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Human migration and mobility is an age-old phenomena touching almost every society around the world. However things have changed over time in various ways. Examining the shifts in scale, direction, demography and frequency can help us understand how migration is evolving and can further lead to effective policies, programmes and operational responses on the ground. A broad range of factors continue to determine the movement of people. They are either voluntary or forced movements as a result of the increased magnitude and frequency of disasters, economic challenges and extreme poverty or conflict. Approximately 281 million people were international migrants in 2020, representing 3.6 per cent of the global population. The theme for this year’s International Migrants Day is ‘ Harnessing the potential of Human Mobility’. In fact, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes for the first time the contribution of migration to sustainable development. 11 out of the 17 SDGs contain targets and indicators relevant to migration or mobility.


  • War, conflicts and persecutions: Conflict is the most common factor for forced migration around the world and throughout history. The conflicts in West Asia, Africa and South America, and the extreme violence associated with them have forced people to leave their homes and seek a haven in foreign countries. Most recently, the world’s focus has been on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, with over half a million of the country’s Muslim population fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh in the wake of violence and ethnic cleansing.
  • Climate Change Refugees: climate change effects also contributed to the growing number of migrants and refugees. Example: Sudan, Libya. According to a report published in 2017 by Cornell University, climate change could account for up to 4 billion forced migrations by the year 2060. By 2100, they estimate that number would surpass 2 billion.
  • Droughts: A single drought can mean disaster for communities whose lives and livelihoods rely on regular, successful harvests. In a number of African countries where Concern works, including Somalia, Kenya, Malawi, and Ethiopia, droughts have become increasingly severe, leaving millions of citizens without the ability to grow the food that feeds them and their livestock.
  • Diseases: Contagious disease and outbreaks often follow in the wake of issues brought up by drought, flooding, and earthquakes. When crops are threatened and water supplies are either limited or contaminated, the risk for infection increases.
  • Earthquakes: In 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince as well as the surrounding area, leaving 1.5 million Haitians homeless. No natural disaster had ever affected a capital city in such a way, creating a ripple effect that paralyzed even certain areas well outside the disaster zone.
  • Development induced displacement: Development-induced displacement is a social problem affecting multiple levels of human organization, from tribal and village communities to well-developed urban areas. Development is widely viewed as an inevitable step towards modernization and economic growth in developing countries; however, for those who are displaced, the end result is most often loss of livelihood and impoverishment.

Challenges encountered by migrant workers:

  • Employment in informal economy: Migrants dominate the urban informal economy which is marked by high poverty and vulnerabilities. In an unorganized and chaotic labour market, migrant workers regularly face conflicts and disputes at worksites. The common issues they face are non-payment of wages, physical abuse, accidents and even death at work.
  • Issue of Identification documents: Proving their identity is one of the core issues faced by poor migrant labourers at destination areas. The basic problem of establishing identity results in a loss of access to entitlements and social services, such as subsidized food, fuel, health services, or education that are meant for the economically vulnerable sections of the population.
  • Housing: Lack of affordable housing in Indian cities force migrants to live in slums. Many seasonal migrants are not even able to afford rents in slums force them to live at their workplaces (such as construction sites and hotel dining rooms), shop pavements, or in open areas in the city
  • Financial Access: Migrant workers have limited access to formal financial services and remain unbanked
  • Access to healthcare: Migrant workers have poor access to health services, which results in very poor occupational health.
  • Education of children: UNESCO’s 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) shows that children left behind by migrating parents and seasonal migrants face fewer educational opportunities overall. According to the report, 80% of migrant children across seven Indian cities did not have access to education near worksites. Among youth aged 15 to 19 who have grown up in a rural household with a seasonal migrant, 28% were identified as illiterate or had an incomplete primary education.
  • Social exclusion: There is a growing hostility of urban governments, as well as middle-class citizens, towards the urban poor, especially migrants to the cities.
  • Political exclusion: Migrant workers are deprived of many opportunities to exercise their political rights. A 2011 study pointed out that 22% of seasonal migrant workers in India did not possess voter IDs or have their names in the voter list.
  • At policy level the major challenge is to formulate migration policies which must be linked with employment and social services, to enhance the well-being of the migrant living in urban area.

Measures to improve the delivery of services to migrant worker:

  • There is an urgent need to develop a coherent legal and policy framework on migration. Policy can have two dimensions: reducing distress-induced migration and address conditions of work, terms of employment and access to basic necessities.
  • Development strategies in backward rural areas should be strengthened to provide sustainable livelihood opportunities, food security programmes and creating opportunities for access to credit.
  • Further, focus should be given on improving rural infrastructure- health, education and connectivity.
  • A concerted national strategy that ensures access to entitlements and basic work conditions is necessary to address the plight of migrant workers.
  • Internal migrants should be able to access legal aid and counselling to protect them from work and wage-related malpractice, and to ensure they have access to grievance handling and dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • There is an urgent need to ensure that internal migrants are issued with a universally recognised and portable proof of identity that can form the basis on which to claim other socio-economic entitlements anywhere in the country.
  • Overall processes of governance need to be democratized in order to include internal migrants in decision making processes and planning
  • Education provisions should be sufficiently flexible to ensure that mobile populations are not left out.
  • Initiatives should be taken to foster social inclusion of migrants and reduce discrimination.

Way forward:

  • A national policy on migration should facilitate the integration of migrants into the local urban fabric, and building city plans with a regular migration forecast assumed.
  • Lowering the cost of migration, along with eliminating discrimination against migrants, while protecting their rights will help raise development across the board.
  • It should distinguish between the interventions aimed at ‘migrants for survival’ and ‘migrants for employment’.
  • It should provide more space to local bodies and NGOs which bring about structural changes in local regions.
  • It should focus on measures enhancing skill development would enable easier entry into the labour market.
  • It should also distinguish between individual and household migrants, because household migration necessitates access to infrastructure such as housing, sanitation and health care more than individual migration does.
  • The policy should improve financial infrastructure to enable the smooth flow of remittances and their effective use require more attention from India’s growing financial sector.