Migration and Upward Mobility in the Labour Market: The Case of Kerala

By: Pooja Batra
Millions of people migrate, within and outside their country, to widen their livelihood prospects. The movement is central to the upliftment of living standards for migrants and their families. Using the Kerala Migration Survey (KMS), 2018, this study attempts to examine the relationship between migration and upward mobility.

In this age of globalisation, there is a rapid movement of workers within (internal migration) and outside (international migration) countries to broaden and diversify their sources of livelihood and improve their well-being. It is estimated that more than 247 million people have migrated outside their country of birth in 2013 (Ratha 2016). This movement is largely due to disequilibria between and within sectors of the economy and between countries and regions (Hagen-Zanker 2008) and various push and pull factors. India tops the chart in terms of international migrants (17 million) followed by Mexico (13 million) (International Migration Report, 2017). Previous studies report that migration helps in reducing inequality, poverty, unemployment, preventing economic shocks and minimising financial constraints and hence ‘it is an unconventional path to development’ (DeWind and Holdway 2008).

Despite these benefits migration also entails the direct (cost of moving) and indirect costs (foregone earnings while travelling and searching for a job). Additionally, an emotional cost of parting with family and friends also exists. During initial days the migrant also suffers culture shocks, attempting to adjust and blend into the customs of the host country. Given these costs,

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