Migration is indeed an important component of demographic transition, occupying a central place in demographic analysis. It shapes policy formulation, along with the social, economical, political, and cultural changes. It employs special significance in the context of marketability of agriculture and has major implications for urbanization and slums formations. Migration is always considered to be a major function of labour reallocation in the market in order to make demand and supply equilibrium.
The labour class also produces a layer of demand in the urban economy. According to estimates, there are 40 million internal migrants in India; most of them are informal and have no social security benefits. Besides the facts, they are the backbone of Indian economy. This 40 million is a huge population who had migrated and settled down in different urban centers, and it will be disastrous if they move back to their place of origin, i.e. to their villages. Here is why the reverse migration is an emerging concern in an economic system.
Indian economy is a rural economy in which agriculture is the main occupation and the reserve army of labour is the main characteristic. Urbanization and industrialization were the main factors that attracted these reserve armies of unskilled labour towards the urban centers. Migration basically arises due to actual wage differences between regions. This migrants’ labour, on one hand, smooths the wage curve in the labour market and raises the profit margin of capitalists in the production process, on the other hand.
There are different criteria or circumstances in which people migrate from their source of origin to the source of destination. It can be:
According to the estimate in Economic survey of India 2017, inter-states migration in India was close to 9 million/ annum between 2011-2016. The magnitude of migration was found to be more concentrated mainly in four states, i.e. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradeshm, which account for 50% of the total migration in the country. Mumbai and Delhi are widely considered as the migrants magnet. The whole phenomenon created the migration-centric economy and migrant workers as the important bearers.
When we examine the whole economic spectrum of the country, we will find that we have unemployment problems, poverty issues, increasing population, problems with education system, health facilities, political instability, farmers death, and environmental crises. But on top of all these, there is one emerging issue, i.e., the reverse migration of labor towards their villages.
The pandemic not only decorticates our health system but also puts us in a new economic crisis. The rural economy of India cannot sustain such a huge population. Reverse migration has increased the workers in agriculture by 5.2 million in a few weeks. Our rural economy is already overburdened, excessively dependent on agriculture and has widespread hidden unemployment; in that case, how can it sustain these reverse migrant workers? The problem becomes more concerning when there is no proper scale of reverse migration available. There is no exact data available even for policy formulation.
When we examine the rural economy, there is huge hidden unemployment and these reverse migrants will add on to it. There is a productivity gap (which is defined as the difference between the rural economy’s shares to the total net domestic product and its share in total workforce) in the rural economy, which dominates urbanization over ruralization.
Any structural, social and economic transformation needs proper planning, and this demographic transformation without planning will lead us in a huge economic crisis. As per the information collected by some organization/NGOs by conducting virtual telephonic conversation (I was also the part of a survey conducted by Center for Equity Studies), this labour class is not ready to come back to the urban centers.
On one hand, they will increase the problem of unemployment in villages (because agriculture cannot sustain such a huge population), and on the other hand, they will ruin our MSME sector in urban centers. There will be a labour crisis in the market. The intensity of the problem is huge and we need a solution as soon as possible.