Working Paper T-17. Migration for Hard Work: A Reluctant Livelihood Strategy for Poor Households in West Bengal, India.
This paper reports some initial findings of a study of how migrants in India and Bangladesh and the household members that stay behind reduce the insecurities they face (including hunger, debt, ill-health and work-place exploitation) through drawing on available informal support, based in relationships with kin, neighbours, fellow migrants and even, at times, employers. The study is, in part, a study of change over time, as it involved the return by Deeptima Massey and Abdur Rafique from June 2005 to January 2006 to the eastern Indian locality where Rafique had conducted ethnographic research in 1999-2000.4 The rest of the paper is divided into five sections. The second section briefly describes the context of the study and the methods used. The third section goes on to summarise some important changes that have occurred in the pattern of migration between 1999 and 2005. The fourth section of the paper presents three contrasting life histories to illustrate longer processes of change and draw together some possible hypotheses for why certain households continue to have at least one member who migrates temporarily at some point during the year while others have either stopped or never migrated at all. In the fifth section, we draw on participant observation to explore the kinds of informal support used by those who stay behind (usually women) in the absence of migrants (usually men). This area received relatively little attention in the earlier study. Finally, the sixth section summarises the paper and some emerging questions for the on-going analysis of data.
WP-T17, Sussex, UK, DRC on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty, 28 pp.