There has been an increasing feminisation of internal labour migration in most developing countries over the past few decades. Although the reason for internal migration among women migrants, as reported by existing secondary sources in India, is predominantly marriage, there has been an increase in migration for economic reasons.
In the absence of primary studies on such migrants in India, a study titled “Female Migrants in India” was conducted by the Population Council. The study was carried out on women in Delhi and Mumbai aged 18 years or more, had migrated and currently working in either of the two cities.
According to the study, 54.9 per cent of female migrants worked as domestic workers in households, 18.4 per cent were engaged in tailoring/handicraft; and 11.8 per cent worked in factories. Shopkeeping and other petty businesses made up 8.2 per cent. Very few respondents (5.9 per cent) were engaged in formal-sector jobs such as teaching, nursing and community health. On average, female migrants earn about Rs 4,655 per month.
Better income (67 per cent) and better work opportunities (60 per cent) were the most frequently reported pull factors, followed by having well-settled relatives in Mumbai (29.7 per cent) and family movement (17.9 per cent). The most frequently cited reason pushing respondents to migrate were reported as “no money in the household” (54.2 per cent), followed by being dissatisfied with the work they did at home (43.6 per cent) and lack of employment in their home districts (15 per cent).
Anaemia was frequently observed among the migrant women. In Mumbai, 62.2 per cent of the female migrants were moderately anaemic and 9.9 per cent were severely anaemic.
High prevalence of spousal abuse, which included both verbal (65.1 per cent) and physical abuse (32.6 per cent) was reported by women. Around 45 per cent of the respondents in Mumbai reported having a violent argument with their husbands in the past six months.
The study calls for creating an enabling environment for potential female migrants, including establishing migration information and support centres at both origin and destination sites. “We observed a high proportion of women reporting economic reasons for their migration, indicating increasing feminisation of migration for work opportunities. Thus, a well-organised support system for potential female migrants can facilitate their independent migration,” the study says.