Female Migrants in India


There has been an increasing feminization of internal labour migration in most developing countries over the past few decades. Although, as reported by existing secondary sources in India, marriage is predominantly the reason for internal migration of female migrants, there has been an increase in migration for economic reasons. While the only major data sources on migration in India (the Census and National Sample Survey) provide information on various dimensions of migration, they fail to provide detailed information on the health-related vulnerabilities of migrants. India’s National Family Health Survey has only a proxy indicator to capture the migration status of respondents, making migration-focused analysis of health indicators difficult. A few small-scale surveys have been conducted to examine male migration, but almost no primary study has been conducted on internal female migrants in India. Women migrants are more likely to be vulnerable than their male counterparts in destination areas with regard to health, physical safety and financial means. The Population Council therefore conducted an exploratory study (a cross-sectional bio-behavioural survey) of 1000 internal female migrants in Delhi and Mumbai. Its specific objectives were: (i) to examine patterns and reasons for migration among economically active internal female migrants in India; and (ii) to explore economic, social, cultural and health vulnerabilities among female migrants in India.

Key findings were:

  • Most female migrants worked as domestic workers in the households
  • Better economic opportunities was the most commonly reported reason for migration
  • Access to social and financial entitlements between migrants in Delhi and Mumbai are significantly different
  • High prevalence of anaemia and low body mass index
  • Diabetes was the most frequently reported non-communicable disease (NCD)
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge was the most frequently reported RTI/STI symptom
  • Access to ANC services between migrants in Delhi and Mumbai were significantly different
  • Spousal abuse more common among migrants in Delhi.


Lopamudra Ray Saraswati; Vartika Sharma; Avina Sarna. Female Migrants in India. Population Council, New Delhi, India (2015) 26 pp.

Female Migrants in India

Published 1 January 2015