A Blurred Mapping of Internal Female Migration

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A Blurred Mapping of Internal Female Migration Blog Image

Why in News?

  • Internal migration in India is a critical aspect of physical and social dynamics, as highlighted by the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).
  • While normative literature often portrays this narrative as male-dominated, a significant proportion comprises women, especially those of working age, demanding attention due to the alarming decline in the Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR).
  • It becomes imperative to investigate the challenges faced by female migrants, shedding light on the discrepancies in data collection, societal norms and policy gaps that contribute to their marginalized status.

Magnitude and Gender Dynamics of Internal Migration

  • Magnitude of Internal Migration
    • Internal migration in India accounts for 27% from June 2020 to 2021, according to data from the PLFS.
    • This statistic highlights the substantial movement of people within the country during the specified period.
  • Gendered Narrative of Migration
    • While traditional literature tends to portray migration as predominantly male-driven, the analysis challenges this perspective.
    • It asserts that women, particularly those of working age, comprise a significant share of the migrant population.
    • This concept challenges the commonly held notion that internal migration is primarily a male-centric phenomenon.
    • It challenges the stereotype that migration is predominantly driven by male economic pursuits and emphasises the importance of recognising the diverse reasons why women migrate.

Issues Associated with National Surveys

  • Issues with PLFS
    • National surveys such as the PLFS, primarily focus on the respondents' primary reason for migration.
    • In the case of women, the leading reason reported is marriage (81%), followed by migration of family members (10%), employment (2.42%), and migration for education opportunities (0.48%).
    • This approach oversimplifies the multifaceted nature of women's migration experiences, as it does not delve into secondary motivations or factors like climate shocks and food insecurity, which might be crucial drivers for female migration.
  • Misrepresentation of Labour Force Participation
    • The accuracy of data regarding migrant women's labour force participation obtained from these surveys is questionable.
    • According to PLFS data during the specified period (COVID-19 pandemic), approximately three-quarters of migrant women are reported as unemployed, around 14% are in self and wage-employed jobs, and about 12% are in casual labour.
    • However, these figures may be misleading due to potential underreporting of employment status, especially in informal or casual sectors such as agriculture, construction, and domestic help.
  • Underreporting of Employment Status
    • Definitional issues and women's beliefs contribute to the underreporting of employment among migrant women.
    • The surveys typically classify only those with formal contracts as part of the labour force, excluding those engaged in unpaid family work, household enterprises, or self-employment.
    • Women might not perceive these activities as formal employment, leading to a misrepresentation of their actual employment status.
  • Overlooking Informal Employment
    • Experts highlight that migrant women often engage in informal employment, which is not adequately captured by surveys.
    • This includes activities in sectors categorised as casual or informal, such as agriculture, construction, and domestic help.
    • The failure to account for such employment contributes to the invisibility of female migrants in various sectors.

Broader Concerns Related to Women Migrant Workers

  • Limited Political Representation
    • Often female migrants are not considered a considerable vote bank in political contexts.
    • As a result, their needs and concerns are often overlooked by political parties.
    • This lack of political representation contributes to the marginalisation of female migrants, as policymakers may not prioritise issues that specifically affect this demographic.
  • Lack of Campaigning for Migrant Women's Votes
    • Traditionally political partiesdo not actively campaign to gain the votes of migrant women.
    • The electoral strategies of political parties may not include addressing the concerns of this demographic, further perpetuating the lack of attention and policies tailored to their unique challenges.
  • Detrimental Outcomes for Policy Formulation
    • The political marginalisation of female migrants has detrimental outcomes for policy formulation.
    • Existing policies, such as One Nation One Ration Card, e-Shram, and affordable rental housing complexes, are cited as examples.
    • These policies are primarily targeted towards the male migrant population, neglecting the specific needs, motivations, and conditions of female migrants.
  • Uninformed Policy-Making
    • Due to the lack of political attention policy-making becomes poorly informed about the realities faced by female migrants.
    • The absence of targeted policies may result in overlooking the struggles and challenges unique to this demographic, hindering their socio-economic advancement and overall well-being.
  • Invisibility in Data and Policy Discourse
    • The political marginalisation of female migrants contributes to their invisibility in both data collection and policy discourse.
    • The lack of emphasis on their experiences may lead to a one-size-fits-all approach, where policies designed for the general migrant population may not adequately address the nuanced challenges faced by women.

Steps To Be Considered for Improvement

  • Comprehensive Socio-Economic Data Collection
    • National surveys should compile more information regarding the socio-economic conditions of female migrants’ post-migration.
    • This involves expanding data collection beyond primary reasons for migration to include secondary motivations, such as climate shocks and food insecurity.
    • A more comprehensive dataset would provide a nuanced understanding of the factors influencing female migration.
  • Change in Narrative with Female-Specific Data
    • There is a need for a change in the narrative around female migration, starting with an increased collection of female-specific data.
    • By highlighting the often-anecdotal nature of the problem and bringing awareness to the specific challenges faced by female migrants, a shift in narrative can occur.
    • This change is crucial for encouraging progressive policymaking that considers the unique circumstances of women.
  • Reformulation of Policies
    • To address the gender-specific challenges faced by female migrants, there is a need for reformulation of policies.
    • Existing policies, such as One Nation One Ration Card, e-Shram, and affordable rental housing complexes, are critiqued for not adequately addressing the needs of female migrants.
    • Reformulating policies to be more inclusive and gender-sensitive is proposed to ensure that the unique challenges faced by women are adequately addressed.
  • Targeted Interventions for Female Migrants
    • Recognising the marginalised status of female migrants, there is a need for targeted interventions.
    • This involves developing policies and programs specifically tailored to address the socio-economic, educational, and employment needs of women who migrate internally.
    • By focusing on the unique challenges faced by female migrants, these interventions aim to promote their well-being and inclusion in society.


  • The challenges faced by female migrants in India demand urgent attention and policy intervention.
  • The misrepresentation in national surveys, definitional issues, barriers in human and social capital, political neglect, and policy gaps contribute to the marginalisation of this demographic.
  • A comprehensive understanding of the unique struggles faced by female migrants is essential to formulate targeted policies and ensure their integration into the formal labour force.

Q1) What is the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS)?

The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) is a comprehensive nationwide survey conducted by the government to gather detailed information on employment and unemployment patterns in India.

Q2) How often is the Periodic Labour Force Survey conducted?

The PLFS is conducted on an annual basis, providing regular and up-to-date insights into the dynamics of the labour market, workforce participation, and other key indicators, contributing to informed policy decisions.

Source: The Hindu