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Internal Female Migration UPSC NOTE

 Underestimation and challenges faced by female migrants in India's labor force

  • Internal migration is a crucial form of physical and social transaction in India

  • The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), which collects data on employment and unemployment indicators in the country.

  • Has estimated it to be 27% from June 2020 to 2021

  • Normative literature usually documents it as a male-dominated narrative

  • However, women, especially of working age, comprise a greater share of the migrant pool but there is little dialogue surrounding them. 

  • This is a concern given India’s falling Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR). 

  • It also raises the question of whether women face employment barriers due to post-migration conditions.

  • National surveys such as the PLFS capture information about female migrants but often convey an inaccurate picture. 

  • For instance, surveys only ask the respondents regarding their primary reason for migration

  • PLFS data suggest that the leading reason for migration among women is marriage (81%), followed by migration of family members (10%), employment (2.42%), and migration for education opportunities (0.48%). 

  • There is no provision to know the secondary reasons/motivations such as climate shocks and food insecurity, which can be a crucial driver of migration for women.

  • In the same vein, data from these surveys regarding migrant women’s labour force participation can be misinforming

  • According to the PLFS, approximately three quarters of migrant women are unemployed.

  • Approximately 14% of migrant women are in self and wage-employed jobs and approximately 12% are in casual labour

  • This round of data collection was during the COVID-19 pandemic, which might explain the low numbers, but does not adequately underscore the problem of underreporting of their employment status. 

  • Definitional issues and women’s own beliefs also lead to an underreporting of employment of migrant women. 

  • According to the definition of employment used by national surveys, only those with some form of verbal or written contract with their employer are considered part of the labour force.

  • However, what is often overlooked is that women choose forms of employment that allow them to handle their domestic duties while contributing to the household’s production or finances

  • Thus, working as unpaid family workers, in household enterprises, or being self-employed is common amongst them (S. Rukmini, 2023). 

  • But they may view that as an extension of their domestic commitment instead of a form of employment which leads to them misreporting their employment status.

Main Issues - Reasons for Underestimation

  • Notwithstanding these arguments, if indeed entry to the formal labour force is challenging, one important factor restricting their entry into the labour force could be the need for more human and social capital

  • In the PLFS data, 85% of the women have less than 10 years of education, which can create problems. 

  • While there is no significant difference in the educational levels of migrant and non-migrant women.

  • Migrant women are proportionally less employed than the non-migrant women.

  • Coupled with the lack of social networks, especially after they migrate, these factors can significantly hinder their employment chances.

  • Such barriers might also explain the dismal recovery of women’s labour activity after the pandemic. 

  • A study by Yale University on this issue observed that after the COVID-19-induced lockdown.

  • 55% of women never returned to their places of employment, and those who did so, earned only 56% of their pre-pandemic income levels.

  • Regardless of the sparse number of migrant women formally counted in the labour force.

  • Female migration for labour/employment increased by 101% between 2001 and 2011.

  • However, they remain largely invisible, facing significant hurdles and marginalisation.

  • Consequently, this results in unaddressed struggles and a lack of targeted policies

  • From a political standpoint, women migrants are not a considerable vote bank, and, therefore, their needs are not addressed. 

  • Although recent polls would disagree, political parties do not campaign to gain migrant women’s votes. 

  • This has several detrimental outcomes, such as a lack of good data on female migrants and treating migrant men and women as the same.

  • This engenders policy-making, which is poorly informed about the needs, motivations, and conditions of female migrants. 

  • Policies such as One Nation One ration card, e-Shram, and affordable rental housing complexes are examples of this as they are mainly targeted towards the male migrant population.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Internal Female Migration UPSC NOTE
Internal Female Migration UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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