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Poor migrants move to other rural areas, relatively well-off to urban, finds study

NEW DELHI: A survey of nearly 10,000 migrants in rural Bihar by Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad has found that rural migrants who move to urban areas tend to be from relatively well-off social and economic hierarchies. On the other, hand, poorer migrants tended to move to other rural areas.

Titled ‘Poverty, Migration and Development in rural Bihar,’ the study was undertaken by Amrita Datta, assistant professor of development studies, department of liberal arts, IIT Hyderabad.

The study found that 78% of all migrants from rural Bihar went to an urban destination. However, those belonging to the top of the social and economic hierarchy in villages are disproportionately represented in the rural-urban migrations.

Migrant who are more educated were more likely to move to urban areas – and they moved without having worked in the local rural economy.

On the other hand, poorer migrants, who generally do manual labour, tended to move to other rural areas.

Speaking about the study, Datta said, “This study is important in a context where migration from rural Bihar is significant, but it remains an understudied area of research, and little is known about its magnitude, patterns and processes.”

The study also found that “return migrants” – those who return to their place of origin – overwhelmingly said migration was beneficial. However, 9 in 10 such migrants did not wish to migrate permanently.

The survey covered 9,737 individuals in 1,588 households, of which about two-third of the households were also studied earlier in 1998-99 and 2009-11.

The proportion of households with migrants increased from 45 per cent in 1999 to 62 per cent in 2011 to 65 per cent in 2016. The data suggests that Bihar’s high rates of migration may be stabilizing.

However, there has been a marked increase in the share of long-term migrants among total migrants; more than two-thirds of the migrants had migrated for 10 months or more in the year preceding the survey. The migrants in urban India generally work in the services-oriented economy in its growing informal sector.

However, the survey found that migrants overwhelmingly tended to return. A mere 39 households had moved permanently out of the total 1588.

Households with migrants reported a higher annual income than households without migrants. More than 90 per cent of all migrants sent remittances, and remittances comprised 55 per cent of total income of households with migrants. Poorer households were more dependent on remittances than well-off households.

The data also showed that migration tended to increase with increasing incomes, showing that poverty is a constraining factor in migration. Migration rates were the lowest in the bottom-most income quintile and kept increasing until the fourth quintile – it falls again in the top income quintile. This has been the same pattern for all three surveys – 1999, 2011 and 2016.

Source: Economic Times