5 Things You Did Not Know About Migration Within India

5 Things You Did Not Know About Migration Within India

5 Things You Did Not Know About Migration Within India
Urban growth does not fit in well with popular beliefs. (Dreamstime)

A large population in India migrates every year from villages to the cities. But, migration within India is poorly understood. Here are five facts you probably did not know about migration within India.

  • Indian cities have been growing slowly since 1991, though the popular belief is that urbanisation in India took off only after the economic reforms. For example, in 1990, urban population growth was three per cent. In 2000, urban population growth was 2.5 per cent, while in 2010, it was 2.3 per cent.  Interestingly, rural population growth declined in the same period. In 1990, rural population growth was 1.7 per cent. Even cities like Bengaluru grew much faster in the 1940s, because it became the capital of the Mysore State after Independence. Economic liberalisation played a less significant role than it is commonly assumed.
  • Urban growth in India has more to do with population growth than with migration. Why? The growth of rural population has declined, too. In 2000, rural population growth declined to 1.4 per cent, and in 2010, it further declined to one per cent. In 2014, it was as low as 0.7 per cent. What could have happened? India's rural and urban population growth have been declining because fertility has been declining for many years. People do not have as many kids as they did in the past.  There were, of course, exceptions like Surat and Tiruppur, which grew faster since the 90s because migration compensated for the decline in fertility. North Indian cities grew faster because fertility rates in the North are higher.
  • Higher agricultural productivity urges more people to move to urban areas. This may seem counterintuitive, but people are more likely to migrate to urban areas from rural areas with higher agricultural productivity and literacy levels. Even though it is quite possible that higher agricultural productivity will urge more people to live in villages, this does not seem to be happening. This is because people no longer see agriculture an appealing profession.
  • Land-use regulations lower urbanisation rates in India. It is difficult to convert agricultural land to non-agricultural land. So, people who own agricultural land find it difficult to sell off their real estate assets and move to urban areas. It is also difficult to integrate many plots of agricultural land in India because property titles are usually not very secure in rural areas. This is a problem, because when the plot size is small, agricultural productivity is bound to be low. If it were possible to amalgamate many plots of land, rural Indians would have been more willing to sell their land to farmers that are more competent and move to urban areas. This condemns a large section of India's population to lifelong poverty.
  • Family and communal ties lower migration within India. The Indian economy is largely informal. When property titles are not secure, and when there is little formal insurance, people are more likely to be hesitant to enter transactions with strangers. They are also less likely to move out of their village or town because their family is more likely to extend help when they are unemployed or poor. This is an underestimates reason why migration within India is low, because the financial returns from migrating to cities is reasonably high in India. Despite the high returns, people are not willing to move to urban areas because they do not want to be cut off from informal ties of family and their community.
Last Updated: Tue Jul 19 2016

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