Population Research and Policy Review 18: 473–489, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Seasonal migration of rural labor in India
, B. B. SAHOO
Tel-Aviv University, Israel;
Society for Development Research and Action, Udaipur, India;
Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India;
M.L. Sukhadia University, Udaipur, India
Abstract. The impact of seasonal migration has been overlooked by students of migration.
A unique data set collected in Dungarpur – one of the less developed districts of India –
allows us to closely examine both the determinants and impact of seasonal migration. Detailed
information was gathered from all members of 624 households, thus enabling analyses at both
individual and household levels. The ﬁndings indicate that seasonal migration among rural
laborers is wide-spread. Rural households in India use migrant labor offered by their members
to improve their well-being by both reducing the impacts of inferior conditions and by raising
household’s income levels. Migrant labor is a compensating mechanism used by households to
reduce their disadvantageous position. Migrant households are characterized by lower educa-
tion levels, lower levels of income from agriculture, and by an inferior geographical location.
However, those households sending migrant labor are found to have higher income levels
than those not sending migrant labor. Income from migrant labor accounts for almost 60% of
total annual income of households sending at least one migrant laborer. Such ﬁndings are
in accordance with explanations derived from the ‘new economics of migration’. We can
thus learn that migration-related decisions should not evaluated only on the basis of utility
maximization of individual migrants, but also on the basis of risk reducing by households.
Keywords: Migrant labor, Rural households, India
In recent years international migration has emerged as a major issue of in-
vestigation in the economic and sociological literature (e.g. Borjas 1992).
The massive waves of immigrants moving from one country to another have
been explained by various types of theories (for a review, see Massey et al.
1993). In the same time, explanations speciﬁc to internal migration have
been overlooked. Those studies designed to examine processes of internal
migration made use of explanations developed originally in order to explain
international migration. Gabriel & Schmitz (1995), for example, offered the
positive self-selection explanation to explain migration of white men from
one American city to another.
Stark and his colleagues have offered a ‘new economics of migration’ (e.g.
Stark & Bloom 1985). Two issues in their approach that do not appear in the