Road map for developing a policy framework for the inclusion of internal migrant workers in India


The covid-19 pandemic, the reports states, highlighted both the unsafe working conditions of migrant workers in India, and their considerable contribution in shaping the country’s economy. Published in December 2020, this report proposes policy actions to ensure the inclusion of internal migrant workers in India’s development planning. This report is a collaboration between the International Labour Organization, Aajeevika Bureau, and the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID). 

National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) (2007–08) states that temporary labour migration within India is seven times larger than permanent migration to different places within the country. Hence, the protection of labour rights and safe and secure working environments for all workers migrating internally becomes crucial. 

This 48-page report is divided into 11 sections: Introduction (Section 1); Internal labour migration: Levels and trends (Section 2); Drivers of labour migration (Section 3); Impact of labour migration (Section 4); Challenges faced by migrant workers (Section 5); Policy and legal frameworks of labour migration in India (Section 6); Emerging trends in internal labour migration (Section 7); Policy vision and propositions (Section 8); The way forward (Section 9); Conclusion (Section 10); Endnotes (Section 11).


  1. Of the 456 million migrants in India surveyed for Census 2011, 41.4 million individuals reported that they migrated for work.

  2. The report states that labour migration in India primarily takes place within the native state of the migrant from a rural to an urban destination.

  3. Among temporary migrants within India, a large section belongs to “Adivasis, Dalits, religious minorities, the poor, the less educated, the landless, those from rural areas and those who were engaged in agriculture in their source region”, the report states.

  4. The report states that 10 percent of India’s GDP can be attributed to migrant workers, who do crucial work in several sectors, including construction, textiles, domestic work, fishing, mining, and even agriculture.

  5. Migrant workers can benefit their place of origin – in 2019, estimated annual remittances to Thuamul Rampur, a community development block with the highest prevalence of poverty in Odisha’s Kalahandi district, ranged between 300-400 million Indian rupees.

  6. Remittances sent by temporary migrant workers may not be sufficient due to meagre wages and the cost of living in cities. Monthly remittances averaged Rs. 1,000-1,500 in Rajasthan, resulting in women from migrant households having to borrow from local sources or work themselves to provide around 50 percent of household income.

  7. Due to their inability to settle in their work destinations, migrant workers often fall outside the government’s purview in both their source and their destination regions. The “invisibility, fragmentation and informality” of most migrant workers, often resulting in lack of documentation, is a challenge.

  8. Migrants across housing arrangements and sectors of employment in Ahmedabad and Surat reported spending 45-50 per cent of their monthly incomes on food and fuel, often of poor quality.

  9. One in three workers in India does not receive minimum wages, the report states. Casual workers who are paid on a piece-rate basis often fall outside the ambit of minimum wage laws in the country.

  10. More than 99 percent of migrant workers were unable to access food through the public distribution system during the lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic.

  11. Women migrant workers often face the burden of other unpaid work in addition to wage labour – in some cities, women work 17 hours a day, with 5.5 of those spent on domestic and care work, and 3.5 spent on accessing basic facilities such as water, sanitation, fuel.

  12. Access mechanisms for protection of labour rights require evidence of work in the form of documents. This, the report states, is often available to migrant workers who do daily wage work. There is a need to strengthen the awareness of government officials on issues faced by migrant workers engaged in the informal sector and in non-standardized forms of work.

  13. The five policy visions proposed by the report are: i) Addressing informality; ii) Ensuring access to justice; iii) Moving towards a universal social protection system; iv) Guaranteeing dignified, safe and healthy living and working conditions and v) Enabling workers’ collectivization and organizations.

    Focus and Factoids by Parijat Lal.

    PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


International Labour Organization, Aajeevika Bureau, and the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development


International Labour Organization


Dec, 2020