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Migrants prefer work in villages, not cities


NEW DELHI: Seasonal migrants prefer to stay in villages and work under MGNREGS even if it means 35 per cent less earning and losing out work opportunities available in cities, according to a research paper.

The paper ‘Costs and Benefits of rural-urban migration: Evidence from India’ — published in the Journal of Development Economics — suggests that migration costs are high. Incidentally, India saw a large reverse migration to villages due to the Covid-imposed lockdown.

Providing new evidence on the costs and benefits of rural to urban migration in developing countries, the authors focused on seasonal migrants who choose between construction work in the city and on local public works in villages in the same season. The survey covered Rajasthan, MP and Gujarat which are known for high migration population.

The paper found that the fixed costs like travel cost, or the risk of going out and not finding work are not large. Instead, every day spent in the city is very costly. This daily cost is mostly non-monetary, it is hard living and working conditions that deter seasonal migrants, rather than just a more expensive life, it noted.

“Using supply-side variation in employment provision on local public works, we show that when more employment is available migrants are less likely to leave the village, and make shorter trips to the city. This is despite the fact that daily earnings from the programme are 35% lower than earnings per day outside villages.”

The authors argue that findings have important implications for development policy.  “In these COVID times when migrants have fled the cities and gone back home, the role of MGNREGA to substitute for distress migration is more important than ever,” said Clement Invert, one of the authors.