Migration | Population |

Migration Paradox: Misrepresentation of Duration in Census Data

The percentage of migrant population in India has gone up from 30.1 per cent in 2001 to 37.64 per cent in 2011 as per the recently released data from Population Census (Fig. 1). The growth rate of migrants has jumped from 35 per cent during 1991-01 to 45 per cent during 2001-11.The rise is noted both for men and women; in rural as well as urban areas. A rise is seen also in the number of migrants moving across the states, which has grown by 30 per cent compared to the population growth of less than 18 per cent. This is in conformity with the trend flashed in the Economic Survey of 2018, based on the railway ticket and age cohort data.

Fig. 1: Percentage of migrants in the population as per decennial censuses

Serious anomalies in the data are revealed when the migrant population is disaggregated by their duration of stay at the place of enumeration. The growth rate of decadal migrants (i.e. migrants who have stayed for less than 10 years at the place of enumeration) is 57 per cent – lower than that of those reporting more than 10 years of duration (67 per cent) in case of males, as per 2011 Census (Table 1).

Table 1: Percentage change in number of migrants during 2001 to 2011

Duration Total Male Female
Less than 10 years 52.56 56.81 50.64
10-19 years 36.33 55.27 30.33
20 years or more 44.84 76.84 37.01
migrants over 10 yrs 41.38 66.98 34.38
Duration not stated 59.26 57.20 61.51
Total 44.91 56.54 40.00

A major component of the total migrants comprises those whose duration of stay has not been or could not be ascertained. Its share has been going up over the past four decades, the figure increasing from 14 per cent to 15 per cent during 2001-11. Their growth rate is 60 percent in this decade compared to the 45 per cent figure for the total migrants.

Also, if migration rate has gone up significantly during 2001-11, how can the percentage of decadal migrants to total migrants go down for the males from 36 per cent in 2001 to 32 per cent in 2011(Fig. 2) and for total population remain the same at 31.2 percent?

Fig. 2: Percentage distribution of Internal Migrants by sex and duration of residence at the place of enumeration 2001 to 2011

The question is if the migration has gone up in the decade of 2001-11, how can there be a very high growth of migrants with more than ten year duration or why the share of decadal migrants in total migrants decline for the males. The only logical explanation is that the many among the decadal migrants have claimed their duration of stay at the destination as more than ten years.

It is important to note that only those migrants who reported their duration of stay as less than 10 years in 2001 would be counted as migrants with duration between 10 and 20 years, provided they do not die or go back to their place of origin or any other place. One would therefore expect the figures for 2011 to be significantly less than the figure in 2001, due to death and return migration. Shockingly, the women with 10 to 20 year duration in 2011 are 68.7 million, much more than the women who recorded less than 10 years duration in 2001 (65.4 million),which is a logical impossibility (Table 2). One must ask where from these additional 3.3 million persons come, because they were not recorded in 2001. This too can only be explained in terms of the decadal migrants claiming to have stayed at the place of enumeration for more than a decade. Understandably, they hope to escape the social indignation and hostility that the short duration migrants face in the current policy environment. Also, they could be aspiring to have access to certain civic amenities and legal benefits that tend to get linked with duration of stay. This is also the reason why the percentage of migrants not reporting their duration of stay has gone up steadily over the recent decades.

Table 2: Select Migration Statistics

 Age group of migrants  Total male Female
Migrants less than 10 years 2001 98301342 32896986 65404356
Migrants 10 -19 years in 2011 94713188 25979400 68733788
10 to 19 of 2011 as percentage of 0 to 9 of 2001 96.35 78.97 105.09

The non-comparability of duration specific data on migration would question their usability in any temporal analysis or projection exercises.

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