporary labour migration; monthly per capita expenditure; caste categories;
survival strategy

Introduction
Notwithstanding the huge impact of globalisation and the concomitant increase in
communication and transport facilities in the developing world over the past few decades,
the most migration occurs internally (within a country). Global estimates also report that
the number of internal migrants is four times larger than that of cross-border migrants
(Human Development Report, 2009), yet, much of migration research and policies are still
more biased towards international migration (de Haan, 2011; Guild & Mantu, 2011).
Evidently, most of the internal migrants are labour migrants and a significant proportion of
them migrate on a temporary basis (International Organization for Migration, 2005).
Recent research suggests that temporary internal migration plays an important role in
household survival in several agrarian economies (Deshingkar, 2006; Deshingkar & Grimm,
2005). In China where the household registration system does not allow people to
change their usual residence permanently; it compels them to become temporary
migrants (Goldstein & Goldstein, 1991; Willmore, Cao, & Xin, 2011; Zhu, 2003). In this
situation, there is no denial of the fact that temporary labour migration is a part of

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KUNAL KESHRI AND RAM B. BHAGAT

household risk-diversifying strategies (Zhu, 2007). In addition, empirical evidence from


various studies in several Asian and African countries demonstrate that widespread
temporary labour migration originates mostly in rural areas in order to maximise the
familys off-farm income (Beguy, Bocquier, & Zulu, 2010; Hugo, 1982; Mberu, 2006;
VanWey, 2003).
Several economic theories have been proposed to explain labour migration. For
instance, neoclassical economic theory has tried to frame this in terms of wage
differentials between the origin and destination, as well as employment conditions and
migration costs. It also argues that individuals alone take the decision to migrate (Harris &
Todaro, 1970; Massey et al., 1993; Todaro, 1976). Nonetheless, it failed to explain the risky
nature of migration, particularly temporary migration (Taylor & Martin, 2001). On the other
hand, the theory of New Economics of Labour Migration (NELM) considers a number of
conditions along with wage differentials in the labour market. According to this school of
thought, the family or household, rather than the individual, is the key decision-making
unit on migration-related matters (Stark, 1991; Stark & Bloom, 1985). It views migration as
a household decision taken to minimise risks by diversifying sources of family income or to
overcome capital constraints on family production activities (Stark, Taylor, & Yitzhaki,
1986). Temporary labour migration is compatible with the NELM framework, as it is an
important income-diversification and risk-coping strategy in agriculture-based economies
like India (Deshingkar & Farrington, 2009; Mendola, 2012).
By definition, temporary labour migration or circulation is a move made for a short
period with the intention of returning to the usual place of residence (Standing, 1984).
Temporary but uninterrupted absence from the place of origin of the migrant is a required
condition for temporary migration (Hugo, 1982) and a duration of six months is generally
considered as the maximum limit of a temporary stay (Pham & Hill, 2008; Srivastava &
Sasikumar, 2003). The temporary labour migrant in this study is defined as a household
member who stayed away from his or her village or town for one month or more but fewer
than six months in the last 365 days for employment or in search of employment.
The migrants intention of permanent change in residence distinguishes permanent
labour migration from temporary labour migration (Zelinsky, 1971). In permanent labour
migration, the usual place of residence of the migrants is changed and their chances of
returning home are fewer; in contrast, in temporary labour migration, migrants continue
to remain a usual member of the household and they tend to move circularly between the
places of origin and destination. In India, the nature of temporary labour migration is
entirely different from that of permanent labour migration. The available literature
suggests that temporary labour migration is a distress-driven strategy adopted by the
poorest sections in the country (Breman, 1978; Deshingkar & Start, 2003; Haberfeld,
Menaria, Sahoo, & Vyas, 1999; Keshri & Bhagat, 2012; Mosse, Gupta, & Shah, 2005; Rogaly,
1998; Rogaly et al., 2001). On the other hand, studies have established that the
participation of poor and socially underprivileged classes is less in permanent labour
migration while there is a high concentration of better-off migrants (Bhagat, 2010; Singh,
2009; Srivastava, 2011).
In India, several empirical studies have enriched the migration literature with
research on widespread temporary labour migration. Nonetheless, most of them are micro
studies limited to few villages or small geographical regions (Breman, 1994; Deshingkar &
Farrington, 2009; Haberfeld et al., 1999), and are unable to provide a regional picture of
temporary migration in the country. It is because, in contrast to permanent labour

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SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA

migration, data on temporary moves are not collected on a regular basis by the census or
any specific large-scale survey (Skeldon, 2002). However, a few studies have presented
patterns and determinants of temporary migration at the national level using the recently
available data from Indian National Sample Survey (Keshri & Bhagat, 2012). Unfortunately,
none has attempted to examine the determinants separately for each state. The
motivation behind the state-level analysis lies in the fact that there are a number of
states/provinces in India, which are as large as countries with populations in the millions,
and as a result, these states show large-scale variations in sociocultural and economic
characteristics. It is, therefore, imperative to examine the determinants of temporary
labour migration separately for major states. Apart from this, there is a need to compare
the intensity and characteristics of temporary labour migration with that of permanent
labour migration, which have been examined in earlier studies in the other parts of the
world (Bell & Ward, 2000; Djamba, Goldstein, & Goldstein, 1999; Goldstein & Goldstein,
1991; Hu, Xu, & Chen, 2011). It will help in comprehending the differential nature of both
kinds of labour migration and to understand whether temporary labour migration or
permanent labour migration is chosen as a survival strategy.
Keeping the above perspectives in mind, and drawing from recently available data
of the National Sample Survey (200708) that collected detailed information on different
forms of population mobility, this paper aims to look into the fundamental differences
between temporary and permanent labour migration at the national level in India. It also
examines the socioeconomic determinants of temporary labour migration in India at the
state level.

Data and Methods


We use the Unit Level Data from the 64th round of Indian National Sample Survey
(NSS), which was conducted in all the states and union territories between 1 July 2007 to
30 June 2008. The NSS collected socioeconomic and migration-related information from
572,254 persons of 125,578 sample households through Schedule 10.2 Employment &
Unemployment and Migration Particulars (National Sample Survey Organisation, 2010).
This round had a comparatively larger sample size and improved quality of data on
migrants than earlier versions. We have considered 17 major states (which accounts for
nearly 95% of Indias population), with a population of at least 20 million (according to the
2001 Census) for the state-level analysis (Census of India, 2001). The age group 1564
years is selected for the analysis as the study is focused on labour migration. Therefore, the
final sample available for analysis consisted of 372,059 persons.
Usual place of residence (UPR) was defined in the NSS as a place (village/town)
where the person had stayed continuously for a period of six months or more. Information
regarding temporary labour migration was collected by asking the head of the household
whether any usual member of the household had stayed away from the village/town, in
the past year, for employment or in search of employment for a period of 30 days to six
months. It is important to note that the data on temporary labour migration is collected at
the place of origin. On the other hand, the data on permanent labour migration is
collected at the place of destination by ascertaining if a household members last UPR was
different from the present place of enumeration due to employment-related reasons.1 To
make the estimates of permanent labour migration comparable with that of the

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KUNAL KESHRI AND RAM B. BHAGAT

temporary labour migration we considered permanent labour migrants who migrated in


the year preceding the survey (200708).
We identify streams of temporary labour migration (rural to rural, rural to urban,
urban to urban and urban to rural) by using information regarding the destination for the
longest spell. Staying away from the village/town for a period of 15 days or more was
termed as a spell. For example, if the UPR of a person is rural and his/her temporary
destination of stay is a rural area (which may be in the same district, another district or
another state) then his/her stream of migration will be rural to rural, and so on. Similar
information is also available for the permanent labour migrants last UPR and we have
defined the streams for permanent migration in a similar manner. Migration rates are
calculated to study the prevalence of migration. These rates are not necessarily based on
inflows or out-flow; rather these are estimates that show how many persons are making
any move, either temporary/circulatory or permanent, from a particular area out of per
thousand populations.
Data on consumer expenditure were collected through an abridged work sheet
integrated with main schedule that provides quite closer view of economic conditions of
the households in the absence of income data in the sample surveys. Based on the
abridged work sheet, monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) was calculated by dividing
the total household expenditure by the household size. We construct variable MPCE
quintiles by distributing households into five equal percentile groups, which are defined as
lowest, lower, medium, higher and highest quintiles, respectively. Since MPCE varies
according to place of residence and states, we have constructed MPCE quintiles adjusted
for state population and place of residence separately using appropriate sampling
weights.
The first section of the analysis compares the temporary and permanent labour
migration rates by place of residence and basic socio-economic variables at the national
level. In the subsequent section, state-level temporary labour migration rates are
estimated to present a regional picture. We have also tried to establish the relationship
between observed variations in migration rates with macro-level economic indicators of
the states. For this, we have considered the average per capita consumer expenditure
(PCCE) for 200708, for rural and urban areas of the respective states (National Sample
Survey Organization, 2010), and the per capita net state domestic product (PCNSDP) for
200708, at factor cost with current price base period 19992000 (Central Statistics Office,
2011).
Several demographic and socioeconomic factors, such as age, sex, educational
attainment, economic status, caste, religion, and size of land possession are found to be
associated with temporary labour migration (Brauw, 2007; Deshingkar, 2006; Deshingkar &
Grimm, 2005; Pham & Hill, 2008; Zhu & Chen, 2010). The MPCE is used as a proxy for the
economic condition of the household following some recent labour migration studies in
India (Czaika, 2012; de Haan, 2011; Keshri & Bhagat, 2010; Srivastava, 2011). Caste and
education are also perceived to have an important relationship with the temporary labour
migration, particularly in the countryside (Haberfeld et al., 1999; Mosse et al., 2005). In
order to assess the relationship between temporary labour migration and socio-economic
factors, migration rates are presented according to these variables. Finally, for multivariate
analysis, we have used a binary logistic regression model as our dependent variable,
temporary labour migration, is dichotomous. This is coded as 1 if a person is a temporary
labour migrant and 0 if otherwise. The results are presented in the form of odds ratios

SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA

(relative risk ratios), which are the simplified linear form of probability coefficients, with
corresponding significance levels. These odds ratios are used to interpret the expected
risks of a person migrating temporarily associated with a unit change in an explanatory
variable, given that other correlates in the model are held constant (Cameron & Trivedi,
2005). We have considered MPCE tertiles, educational attainment and caste categories as
our main independent variables for this analysis, while controlling for a range of
aforementioned covariates in order to comprehend their association with temporary
labour migration. Detailed categories of all the explanatory variables included in the
multivariate analysis are presented in the summary in Table 1.

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TABLE 1
Percent distribution of the covariates used in logistic regression analysis (age group 1564 years),
India and major states, 200708.
Percent
Covariates

MPCE Tertile
Low
Medium
High
Educational Attainment
Below primary
Primary or middle
Secondary or higher
Land Possession
Less than 1 hectare
14 hectare
More than 4 hectare
Caste Categories
Scheduled Tribes/Castes
Other Backward Classes
Others
Religion
Hindu
Muslim
Others
Size of the Household
Less than 5
5 or more
Economic activity of the Household
Self employed in non-agriculture (rural)/self-employed (urban)
Self employed in agriculture (rural)/regular salary earning (urban)
Others (rural areas)/casually employed and others in urban areas
(urban)
Sex
Male
Female
Marital Status
Single
Currently married
Age (Mean years)
Sample
Source: See Figure 1.

Rural (Model I)

Urban (Model II)

33.4

33.4

33.3
33.3

33.4
33.2

48.5
32.8
18.7

23.1
29.9
47.0

77.3
19.9
2.8





31.8
43.2
25.0

17.4
37.2
45.5

84.4
10.7
4.9

78.1
15.7
6.2

37.1
63.0

45.3
54.7

15.1
39.4
45.6

41.5
41.1
17.4

50.1
49.9

51.7
48.3

28.2
71.9
34.0

34.4
65.6
33.0

3,72,059

179

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KUNAL KESHRI AND RAM B. BHAGAT

To generate national and state-level estimates, we used appropriate sampling


weights as the NSS used a stratified multi-stage sampling design. The whole analysis was
done in Stata statistical package version 10 (Stata Corporation, 2007).

Results and Discussion

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Temporary and Permanent Labour Migration Differentials


Using large-scale survey data, we have tried to explore the differentials between
temporary and permanent labour migration. Estimates suggest that there were 13,076,510
temporary labour migrants in the year preceding 200708 (reference period of the survey)
while the number of permanent labour migrants was 1,870,474 for the same period. Figure
1 compares temporary and permanent labour migration rates of rural and urban areas for
the year preceding 200708. In rural areas, the temporary migration rate is more than four
times higher than that in urban areas. In contrast, the results are quite different for the
permanent labour migration rate, as it is three times higher in urban than rural areas.
Overall, the temporary migration rate is seven times higher than the permanent migration
rate.
Results suggest a large-scale circulation of labour from rural to urban areas with a
substantial proportion (63%) of temporary migrants in this migration stream (Figure 2). On
the other hand, among permanent labour migrants, the rural to urban migration stream
has the largest share of up to 35%, followed by the urban to urban stream at 27%. Results
also show significant gender differentials in the streams of migration. Slightly more than
two-thirds (67%) of male temporary labour migrants have moved from rural to urban areas,
while among women, its share is lesser (40%). Interestingly, rural to rural migration
emerges as the largest stream (52%) among women. Results are more or less similar in
permanent labour migration. The dominance of rural to urban migration among temporary
labour migrants reflects the increasing divergence between rural and urban areas in terms
of income and employment. Therefore, the urban informal sector attracts poor people from
rural areas, mainly when there is a lull in agricultural work (Breman, 1996). In addition, a
larger share of rural to rural migration among women is in correspondence with micro-level

FIGURE 1
Temporary and permanent labour migration rates in the age group 1564 years (migrants per
1000 population) in the year preceding 200708, India.
Source: 64th National Sample Survey 200708, unit level data.

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SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA

FIGURE 2
Proportion of temporary and permanent labour migration in the age group 1564 years in the
year preceding 200708 by streams of migration, India.
Source: See Figure 1.

studies that show similar patterns of seasonal labour migration among women (Rao &
Rana, 1997; Rogaly, 1998). It is important to note here that there is a higher flow of
temporary migrants from rural areas as most of the people, in order to diversify their
livelihood, move from rural areas to any nearby or distant urban centre for a few months in
a year to find jobs in construction or in the unorganised informal sector. Sometimes,
especially in the agricultural lean season, their destinations are high-growth areas such as
industrial parks (Breman, 1994; Deshingkar & Farrington, 2009; Haberfeld et al., 1999).
To understand the differentials due to socioeconomic factors, we have compared
the labour migration rates by MPCE quintiles, caste categories, and educational attainment
(Figures 3, 4, and 5). It is important to note here that as the permanent migrants are the inmigrants at the place of destination, their education and caste categories remains almost
unchanged before and after migration. We also assume that after migration, there would
not have been substantial change in the economic status among permanent migrants
since the consumption pattern of the household is not likely to change much in the short

FIGURE 3
Temporary and permanent labour migration rates in the age group 1564 years (migrants per
1000 population) in the year preceding 200708 by monthly per capita consumer
expenditure, India.
Source: See Figure 1.

181

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182

KUNAL KESHRI AND RAM B. BHAGAT

FIGURE 4
Temporary and permanent labour migration rates in the age group 1564 years (migrants per
1000 population) in the year preceding 200708 by caste categories, India.
Source: See Figure 1.

period of one year. With the increase in economic status, there is a sharp decline in
temporary labour migration, while in contrast, permanent labour migration increases with
increasing income levels. Results suggest that temporary migration is highest among the
poorest of the poor families originating from rural areas, as most of the temporary migrants
are part of the rural to urban stream. Results for caste and educational attainment follow a
similar pattern. The less educated and lower-caste people have the highest temporary
migration rate. On the other hand, with increasing educational and social status, permanent
migration rate increases. The results presented in Figures 3 to 5 suggest that temporary
labour migration is mainly for survival purposes, which is entirely different from permanent
labour migration that is dominated by a relatively economically better-off population.

Regional Pattern of Temporary Labour Migration


The regional pattern of temporary labour migration shows that it occurs in a vast
geographical stretch with different socioeconomic milieu (see Figure 6). Most of the

FIGURE 5
Temporary and permanent labour migration rates in the age group 1564 (migrants per 1000
population) in the year preceding 200708 by educational attainment, India.
Source: See Figure 1.

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SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA

FIGURE 6
Temporary labour migration rate (migrants per 1000 population) in India (age group 1564
years), in the year preceding 200708.
Source: See Figure 1.

central and north Indian states viz. Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh have a
very high temporary migration rate (3050 migrants per 1000 population). We also find
high (1530) level of temporary migration rates in eastern states like West Bengal, Orissa,
and Assam. On the other hand, southern states have low intensity (B10) of temporary

183

184

KUNAL KESHRI AND RAM B. BHAGAT


TABLE 2
Temporary labour migration rate (migrants per 1000 population) by place of residence in major
states (age group 1564 years), India, 200708.

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Temporary labour migration rate


States

Rural

Urban

All

Andhra Pradesh
Assam
Bihar
Chhattisgarh
Gujarat
Haryana
Jharkhand
Karnataka
Kerala
Madhya Pradesh
Maharashtra
Orissa
Punjab
Rajasthan
Tamil Nadu
Uttar Pradesh
West Bengal
India

18.8
17.4
54.4
21.3
50.7
6.1
43.8
16.0
7.2
42.4
16.8
20.3
7.3
26.2
16.1
24.0
36.7
26.4

2.3
18.0
11.9
3.6
6.9
2.1
1.3
6.1
3.9
7.9
2.3
6.0
2.5
6.4
8.4
5.0
7.6
5.5

14.2
17.4
49.9
18.3
33.8
5.0
35.9
12.7
6.3
33.5
10.7
18.2
5.6
21.1
12.8
19.6
29.3
20.5

Source: See Figure 1.

labour migration. It may be seen from Table 2 that intensity of temporary migration is
highest in Bihar (50 migrants per 1000 population), followed by Jharkhand (36), Gujarat
(34), Madhya Pradesh (33), West Bengal (30), and Rajasthan (21).
We find significant differences between temporary labour migration rates in rural
(26) and urban areas (5) with observable variations cutting across the states. For instance,
in rural areas, Bihar has the highest temporary migration rate (54) followed by Gujarat (51),
Jharkhand (44), Madhya Pradesh (42), and West Bengal (37). Except for Gujarat, most of
these states have less developed agriculture-based economies that work as a push factor
that compel the poor villagers to migrate to urban areas. Further, in urban areas, Assam
has the highest temporary migration rate (18) followed by Bihar (12) and Tamil Nadu (8).
Majority of the states have significantly higher migration rates in rural than urban areas,
such as Jharkhand, Gujarat, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West
Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, suggesting a dominance of rural to
urban migration. However, we do not find any significant rural-urban differentials in
migration rates in southern states.
To seek an explanation for the observed regional pattern of temporary labour
migration, we have tried to examine the relationship between the level of economic
development of the states and temporary labour migration rates. For this, we have
calculated correlation coefficients between temporary migration rates and two important
macro level measures: the state PCCE and PCNSDP (Appendix A). We find a negative
correlation (r  0.59, p  0.01) between PCCE and temporary labour migration rate for
rural areas, and a negative correlation (r  0.25, p  0.307) for urban areas. Moreover,

SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA


TABLE 3
Temporary labour migration rate (migrants per 1000 population) according to MPCE quintiles in
major states (age group 1564 years), India, 200708.

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Rural

Urban

States

Lowest Lower Medium Higher Highest Lowest Lower Medium Higher Highest

Andhra Pradesh
Assam
Bihar
Chhattisgarh
Gujarat
Haryana
Jharkhand
Karnataka
Kerala
Madhya Pradesh
Maharashtra
Orissa
Punjab
Rajasthan
Tamil Nadu
Uttar Pradesh
West Bengal
India

33.4
21.7
76.5
40.6
105.0
12.6
80.6
36.5
9.7
82.3
28.2
26.0
25.2
58.3
14.7
35.8
64.5
44.5

18.8
22.5
59.9
26
92.6
7.1
43.7
21.6
5.3
42.4
24.2
27.9
0.4
23.7
12.0
26.0
57.9
31.6

19.9
18.8
59.5
22.4
34.3
6.0
42.4
10.9
9.3
40.9
16.4
22.0
1.6
16.9
18.5
25.1
28.9
25.1

16.6
13.2
50.9
12.3
22.7
2.6
34.4
7.7
3.4
33.0
9.3
16.7
8.4
24.9
14.5
18.9
25.3
20.3

8.3
11.7
34.0
9.2
15.7
3.6
26.9
8.0
8.3
21.2
9.5
11.3
4.0
14.0
20.2
18.0
15.2
15.4

4.2
10.6
17.2
3.9
22.1
3.7
2.0
10.5
1.7
8.9
5.5
14.6
0.2
11.7
10.6
12.4
10.3
8.9

2.0
31.5
14.7
3.9
3.6
1.9
0.8
4.1
3.9
25.0
2.1
1.5
2.1
6.9
12.4
7.6
13.2
6.9

3.1
22.3
11.8
3.9
3.8
5.0
2.4
7.5
2.8
4.6
0.3
2.6
3.7
2.3
7.0
3.7
9.1
5.2

1.4
6.4
12.3
5.0
4.9
0.5
0.2
8.8
9.4
1.9
2.8
10
5.6
7.9
6.0
2.1
2.6
4.7

1.2
19.5
6.0
1.5
2.5
0.2
0.9
0.8
1.5
1.3
1.4
2.7
0.8
4.4
7.0
1.5
3.8
2.8

Source: See Figure 1.

there is a high degree of negative correlation (r  0.68, p  0.001) between PCNSDP


and temporary labour migration rate in major states, suggesting a negative relationship
between the temporary migration rate and overall economic development of the states.
Regional inequalities and uneven economic development in different states of the country
propel rural to urban temporary labour migration from agriculturally backward states.
Exceptionally, some pockets of poverty do exist in prosperous states, from where socially
and economically disadvantaged groups migrate in large numbers (Deshingkar &
Farrington, 2009). For instance, frequent monsoon failures in some parts of the
economically developed state of Gujarat fuels large-scale seasonal labour migration of
the tribal population to nearby rural and urban areas despite the high growth status of the
state (Jayaraman, 1979; Krishna, Kapila, Porwal, & Singh, 2003).

Socioeconomic Determinants of Temporary Labour Migration


After analysing the relationship with macro-level economic factors, it is imperative
to examine the association between individual-level socioeconomic factors and temporary labour migration. Before proceeding to this analysis, we have estimated the temporary
migration rates by MPCE, caste categories and educational attainment. In the states that
have an overall high intensity of migration, migration rate is extremely high in the lowest
MPCE quintiles, indicating a high level of distress-driven migration mainly among the
poorest of the poor from rural areas. For example, in rural Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh,
Jharkhand, and West Bengal, the migration rates in the lowest-wealth quintile is 105, 76,
82, 81, and 64 migrants per 1000 population respectively. Gujarat and Bihar, however,

185

186

KUNAL KESHRI AND RAM B. BHAGAT


TABLE 4
Temporary labour migration rate (migrants per 1000 population) according to educational
attainment and caste groups in major states (agegroup 1564 years), India, 200708.
Educational attainment

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States
Andhra Pradesh
Assam
Bihar
Chhattisgarh
Gujarat
Haryana
Jharkhand
Karnataka
Kerala
Madhya Pradesh
Maharashtra
Orissa
Punjab
Rajasthan
Tamil Nadu
Uttar Pradesh
West Bengal
India

Caste categories

Primary Secondary
Other
Below
or
or higher Graduate Scheduled Scheduled backward
primary middle secondary or above
tribes
castes
classes Others
17.7
17.8
42.6
18.3
53.9
7.7
45.3
20.1
9.4
41.5
19.9
20.1
11.1
24.8
11.9
19.0
36.8
25.7

14.6
13.6
73.2
23.4
29.1
4.3
33.4
8.0
5.6
36.4
10.5
19.3
4.1
20.4
15.8
27.5
32.0
22.1

7.4
23.8
47.7
8.6
14.0
2.9
19.4
8.8
6.6
9.4
5.4
13.5
2.9
14.2
9.8
11.7
10.6
11.1

4.9
23.5
34.9
3.5
7.2
2.9
5.9
6.6
4.7
6.0
1.4
5.1
0.9
7.5
12.4
11.6
5.8
8.3

39.8
18.3
35.1
13.0
160.5
0.0
39.8
20.0
11.9
71.1
22.4
31.7
0.0
33.4
3.2
26.6
57.6
45.2

19.3
18.1
58.2
31.7
5.3
9.5
64.7
21.7
4.3
45.1
13.6
22.5
9.9
34.8
18.5
27.6
25.3
24.8

15.2
10.4
51.3
19.1
20.9
5.6
32.6
11.2
7.1
25.1
14.4
11.9
3.5
18.6
11.2
19.2
23.2
19.5

3.5
21.7
36.4
18.6
5.0
2.6
12.9
8.3
5.0
4.4
4.5
11.1
3.4
8.3
12.3
12.6
28.8
12.2

Source: See Figure 1.

show very high migration rates in lower and medium quintiles also. On the other hand,
temporary labour migration rate in urban areas is very low across all the MPCE quintiles
with less variation except the high migration rates in the lowest and lower quintiles of
Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh (Table 3).
Table 4 presents the temporary labour migration rate by educational attainment
and caste categories. The highest propensity to migrate temporarily is observed
among persons with below primary education. Results further reveal that states with a
high overall intensity of temporary migration also have a very high migration rate
among the persons with lowest educational attainment. Temporary migration rate
among the persons with below primary education is highest in Gujarat (54) followed
by Jharkhand (45), Madhya Pradesh (41), and West Bengal (37). Nonetheless, for Bihar,
results are at variance with the general trend, as we find exceptionally high migration
rate of 73 and 48 migrants per 1000 population among persons with educational
level of primary or middle and secondary or higher respectively, indicating higher
propensity of migration among these groups. A similar pattern can be found in casterelated results as high migration rates are observed among the most disadvantaged
social groups, namely Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes (STs and SCs
respectively). To elaborate, in Gujarat, temporary migration rate is 160 migrants per
1000 population among STs, which is the highest in any of the Indian states. It is
followed by similar migration rates among STs in Madhya Pradesh (71) and West

SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA

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Bengal (58). In addition, there is a high migration rate among SCs in Jharkhand (65),
Bihar (58), Madhya Pradesh (45), Rajasthan (35), and Chhattisgarh (32). It is noteworthy
that in Bihar, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) have a significantly high migration rate
i.e. 51 migrants per 1000 population, which is different from the general pattern.
Temporary labour migration undoubtedly varies considerably among different
economic, educational and social groups cutting across the states; still there is a
consistent pattern of decline in migration rates with increasing levels of education and
social status. In addition, poor and socially deprived classes are temporarily more mobile
due to the distress-driven nature of temporary migration in India, which is more visible
among the disadvantaged social groups like STs and SCs.

Multivariate Analysis
Logistic regression results are presented in Tables 5 and 6. Due to the stark disparity in
social and economic structures between the countryside and urban areas, we have run two
separate models for rural and urban areas to examine the association of key socio-economic
factors with temporary labour migration. It is also important to note here that we have run
regressions separately for each of the major states since all of the states are quite large in
terms of population, which in turn results in large-scale socio-economic variations within
the states. As such, separate regression might be helpful in capturing these variations. For a
rural sample, along with the key variables like MPCE tertile, education and caste categories,
we include religion, land possession, size of household, type of household (economic
activity of the household), sex, marital status, and age in the model (Model I). The same set
of variables, except for land possession, is used for an urban sample (Model II).
Results suggest that persons who belong to the lowest MPCE tertile are almost two
times more likely to migrate temporarily than their counterparts in the medium (OR: 0.51, p
B 0.01) and high tertiles (OR: 0.49, p B 0.01) in rural Rajasthan. Similarly, in the rural areas
of Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Uttar
Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, likelihood of temporary labour migration is
significantly higher in the lowest tertile compared to medium and high tertiles. However,
there is no significant association between economic status and migration in Punjab,
Haryana, Orissa, and Kerala. Interestingly, in Tamil Nadu, economic status is positively
associated with migration, suggesting a higher temporary migration rate in better-off
groups. Furthermore, we note that in rural areas, temporary labour migration has a
significant and negative association with educational attainment in all the states except
Haryana and Chhattisgarh. The likelihood of temporary migration is lower among people
with primary/middle and secondary/higher education compared to people with below
primary level of education. Notably, in rural Bihar we do not find any significant difference
between odds ratios of the below primary and primary/middle education i.e., people are
equally likely to migrate from these classes, which is similar to the bivariate findings for the
state of Bihar.
There is an economic stratification of population by endogamous caste groups, in
which STs and SCs groups are the most disadvantaged followed by Other Backward Classes
(OBCs) (Zacharias & Vakulabharanam, 2011). Expectedly, caste emerges as an important
determining factor of temporary migration and results suggest that people from ST/SC
castes are significantly more likely to migrate temporarily than OBCs and others in Gujarat,
Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Assam.

187

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MPCE Tertile
Low
Medium
High
Educational Attainment
Below primary
Primary or middle
Secondary or higher
Caste Categories
Scheduled Tribes/Castes
Other Backward Classes
Others
Log-likelihood
Pseudo-R2

Covariates

MPCE Tertile
Low
Medium
High
Educational Attainment
Below primary
Primary or middle
Secondary or higher
Caste Categories
Scheduled Tribes/Castes
Other Backward Classes
Others
Log-likelihood
Pseudo-R2

Punjab
(N  5453)

Haryana
(N  4462)

Rajasthan
(N  11,276)

UP
(N  28,892)

Bihar
(N  20,086)

Assam
(N  6665)

WB
(N  16,327)

Jharkhand
(N  6365)

1.00
0.53
2.24

1.00
0.58
0.61

1.00
0.51***
0.49***

1.00
0.78**
0.66***

1.00
0.91
0.66***

1.00
0.99
0.62*

1.00
0.52***
0.42***

1.00
0.71*
0.67*

1.00
0.16***
0.13***

1.00
0.49
0.42

1.00
0.54***
0.50**

1.00
0.79*
0.44***

1.00
1.04
0.77*

1.00
0.49**
0.73

1.00
0.76**
0.26***

1.00
0.47***
0.39***

1.00
0.5
0.38*
190.108
0.1939

1.00
1.33
1.10
159.726
0.0905

1.00
0.71*
0.64*
1198.81
0.123

1.00
0.80*
0.81
2777.01
0.1525

1.00
1.20*
1.22
3361.74
0.2092

1.00
0.37**
0.95
502.192
0.1403

1.00
1.07
0.90
2125.33
0.1719

1.00
0.75*
0.61
970.501
0.1554

Orissa
(N  11,469)

Chhattisgarh
(N  4928)

MP
(N  13,612)

Gujarat
(N  7891)

Maharashtra
(N  14,564)

AP
(N  13,914)

Karnataka
(N  8908)

Kerala
(N  5967)

TN
(N  8945)

1.00
1.1
0.79

1.00
0.61*
0.47*

1.00
0.79*
0.70**

1.00
0.41***
0.44***

1.00
0.86
0.67*

1.00
0.88
0.71*

1.00
0.49**
0.54*

1.00
1.27
1.44

1.00
1.27
2.21*

1.00
0.76*
0.49*

1.00
1.00
0.5

1.00
0.76**
0.40***

1.00
0.41***
0.28***

1.00
0.38***
0.26***

1.00
0.72*
0.42***

1.00
0.30***
0.34***

1.00
0.32*
0.28*

1.00
0.94
0.56*

1.00
0.59***
0.26***
2069.04
0.1335

1.00
0.19***
0.12***
1256.49
0.2063

1.00
0.63*
0.29*
1122.87
0.0983

1.00
0.87
0.30***
1192.33
0.0823

1.00
0.62**
0.62*
1004.49
0.1133

1.00
1.38
4.22***
463.443
0.0956

1.00
0.66*
0.33*
643.736
0.117

1.00
2.05
1.28
225.803
0.1126

1.00
0.93
0.73
686.368
0.0703

Notes:*p B 0.1, **p B 0.05, ***p B 0.01, Reference category, land possession, religion, economic activity of household, type of household, sex, marital status and age are
controlled, State abbreviations: UP-Uttar Pradesh, WB-West Bengal, MP-Madhya Pradesh, AP-Andhra Pradesh, TN-Tamil Nadu.
Source: See Figure 1.

KUNAL KESHRI AND RAM B. BHAGAT

Covariates

188

TABLE 5
Results of logistic regression analysis for determinants of temporary labour migration in rural areas (model I) of major states (age group 1564 years), India, 2007
08.

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Covariates

MPCE Tertile
Low
Medium
High
Educational Attainment
Below primary
Primary or middle
Secondary or higher
Caste
Scheduled Tribes/Castes
Other Backward Classes
Others
Log-likelihood
Pseudo-R2
Covariates

MPCE Tertile
Low
Medium
High
Educational Attainment
Below primary
Primary or middle
Secondary or higher
Caste Categories
Scheduled Tribes/Castes
Other Backward Classes
Others
Log-likelihood
Pseudo-R2

Punjab
(N = 4119)

Haryana
(N = 2906)

Rajasthan
(N = 5461)

UP
(N = 11,783)

Bihar
(N = 5100)

Assam
(N = 3118)

WB
(N = 8712)

Jharkhand
(N = 1440)

1.00
1.41
2.61

1.00
2.52
0.1

1.00
0.30*
1.74

1.00
0.48*
0.31*

1.00
0.81
0.52

1.00
1.9*
0.9

1.00
1.32
0.52

1.00
1.02
0.39

1.00
1.63
0.36

1.00
0.25
0.37

1.00
0.30**
0.10***

1.00
0.64
0.71

1.00
0.83
0.94

1.00
0.7
1.04

1.00
1.11
1.36

1.00
1.25
0.64

1.00
12.29
18.59
56.2931
0.2465

1.00
0.84
0.31
31.6663
0.2871

1.00
1.49
0.48
181.551
0.1448

1.00
0.37**
0.33**
310.91
0.1665

1.00
0.95
1.05
290.405
0.1179

1.00
2.33*
1.22
240.535
0.1441

1.00
0.70
1.00
348.18545
0.1057

1.00
3.23
2.44
23.1183
0.0335

Chhattisgarh
(N = 2502)

MP
(N = 7744)

Gujarat
(N = 7285)

Maharashtra
(N = 14,855)

AP
(N = 8226)

Karnataka
(N = 6524)

Kerala
(N = 3346)

Orissa
(N = 3966)

TN
(N = 8639)

1.00
0.39
0.33

1.00
1.88
4.74

1.00
0.39**
0.23*

1.00
0.34**
0.14***

1.00
0.14**
1.24

1.00
0.97
0.50

1.00
1.28
0.43

1.00
2.07
0.96

1.00
1.20
1.06

1.00
1.78
1.38

1.00
0.92
0.54

1.00
1.13
0.29

1.00
0.88
1.22

1.00
0.35*
0.1***

1.00
0.86
0.82

1.00
0.39*
1.09

1.00
0.39
1.09

1.00
0.58
0.42*

1.00
0.55
1.45
126.358
0.1472

1.00
0.14
0.16
50.1645
0.1426

1.00
1.43
0.46
269.278
0.2449

1.00
6.57**
2.01
252.997
0.1579

1.00
0.54
0.95
213.782
0.1182

1.00
0.91
0.45
115.141
0.1298

1.00
0.87
0.87
205.525
0.1521

1.00
0.38
0.52
75.2777
0.1193

1.00
0.61
1.16
379.713
0.0983

189

Notes: *p B 0.1, **p B 0.05, ***p B 0.01, Reference category, religion, size of household, economic activity of household, sex, marital status and age are controlled,
State abbreviations: UP-Uttar Pradesh, WB-West Bengal, MP-Madhya Pradesh, AP-Andhra Pradesh, TN-Tamil Nadu.
Source: 64th National Sample Survey 200708, unit level data.

SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA

TABLE 6
Results of logistic regression analysis for determinants of temporary labour migration in urban areas (model II) of major states (age group 1564 years), India, 2007
08.

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190

KUNAL KESHRI AND RAM B. BHAGAT

However, there are exceptions: as we observe a higher likelihood of temporary labour


migration among OBCs (OR: 1.20, p B 0.1) than STs/SCs in Bihar, while in Chhattisgarh, the
others (OR: 4.22, p B 0.01) are more likely to migrate than STs/SCs and OBCs (Table 5).
Table 6 shows the results of logistic regression analysis in urban areas (Model II). In
Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Orissa, we do not find any
deviation from results in rural areas and the likelihood of temporary labour migration
decreases from lower to higher MPCE tertiles. Nonetheless, there is no significant
association between economic status and migration in the rest of the states. Educational
attainment has a significant and negative association with temporary labour migration in
some states like Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. Furthermore, caste
emerges as significant predictor of migration in very few states, like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat
and Assam. In Uttar Pradesh, STs/SCs are significantly more likely to migrate temporarily
than remaining caste groups. In Gujarat and Assam, OBCs are more likely to migrate
temporarily than STs/SCs and others. However, in southern states, we rarely find any
association between these factors and migration in urban areas.
Evidently, overall better economic status, higher educational attainment, and higher
social status have a significant negative association with temporary labour migration. The
relationship exhibited by the logistic regression analysis supports the bivariate findings
that household-level factors like MPCE and caste play a significant role in the migration
decisions of the individuals in most of the central and eastern Indian states, particularly in
rural areas. It reinforces the findings of previous studies (Deshingkar, 2006; Deshingkar &
Grimm, 2005; Keshri & Bhagat, 2010). In addition, migrant labour is a compensating
mechanism used by disadvantaged households that are characterised by lower educational levels and lower incomes from agriculture (Haberfeld et al., 1999).

Summary and Conclusion


Temporary labour migration is a persistent feature of many developing economies
(Mendola, 2012) and India is not an exception to this. This study focused on temporary
labour migration in India and undertook a comparison between temporary and
permanent labour migration in order to comprehend some inherent differences between
them. We find that the rate of temporary labour migration is seven times higher than the
permanent labour migration rate. A significant finding that emerges from this study is that
temporary labour migration is predominantly a rural phenomenon and is dominated by
rural to urban migration. We also find notable socioeconomic differentials between the
two forms of labour mobility. Apparently, persons belonging to poor and disadvantaged
caste groups with low educational attainment have a high propensity of engaging in
temporary labour migration, which is in contrast to permanent labour migration. This
hypothesis is supported by the earlier migration research in India (Bhagat, 2010; de Haan,
2011; Keshri & Bhagat, 2010) which indicates that temporary labour migration is mainly a
survival strategy in the country, which is different from the phenomenon of permanent
labour migration.
An examination of regional patterns of temporary labour migration suggests that it
is mainly a north Indian phenomenon. Most of the states, with low incomes and
dominated by agrarian economies, show higher levels of temporary migration from rural
to urban areas. Some high-income states, like Gujarat also show high temporary labour

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SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA

migration among the poor and tribal communities. Several earlier studies also have shown
that Gujarat has a history of seasonal migration from its dry, hilly, and tribal dominated
areas (Breman, 1994; Jayaraman, 1979; Mosse et al., 2005). This study shows that the poor
generally migrate for survival, being part of temporary labour migratory flows. This
phenomenon is more apparent in the northern and central Indian states. This study also
supports the NELM theory of labour migration, as several household-level factors are
found to be critical in determining the migration decision of a person.
Overall, the propensity of temporary labour migration declines with the improvement in economic condition, educational status, and social status; nevertheless, social
factors are not so important in urban areas as compared to rural areas. The association of
temporary labour migration with poor economic status and its prevalence in backward
states and regions indicate that the fruits of development have not reached some people,
which in turn force them to migrate. This warrants local employment generation and
effective social protection programmes to address the issues of inadequate livelihood
opportunities, access to health care, and providing education to the children of temporary
labour migrants. They also need protection from exploitation, and decent living conditions
at the place of destination. However, both the central and state governments have not
paid adequate attention to labour migration in their policies and programmes.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
An earlier version of the paper was presented at International Union for the Scientific
Study of Population (IUSSP) Seminar on Internal Migration and Urbanization and their
Socioeconomic Impacts in Developing Countries: Challenges and Policy Responses held in
Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou, China, December 1012, 2011. The authors are
thankful to Prof. Yu Zhu (Fujian Normal University) and the other participants for their
comments and suggestions. Thanks are due also to the two anonymous referees and
editor for their helpful comments in revising this paper. The first author would also like to
acknowledge the input from Dr. Rajesh Kumar Chauhan and Kirti Gaur in improving this
paper.

NOTE
1.

Employment related reasons: In search of employment, in search of better employment,


business, to take up employment/better employment, transfer of service/contract,
proximity of work.

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Kunal Keshri (author to whom correspondence should be addressed), Assistant Professor,


G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, University of Allahabad, Jhusi, Allahabad  211019,
Uttar Pradesh, India. Email: kunalkeshri.lrd@gmail.com
Ram B. Bhagat, Professor and Head, Department of Migration and Urban Studies,
International Institute for Population Sciences, Govandi Station Road, Deonar,
Mumbai  400088, Maharashtra, India. Email: rbbhagat@iips.net

SOCIOECONOMIC DETERMINANTS OF TEMPORARY LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIA

Appendix A: State-wise Temporary Labour Migration Rates and Average PCCE


by Rural and Urban Areas and Total Temporary Labour Migration Rate and
PCNSDP, 2007 08, India

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States
Andhra Pradesh
Assam
Bihar
Chhattisgarh
Gujarat
Haryana
Jharkhand
Karnataka
Kerala
Madhya Pradesh
Maharashtra
Orissa
Punjab
Rajasthan
Tamil Nadu
Uttar Pradesh
West Bengal
India

Rural
temporary
labour
Migration
rate
19
17
54
21
51
6
44
16
7
42
17
20
7
26
16
24
37
26

Average
rural
PCCE

Urban
temporary
labour
migration
Rate

703
747
532
519
781
938
555
665
1116
557
733
503
1107
722
689
595
614
674

2
18
12
4
7
2
1
6
4
8
2
6
3
6
8
5
8
6

Average
urban
PCCE

Total
temporary
labour
migration
Rate

PCNSDP
200708
(At factor
cost current
prices base
19992000)

1353
1338
911
1070
1373
1376
1170
1456
1568
976
1514
1324
1504
1198
1285
941
1327
1298

14
17
50
18
34
5
36
13
6
34
11
18
6
21
13
20
29
21

35,600
21,991
11,074
29,776
45,773
59,008
19,928
36,266
43,104
18,051
47,051
26,654
46,686
23,986
40,757
16,060
32,065
33,283

Notes: PCNSDP-Per capita net state domestic product in Indian rupees (INR) (200708 figures at factor
cost current prices base19992000),
PCCE- Per capita consumer expenditure in Indian rupees (INR),
Average exchange rate for INR was 1 USD  39 INR in 2007,
Source: 64th National Sample Survey 200708, unit level data, and information retrieved from Central
Statistics Office (2011), March 3, 2011.

195