Exclusionary Urbanization and Changing Migration Pattern in India: Is commuting by workers a feasible alternative?

By Ajay Sharma, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research

Paper presented at the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population Conference, 2013, Busan (Korea)

paper: available here

For developing countries including India, United Nations projections of urban population have been on the higher side. Based on such estimates, it was conjectured that India would witness a large migration from rural areas. Yet, during 2001-11, nationally representative surveys did not record large increase in rural-urban migration. Hence, the share of urban population increased marginally from 27.8 to 31.1 percent over 2001-2011. This increase however masks important undercurrents.
Two predominantly urban states of India and few important urban agglomerations reported their lowest ever population growth rate over the period 2001-11 while Mumbai recorded an absolute decline in its population. Since lower total fertility rate cannot explain this phenomenon, two plausible explanations are out-migration from cities and reduced rate of in-migration to cities (Kundu 2012). With cities unwelcoming and anemic employment growth in rural India, an alternative, albeit effective livelihood strategy (where feasible) is commuting daily from rural to urban areas for work. Nearly 12.5 million workers cross the rural-urban boundary for work every day while 12.2 million workers report not having a fixed place of work. Such movement of workers is fast developing as an important and new channel of interaction between the rural and urban
economy.