Social Inclusion of Internal Migrants in India


This report aims to provide an overview of innovative practices that increase the inclusion of internal migrants in the economic, social and political life of the country. By doing this, the authors/ UNESCO hope to increase the visibility and recognition of the process of internal migration in India, disseminate evidence-based experiences and practices, and change the perception and portrayal of migrants by addressing misconceptions.

The report covers 10 key areas that are essential to the social inclusion of internal migrants: registration and identity, legal aid and dispute resolution, inclusion of women migrants, and inclusion along several other parameters including political and civic processes, labour markets, access to food, housing, education, public healthcare and financial services.


  1. The Census of 2001 showed that internal migrants formed 30 per cent (309 million) of India’s total population; the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) estimated 28.5 per cent (326 million) in 2007–08.

  2. Reports of the Planning Commission and the Census show that India’s urban population rose to 377 million in 2011 (286 million in 2001), whereas cities with a million-plus recorded declining population growth, indicating an exclusionary urban environment and hostility towards migrants.

  3. According to Census 2011, the urban population (91 million) grew more than the growth of the rural population (90.5 million) within the previous decade. Migration to urban areas rose primarily due to a rise in female migration (38.2 per cent to 45.6 per cent between 1993 and 2008).

  4. The Census of 2001 revealed that women formed 70.7 per cent of internal migrants (80 per cent as per the NSSO in 2007-08).

  5. Though 91.3 per cent of women in rural areas and 60.8 per cent in urban areas state they migrate on account of marriage, NSSO data surveys enable respondents to give only one reason for migration.

  6. Although male migration in urban areas has remained constant (26- 27 per cent), employment-related reasons for migration among men rose to 56 per cent in 2007-08 (42 per cent in 1993).

  7. About 30 per cent of migrants in India are between 15-29 years of age.

  8. A 2009 study on the economic contribution of seasonal migrants based on major employing sectors revealed that they contribute 10 per cent to India’s GDP and work mainly in sectors like construction, embroidery, and plantation agriculture, and in the urban informal sector as vendors, daily wage workers and domestic workers.

  9. The Census of 2001 showed that 57.8 per cent of female migrants and 25.8 per cent of male migrants were illiterate. Among short-duration migrants, 52 per cent were either illiterate or had not completed primary education according to the NSSO in 2007-08.

  10. Of the 4 million domestic workers – which is probably an underestimate – in India, 92 per cent are women and children, and 20 per cent are under 14 years of age according to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector.

  11. The Ministry of Labour and Employment reported in 2011 that domestic work grew by 222 per cent since 1999-2000, becoming the largest sector of employment for women (about 3 million) in urban India.

  12. Although families below and above the poverty line are entitled to food under the PDS (35 kilos and 15 kilos of grain, respectively), inter-state migrants are unable to access it at destination states, since ration cards are only provided at the usual place of residence and are not transferrable.

    Factoids and Focus compiled by Tanuj Raut.


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


Jun, 2013