Their Own Country: A profile of labour migration from Rajasthan


This report was published by the Centre for Migration and Labour Solutions of Aajeevika Bureau, an organization working with migrants in western and central India. Released in 2014, the report analyses patterns of seasonal migration in various parts of Rajasthan and recommends actions to improve the situation of migrant workers.

Within the ambit of the report, seasonal migrant means “a worker employed in the unorganized, informal labor market, engaged for 3 months or more at a work destination, away from his/her native rural block.” The report primarily focuses on five occupations it considers most vulnerable: construction work, employment in mines, bonded labour in agriculture and brick-kilns, and head-loading in the transportation sector.

Citing the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, the report highlights gender, social identity and lack of education as the prominent features of vulnerable migrant workers. It also reviews existing government initiatives dealing with migrants and suggests further aid measures.

The 118-page document contains seven chapters: Filling a void – Call for action (Chapter 1); Methodology (Chapter 2); Slow yet steady shifts: The landscape of rural livelihoods in Rajasthan (Chapter 3); Migration from Rajasthan (Chapter 4); Vulnerability and migration in Rajasthan (Chapter 5); Migrant workers – In a state of drift (Chapter 6); and Extant policy response, gaps and a roadmap for action (Chapter 7).


  1. The survey carried out for this study did not include data on children younger than 14 years or migration for studies and work in the organised sector. It also excluded data on labour movement from and within urban areas and on migration from other states into Rajasthan.

  2. The study relies on data from a household census conducted by nine civil society organisations over a course of seven years spanning 309 panchayats, 12 districts and 17 blocks of Rajasthan. It also uses special theme papers and more than 50 micro studies conducted by field organisations as well as a database of around 107,599 migrant workers maintained by Aajeevika Bureau in collaboration with other organisations.

  3. The primary sector contributed less than 23 per cent to Rajasthan’s net state domestic product (NSDP) but was still the source of primary employment to 62 per cent of the state’s workforce in 2011-12. Such disproportionate labour distribution is one of the reasons for continuing poverty in rural Rajasthan, the study notes.

  4. Of the 2,496 migrants surveyed for this study, 10 per cent stated that migration had begun in their family more than 30 years ago. Around 13 per cent said it had begun 21-30 years ago and 47 per cent said people in their families had migrated for 10-20 years. Migration had begun less than 10 years ago in the families of 29 per cent of the migrants.

  5. As per the study, only 1.7 per cent of people aged 15-24 years have formal training in the state. Enrolment for higher education is also recorded to be low with the gross enrolment ratio (GER) of around 7.6 in the age group 18-23 years.

  6. The National Sample Survey Office’s figure of 7.37 lakh short-term migrants from Rajasthan does not accurately measure seasonal and circular migration, the study notes. A survey of 38,828 households in the state revealed that one or more members of 46.26 per cent households migrate for work.

  7. Confronted by a steady decrease in forest land and forest-based livelihoods, southern Rajasthan, which is home to a large tribal population, has recorded an increasing number of migrants moving out.

  8. According to the survey conducted, the highest percentage of migrant households were recorded in western Rajasthan (65 per cent), followed by southern (56 per cent), north-eastern (40 per cent) and south-eastern (38 per cent). The lowest figure was noted in northern part of the state – 33 per cent.

  9. State-wide figures from the survey indicate that a majority of migrants (77.13 per cent) stay at destination regions for more than six months. Of the remaining, around 20.6 per cent stay for 4-6 months and only 2.2 per cent stay for 1-3 months.

  10. The study states that the number of migrants per household is higher in Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities.

  11. A 2012 survey analyses the various sectors employing the largest share of migrant workers from Rajasthan. These include (in descending order): construction, transportation, mining, hospitality, agriculture, furniture, textiles, factories, micro-enterprises and brick kilns. Majority of the workers engaged in these sectors are considered unskilled.

  12. The study highlights the distribution of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workforce. It states that 61.29 per cent of migrant workers from the SC community are unskilled, followed by 57.04 per cent from the ST community and 45.68 per cent from the Other Backward Classes. In comparison, only 37.26 workers from ‘general’ or dominant communities were categorised as unskilled.

  13. As many as 40.6 per cent of workers surveyed were engaged in inter-state migration. The most popular destinations reported were Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Inter-state migration was especially high in the southern region where around 78 per cent moved out of the state for work.

  14. The findings of the study note that an average migrant from Rajasthan is “a young male, in the age group of 18-30 years.” Seasonal migration from the state consisted of 88 per cent male migrants. Additionally, the study finds that 80 per cent of workers migrate alone while the rest move with their families.

  15. The survey for the study also recorded the educational attainment of migrant workers. As many as 28.85 per cent were reported illiterate while 29.25 per cent had studied until Class 5. Further, 33.37 per cent had some secondary education (Class 6 to 10) and 4.09 per cent had attended Classes 11 and 12. Only 3.77 per cent respondents had a graduate degree and 0.6 per cent held a professional degree or diploma.

    Focus and Factoids by Swadesha Sharma.

    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.


Amrita Sharma, Santosh Poonia, Zaineb Ali and Rajiv Khandelwal


Aajeevika Bureau, Rajasthan