The Informal Labour Market in India: Transitory or Permanent Employment for Migrants?

Discussion Papers


by Abu S. SHONCHOY and P.N. (Raja) JUNANKAR

March 2014


The informal economy is a very important sector of the Indian economy. The National Council of Applied Economic Research estimates that the informal sector - “unorganised sector” - generates about 62% of GDP and provides for about 55% of total employment (ILO 2002, p. 14). This paper studies the characteristics of the workers in the informal economy and whether internal migrants treat this sector as a temporary location before moving on to the organised or formal sector to improve their lifetime income and living conditions. We limit our study to the Indian urban (non-agricultural) sector and study the characteristics of the household heads that belong to the informal sector (self-employed and informal wage workers) and the formal sector. We find that household heads that are less educated, come from poorer households, and/or are in lower social groups (castes and religions) are more likely to be in the informal sector. In addition, our results show strong evidence that the longer a rural migrant household head has been working in the urban sector, ceteris paribus, the more likely that individual has moved out of the informal wage sector. These results support the hypothesis that, for internal migrants, the informal wage labour market is a stepping stone to a better and more certain life in the formal sector.

Keywords: informal labour markets, migrant, caste, religion.
JEL classification: O17, J15, J61, J42.

PDF (581KB)

Please note that discussion papers are works in various stages of progress and most have not been edited and proofread and may contain errors of fact or judgment. Revised versions of these papers may subsequently appear in more formal publication series. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). The IDE does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included and accepts no responsibility for any consequences arising from its use.