Internal Migration and Discrimination in India and China

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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In 2001 it was identified that out of 1.02 billion people in India, 307 million that is 30% of the population are the migrant which is slightly more than what is was 27.4% in 1991 excluding the province of Jammu and Kashmir. As per the 2001 census Maharashtra received the largest number of migrants, the number of migrant were 7.9 million and Delhi received second largest number of migrant having 5.6 million migrant populations. During the period of 1991 to 2001, the migrant population of India rose by 32.9% (excluding J&K); this population was higher than the growth of population in India which was recorded 21.

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5%. This section of the report will concentrate on the pattern of Indian migration and the discrimination faced by the migrants on various stages of their lives.This table shows out of 97. 5 million internal migrant in the country 53.3 million that is 54.7% moved within the rural area where as only 21.1% migrant moved from rural to urban areas and only 6.4 % migrant moved from urban to rural areas. Urban to urban migration among inter-state migrants has been quite high being 26.7% and this migrant rate was almost equally distributed among the male and female population.

There are several pull and push factors which makes people to migrate from their native place to a destination place. The most common pull factors rural to urban migration are opportunities of employment in urban areas and education, there are other reasons also responsible for the movement of people from one place to another. From the above data it is clear that marriage is the most important reason for migration, then the households, work and employment. Having such a huge migrant population can also cause many other concerns. India has also its migrating pattern, one of the classical forms is rural-urban transition one in which the entire household moves, and then there is one in which usually one member of the household moves, who retains links with his/her native place. There have been a slow speed of urbanization in India, data on migration confirms that the rural-urban transition is occurring at a moderate rate, and increased the ‘unaffordability’ of India’s cities in terms of land and basic services, and slum clearances, creating a fear of possibility of ‘exclusionary urban growth’ intensifying in the future (Haan, A. 2011).

Discrimination in India on Internal- Migrants

Movement of people also depends on the changing patterns of economic development and social changes over time. Migration in India is also the result of the poverty and people think migration as the route to get out of poverty, India’s most of the migrant population are in the informal sector creating more inequality in the society. Though there is some kind of acceptance for the migrants in the labour force, but there are equally strong voices that are against the migration and want to reduce the number of immigrants.  There are migrants who face the discrimination at the destination place, these migrants mostly move because of educational and economic purposes.The data in the table shows the migration rate of per 1000 person all over India in the year of 2007 and 2008, there was a significant rate of migration 36 per cent in the urban place which is far more than rural migration rate which is 26 per cent. The same can be observed in the case of gender, female migration in rural areas is 48 per cent and male migration rate is 5 per cent, whereas in the urban areas the female migration rate 46 per cent and male migration rate is 26 per cent. It may be seen that at the all-India level, nearly 29 per cent of the people were migrants with significant rural-urban and male-female differentials.

Discrimination in Education

India has large number of children who does not go to schools because of the continuous migration. Many migrant do not have any option than travelling from one place to another with their children this make education inaccessible for the children. The immunisation schemes in the schools may neglect the children of migrants sometimes. CREATE (2008, p.5) estimates that one third of the migrant population is of children under the age of 14, mostly engaged in the child labour widening the gap between the educated and the uneducated children of country.

Discrimination on the bases of Gender

Migration in India has been strongly gendered as much it is in China or any other country. The gender and age also has implication on the rate of migration, the women of India has been mobile because of the migration purposes. But women have always been mobile without the marriage purposes as well, moving for ‘traditional’ female occupations and newer ones, for skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled manufacturing and service sector jobs. Though women are moving for the economic purposes same as men, they still are more vulnerable, and suffer from the labour market discrimination because of the gender stereotyping that is present in the society. According to NSS data it is seen that only 18% of women (accounting 90% of rural female migrants) migrated because of ‘search of employment’ during 1987-88 and 14% in 1990-2000 whereas over 50% of the urban male migrants move because of ’employment related reasons’ for migration. Many studies have shown that young women do migrate for better economic opportunities but usually end up in the informal sector (Mukharjee 2001; Mehra and Gammage, 1999). Thus getting trapped in an economic structure where they receive lower wages, particularly in rural and casual urban occupation but even in regular urban work, particularly for those with lowest levels of education (Haan 2011). Therefore better ??“educated women gets better job opportunities and get benefits from the migratory pattern whereas the less-educated or not educated women get hold on to informal sector. The Indian female migratory pattern also depends on the culture; this makes the Indian migratory pattern different from the other countries (Singh A.M 1984). Singh identified that there is difference in the rate of migration in northern and southern part of the country. South has more migration rate than the north, he emphasised that this is because of the cultural norms that are present in India. North in particularly have a society which has a practices relating to the seclusion of women and this has affected the female migrant rate in the north to a very extent.

Discrimination in Employment

India’s migration is largely because of the economic structure of the country, the migratory pattern revolves around it. Much of the labour movement in the country is in circular; this is because of the seasonal occupation in the rural areas. NSS data recorded that 12% of the population are the ‘return migrants’, who come back to their native place making migration more circular rather than the rural-urban transition. It is identified that the landless are more likely to migrate (Connell, et al. 1976). There have been continuous changes in case of studying caste, employment and migration. In Uttar Pradesh higher castes were more prominent migrant in 1983-84, but during the earlier years, lower castes secured more outside jobs (Lanjouw and Stern, 1989). But as caste is also related to education, it has some implication on the employment and migration structure as well. In the 55th round of census that is from1999 to 2000 it is identified that the other caste has more migrant than the SCs, STs, and OBCs. NSS data of 2007-08 shows that 61 per cent of the households had migrated because of the employment reasons, while only 10 percent of persons migrated because of the employment reasons which include 46 % men and 1% of women. The age is also a crucial factor in employment possibilities which also affects the migration in the country. The young men have more employment and opportunity possibilities than the old men, same goes for the women. Thus young people tend to migrate more.

Migrant workers are most vulnerable and exploited among the informal sector workers because they do not receive any attention as there is no policy made for their protection. The NCEUS recommendations have focused on providing support of the informal sector, through improving the climate so that jobs can be generated and to offer support to the poorest flagship schemes. But objective of improving the employability of and conditions for migrants does not appear to be high on the agenda (Haan 2011). Many social protection schemes focus only on the ‘resident’ and become biased towards the migrant. Migrants do not get access to the public distribution system (PDS) and housing schemes. This shows the states and legislatives attitude toward the migrant of the country who consider migrants of “low priority”.


India and China both the countries have large rate of migration, but both country’s internal migrant face discrimination at different level. In both the countries there is more rural to urban migration rate. But there are lot of differences in the migration pattern among these countries. China has control systems which maintain the planned economic development of the country through Hukou system. Hukou system in China was adapted to maintain the population and the labour demand in a proportionate way for maintaining the smooth economic system. It does not allow free movement of its people from one place to another, in order to get equal social benefits as any other city person migrant must have the government’s permission or the hukou, which is usually difficult to get.  India being a democratic country it does not have any restriction on the people’s movement which allow the free movement of people. People from the poor states move to stated which are more developed, thus creating an overpopulated place to live in.

So the question arises after seeing the reason behind the hukou system, whether the hukou system has served as the measure of eligibility for social benefits or not? Does India have better migration system because of the free movement of its people? Though hukou system brought ease to the economic development at the early stage, but now it has become a chain that is restricting people’s development to some extent and creating a society of hierarchy where non-hukou migrant are discriminated at every aspect of their life. In order to ease its people misery China has brought several changes and reform in the system from time to time. India does not have such a legal system that could become the reason for the discrimination against the internal migrants, but this is also true that India has not tried to understand the misery of its internal migrants and did not take any legal action to reduce discrimination against migrants.

The hukou system itself is the reason of the discrimination that Chinese internal migrant faces. The hukou system has become more problematic to the youth of China which creates a psychological and mental stress among them. The schooling, health facilities, and good job opportunities are only provided to those who have the hukou which discriminate the youth of the rural area to develop his/her working capacity and capabilities. India does not have any kind of legal system that could create a situation of discrimination, yet discrimination exists and India’s youth also face the discrimination. Indian migrant youth face discrimination on the bases or race, caste, education qualification and gender, other factors add ups to the migration which make a migrant person’s life difficult.

In both the countries non profit organisations (NGOs) are seen as the light of change which could bring around changes in the migrant people life and could protect them from the discrimination they face. It is assumed that social workers operate from a people-oriented perspective that enforces the value of social justice, fairness, and equality in practical approach (Zhou and Cheung 2017)

Gender discrimination still pertains in both the countries at a very large extent in the economic fields. Though in both the countries women are entitled to get equal pay and equal treatment there have not been much efforts to present this equality in the society. Hukou system or non- hukou system does not have much affects on women’s life, the main reason behind the gender discrimination with internal migrant women or with the native women is the stereotype and patriarchal nature of both the societies of China and India.

Both the countries internal migrant faces discrimination in getting employment, the only difference is in China it’s much harder for migrant people to get a job in the urban areas than in India. Because of the legal constrain the accessibility to better opportunity is limited in China. In both the countries many internal migrant workers usually get entrapped in the informal sector which makes them more vulnerable.

Though India and China have different form of government and economic system, migrant population of both the countries are equally vulnerable in their own countries. There is need for making laws which could protect the migrants and these laws should be properly enforced if we want to see a better and safe society for the future by keeping every person happy with what they have.

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Internal Migration and Discrimination in India and China. (2019, Jun 28). Retrieved from