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Circular Migration in India: Benefits, Challenges and policy



  Oct 05, 2023

Circular Migration: Looking at Both Sides of the Debate


1. What is Circular Migration?

Circular migration is a repetitive form of migration where individuals move to another place (the destination) for employment opportunities and return to their country of origin when work is not available. It involves periodic movement instead of permanent or temporary migration.
 

2. How is Circular Migration Different from Other Forms of Migration?

Circular migration is characterized by temporary residence in the destination, the possibility of multiple entries into the destination country, freedom of movement between the origin and destination countries, legal rights to stay, protection of migrants' rights, and a healthy demand for temporary labor.
 

3. What Defines a Migrant as a Circular Migrant?

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Task Force, a migrant completes at least 'two loops' between two countries to be considered a circular migrant. This means traveling between the destination and origin country at least two times.
 

4. What Are the Policy Debates Surrounding Migration?

Migration policies are a major global debate. The movement of people from the Global South to the West for better opportunities can lead to brain drain in origin countries and competition in destination countries. Internal migration can strain infrastructure and lead to agrarian issues.
 

5. How Does Circular Migration Address Policy Concerns?

Circular migration is seen as a balanced approach that benefits both origin and destination countries. It can boost the origin country's economy through remittances while allowing individuals to use their skills in both places. It can also address concerns of brain drain and population imbalances.
 

6. How Does Circular Migration Benefit the Origin Country?

Circular migration can benefit the origin country through remittances, which boost the domestic economy, improve infrastructure, create jobs, and raise living standards. However, it may also lead to the loss of talent to other countries.
 

7. What Are the Benefits for Destination Countries?

Destination countries benefit from circular migration by filling low-income, low-skill job gaps. However, it can also lead to cultural conflicts and anxieties among the host population.
 

8. What Challenges Do Circular Migrants Face?

Circular migrants, especially in host countries with language barriers, may face exploitation by middlemen, unsafe working conditions, and low wages. They often live in precarious conditions, with seasonal and irregular employment.
 

9. What Are Some Positive Outcomes of Circular Migration in India?

Circular migration in India has led to increased access to higher-paying jobs, improved household welfare due to remittances, and greater autonomy for women in migrant families.
 

10. What Needs to Be Done to Improve the Situation for Circular Migrants?

States should formulate policies to understand the extent of circular migration and protect migrants' rights. Efforts should be made to integrate migrants into destination states, address their precarity, and provide social support.
 
Circular migration is a complex phenomenon with both benefits and challenges, and addressing its various dimensions requires thoughtful policy considerations and actions.
 
 

Additional Inputs

 

1. Migration from Rural Areas to Urban Cities:

Many individuals from rural areas of India migrate seasonally or periodically to urban cities in search of employment opportunities. This migration is often driven by the availability of work in sectors like construction, manufacturing, and services. These migrants typically return to their rural homes when work becomes scarce.
 

2. Inter-State Migration:

India experiences significant inter-state migration, with people moving from states with fewer job opportunities to states with better prospects. States like West Bengal, Odisha, and Bihar have high rates of out-migration. Migrants often move to states like Kerala or Maharashtra for work and return to their home states during off-seasons.
 

3. Language and Cultural Barriers:

Circular migrants, especially those moving to states with different languages and cultures, face challenges in adapting to their new environments. Language barriers can make it difficult for them to access services and communicate with locals.
 

4. Seasonal Laborers:

Many circular migrants in India work as seasonal laborers in sectors such as agriculture, construction, and brick kilns. They move to areas with high demand for labor during specific seasons and return to their native villages when the work season ends.
 

5. Precarious Working Conditions:

Circular migrants often work in low-skill jobs with little job security. They may be at the mercy of middlemen or brokers who exploit them, subjecting them to unhygienic and unsafe working conditions.
 

6. Positive Outcomes:

Circular migration can lead to higher incomes compared to their home states, better household welfare due to remittances sent back home, and increased autonomy for women in migrant families.
 

7. Challenges Faced During the Pandemic:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, circular migrants faced significant challenges. Many of them had to walk long distances to return to their home towns when lockdowns were announced due to the lack of job opportunities and income.
 

8. State Initiatives:

Some Indian states, such as Kerala, have introduced health insurance schemes like the Awaz Health scheme for migrant workers to address their healthcare needs.
 
Circular migration in India reflects the movement of individuals seeking economic opportunities and better livelihoods. While it offers advantages like increased income and remittances, it also poses challenges related to job security, exploitation, and social integration.


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