Working Paper: Regional Patterns and Determinants of Commuting between Rural and Urban India

Author: Vasavi Bhatt, S Chandrasekhar, Ajay Sharma

Title: Regional Patterns and Determinants of Commuting between Rural and Urban India

Abstract: Despite an increase in the number of workers commuting between rural and urban areas, much of the literature on worker mobility continues to be migration centric. This paper establishes the importance of rural-urban commuting in India. As per estimates from Periodic Labour Force Survey 2018-19, an estimated 18.8 million individuals living in rural are working in urban India and the share of earnings from urban in total non-farm rural earnings is 19.3 percent. Among all rural workers, 7.3 percent are rural-urban commuters while only 2.1 percent of urban workers are urban-rural commuters. We document large variations at the sub-national level. Our results from a multinomial model to understand the factors associated with commuting highlight the importance of lagged regional unemployment rate. A high rural unemployment rate acts as a push factor and a low urban unemployment rate acts as a pull factor for rural-urban commuting. The urbanness of occupations in a region is also an important correlate of commuting. The paper concludes by highlighting the need to prioritize questions in India’s labour force survey that would help understand the nature of labour mobility and strength of rural-urban linkages.

Keywords: Labour Mobility, Commuting, Rural–Urban Linkages, Classification of Jobs, India

JEL Code: J21, J61, R12, R 23