Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Educated Migrant?

The overarching discourse on internal migration has given us enough fodder to understand and analyze the perils of migrating internally, especially in a developing country like India. We (the intelligentsia) have come to understand the underlying factors that triggers  migration at source and the destination ecosystem which affects migrants. At the global scale, we stand witness to one of the largest humanitarian crisis led exodus-the migration of entire population from war torn Syria. Movement of people at such monumental level has not been recorded in recent history. It casts spotlight on the role of information networks for migration process to be successful and the migrant lands at the desired geographical destination.

This importance is equally true for any internal migrant in India. A potential migrant; driven by poverty, lack of income sources and peer influence, will use the established information networks to arrive at the destination.  Migrant researchers have defined such networks as migrant networks, which are interpersonal ties amongst kin, friends, and community members at the destination and source of migration. These networks large operate in the informal economy, managed by contractors and middlemen, who guide the migrants to their work sites. According to authors Ramees Abbas and Divya Sharma, the bargaining power is held by these middlemen in the information networks. (“Internal Labour Migration in India Raises Integration Challenges for Migrants”, Migration Policy Institute (MPI), March 2014).  This ultimately raises the question on the migrant -is she/he educated enough about her/his migration?

Data tells us that migration is a phenomena that occurs across all income classes, although the numbers are skewed towards persons and household of lower income class. Literature tells us that information networks decide migration pattern and characteristic of migration. These networks are mainly informal in nature and the central nodes are occupied by the middlemen. Thus there is a high possibility and evidences from the field support the claim that a potential migrant is not educated enough about his migration decision and outcomes. The question raised earlier is symbolic of a much extensive argument- can there be an educated migrant in the context of current internal migration discourse? The definition of a migrant as we have accepted draws from the condition of a migrant observed on field. Observations tell us that a migrant at the destination of work is exploited. The migrant worker becomes an informal sector labourer, working in brick kilns, construction sites, as porters, as factory labour, as roadside vendors, and any other work the informal sector has to offer. The migrant works beyond 12 hours a day, generally to repay the advances taken from the middlemen to support their livelihood. The life of a migrant is a struggle to fulfill the basic conditions of living, and for that, the migrant shifts from one destination to another.

The data tells us that there are migrants among all income classes. Relatively well off households migrate for reasons like higher education, better job prospect, relocation after marriage, etc. Such relatively affluent households are not the ‘typical’ migrants as defined in literature. The affluence can be a combination of multiple factors but education level across these households is an important factor which makes them capable to attain a higher development outcome. Access to education is a prerequisite for development. It makes an individual capable to undertake better decisions. In the context of migration and development dialogue, the ‘typical’ migrant has had no access to education, among many other basic resources of individualistic development. In order to fulfill the demand for resources, a person decides to migrate based on the network of information received. Without enough education, this migrant is at the mercy of the destination environment which misuses his/her lack of knowledge.  Thus the migrant is caught in a cycle of poverty led migration-poverty pushes a person to migrate-conditions at destination push him to further deprivation. And thus the entire literature centers around how corrective welfare measures are required and how rural-urban movement can be checked through rural development. However, the point being skipped is that migration is a part of life and human history has been shaped through such movements.

Our entire discussion and dialogue on internal migration has bypassed the importance of education assuming that the definition we’ve assumed and understood will remain the same. This definition of a migrant will have to change. An educated migrant will have the bargaining power and the decision to migrate will not be dictated by the information networks which are biased against the migrant. Going forward, the discourse will need to approach migrant through the perspective of education and hopefully alter our observation of a ‘typical’ migrant.


Aritra Chakrabarty

Aritra Chakrabarty

Anchor, SHRAM (Till Dec 31st, 2014)

As a social researcher, I believe in knowledge-based policy action. With a postgraduate degree in Development Studies, I've been associated with social issues in my professional space. As a part of SHRAMIC initiative, was involved with data creation, sourcing of resources that will become the knowledge bank of this project.
Aritra Chakrabarty

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4 Responses to “Educated Migrant?”

  1. Saranik says:

    Considering marriage being a predominant reason for internal migration(both rural and urban) in India (as has been observed from NSS data) would you agree in calling those who are getting relocated because of marriage,’typical’ migrants?

    • Aritra Chakrabarty Aritra Chakrabarty says:

      Marriage, as identified by NSS data, emerges as the major reason for migration. However, that reason holds true when considering female migration. Looking at migration of males exclusively, employment (both formal and informal) is the major cause. Having said that, the definition of a ‘typical’ migrant is not because of the reason of migration, rather because of the environment he/she is at the destination, the excess of deprivation and lack of access to resources. A migrant is defined as the way he/she is observed at the destination.

      • Lakshmi Priya says:

        When you say environment (in your comment to your blog) what do you mean by that? Do you think the the definition you have given here is correct. If a person is relocated, the person will be considered as a migrant.
        Good blog!

  2. Aritra Chakrabarty says:

    Hello Ma’am,
    My attempt here is to initiate a process of looking at migration literature differently. In this context, the definition of a migrant is based on the conditions at destination- conditions at place of work, conditions at place of living, social networks, etc. All these factors together constitute the environment which defines the migrant.

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