Rapid urbanisation is one of the major challenges for the developing world. The influx of internal migrants to cities often leads to resistance from native residents, manifested in labour-market discrimination, political nativism and even violence.
A study on “The Majority-Minority Divide in Attitudes Toward Internal Migration: Evidence from Mumbai” conducted by Yale University states that natives judge non-coethnic migrants endowed with undesirable skill sets more harshly than they would otherwise identical coethnic migrants.
The study says that migrants purporting to be highly skilled enjoy a substantial advantage over migrants described as low-skilled, yet this skill premium is concentrated among low-income respondents.
It also says that considerations of material self-interest and co-ethnicity interact in shaping attitudes over internal migration, but only among natives belonging to the minority ethnic community.
The study says this asymmetry lies in the concept of safety in numbers. “Minorities facing socio-economic deprivation and impediments to representation in the political arena view in-migration by co-ethnics as a means of boosting their demographic and electoral weight in the city,” the reports says. Despite constitutional guarantees of the free movement of labour, in practice migrants face severe hurdles as they seek to relocate. In this sense, Mumbai is representative of a large set of cases in the global south — from Sao Paulo; appears that majority-group citizens in Mumbai perceive migrants in a similar fashion.
The study says that for low-income respondents, low-skilled migration evokes especially strong and negative reactions, conceivably because of the dual, reinforcing perceptions of heightened job competition and increased pressure on public finances.
Meanwhile, high-income respondents appear unresponsive to migrant skill level. “We infer that high-income respondents give a black mark to poorer migrants owing to the perceived fiscal burden of mass low-skill migration; but, for these respondents, high-skilled migrants evoke equal antipathy due to the labor market-threat they pose,” the report says.