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UPSC EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : A blurred mapping of internal female migration


Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Internal migration, PLFS, Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR, unemployment, Covid-19 etc
  • Mains GS Paper I and II: Vulnerable sections of society, Laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections of society etc



  • The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), which collects data on employment and unemployment indicators in the country, has estimated it to be 27% from June 2020 to 2021.




  • The International Organization for Migration defines a migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from his/her habitual place of residence.
  • Examining the migration shifts in scale, direction, demography and frequency can lead to effective policies, programmes and operational responses on the ground.
  • Women, especially of working age, comprise a greater share of the migrant pool.


Factors Determining Migration:

  • It can be either voluntary or forced movements as a consequence of the increased magnitude or frequency of disasters, economic challenges and extreme poverty or conflict situations.
  • Covid-19 pandemic is also one of the major causes of Migration.


Push and Pull Factors of Migration:

  • Push factors are those that compel a person to leave a place of origin (out-migration) and migrate to some other place such as – economic reasons, social reasons, lack of development of a particular place.
  • Pull factors indicate the factors which attract migrants (in-migration) to an area (destination) such as job opportunities, better living conditions, availability of basic or high-level facilities etc.

Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS):

●      It is a survey conducted by the NSO under theMinistry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) to measure the employment and unemployment situation in India.

●      The NSO launched the PLFS in April 2017.


Issues with National Surveys:

  • National surveys such as the PLFS capture information about female migrants but often convey an inaccurate picture.
  • Surveys only ask the respondents regarding their primary reason for migration.
  • PLFS data suggest that the leading reason for migration among women is:
    • marriage (81%)
    • migration of family members (10%)
    • employment (2.42%)
    • migration for education opportunities (0.48%).
  • There is no provision to know the secondary reasons/motivations such as climate shocks and food insecurity
    • which can be a crucial driver of migration for women.
  • According to the PLFS: Approx three quarters of migrant women are unemployed
    • Approx 14% of migrant women are in self and wage-employed jobs
    • Approx 12% are in casual labour.
    • This round of data collection was during the COVID-19 pandemic, which might explain the low numbers
    • It does not adequately underscore the problem of underreporting of their employment status.
  • Anecdotal evidence and findings from the respective works of researchers suggest that it is not uncommon for migrant women to engage in casual employment
    • It indicates the underestimation of the number of migrant women involved in the various sectors that might be categorised as causal (or even informal) such as:
      • agriculture
      • construction
      • domestic help.
    • Definitional issues and women’s own beliefs lead to an underreporting of employment of migrant women.
      • According to the definition of employment used by national surveys, only those with some form of verbal or written contract with their employer are considered part of the labour force.
      • Consequently, women are largely classified as unemployed.
    • Working as unpaid family workers, in household enterprises, or being self-employed is common amongst women.
      • But they may view that as an extension of their domestic commitment instead of a form of employment
      • It leads to them misreporting their employment status.

Challenges faced by migrant women:

  • The need for more human and social capital.
  • In the PLFS data, 85% of the women have less than 10 years of education, which can create problems.
  • While there is no significant difference in the educational levels of migrant and non-migrant women,
    • migrant women are proportionally less employed than the non-migrant women.
  • Coupled with the lack of social networks, especially after they migrate, these factors can significantly hinder their employment chances.
  • Yale University study: After the COVID-19-induced lockdown
    • 55% of women never returned to their places of employment
    • Those who did so, earned only 56% of their pre-pandemic income levels.
  • Female migration for labour/employment increased by 101% between 2001 and 2011.
    • However, they remain largely invisible, facing significant hurdles and marginalisation.
  • Unaddressed struggles and a lack of targeted policies: From a political standpoint, women migrants are not a considerable vote bank, and, therefore, their needs are not addressed.
  • Lack of good data on female migrants and treating migrant men and women as the same
    • This engenders policy-making, which is poorly informed about the needs, motivations, and conditions of female migrants.
  • Policies such as One Nation One ration card, e-Shram, and affordable rental housing complexes are mainly targeted towards the male migrant population.

Way Forward

  • National surveys should compile more information regarding their socio-economic conditions post-migration as very little is known about it.
    • For example: the PLFS indicates that a minute percentage (approximately 7%) have access to social security benefits
    • there is no data for the rest of the populace.
  • There is a lack of time-use data for migrants, as India has not made that the norm yet.
    • Time-use data would significantly help advance existing knowledge regarding unemployed female migrants.
  • A change in narrative is required, starting with an increased collection of female-specific data.
    • It will illustrate the largely anecdotal problem and bring awareness about the plight of these women to encourage progressive policymaking.



Discuss the desirability of greater representation to women in the higher judiciary to ensure diversity, equity and inclusiveness.(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)