Social and economic context of migration

India is the second most populous country in the world, with a population that exceeds 1.2 billion, and the world’s largest democracy. Despite a booming economy and success in poverty reduction, poverty still remains widespread throughout the country.

Through a mix of monetary and fiscal policies, India was one of the first countries to overcome the effects of the global financial crisis in 2008, with gross
domestic product (GDP) growing 7.2 per cent and 8.3 per cent in 2009 and 2010, respectively, up from 6.7 per cent in 2008 (ESCAP 2010). During this period, the economic expansion was tilted towards the manufacturing sector while the services sector expanded slightly and the agricultural sector contracted. Notably, the largest sector in terms of employment continues to be the agricultural sector.

Women comprise a relatively low share of the total labour force in India. Only 25 to 30 per cent of rural and 15 to 18 per cent of urban women participate in the labour market. This is mainly due to traditional social- and family-related constraints posed upon women. However, the ratio of female participation has risen significantly in the last few years, particularly in urban areas (India Ministry of Labour and Employment 2010).

The migration of male labour has also had an impact on the socio-economic status of women in India. When men migrate, women assume more family
responsibilities and gain more freedom as well as a higher status in the family.