In this article, You will read World Migration: Causes and Consequences of migration – for UPSC (Population and Settlement Geography – Geography Optional).


  • Human migration is the movement of people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily, at a new location (geographic region).
  • The movement is often over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form globally. People may migrate as individuals, in family units, or in large groups.
  • There are four major forms of migration: invasion, conquest, colonization, and immigration.
  • A person who moves from their home due to forced displacement (such as a natural disaster or civil disturbance) may be described as a displaced person or if remaining in the home country, an internally displaced person.
  • A person who is seeking refuge in another country can, if the reason for leaving the home country is political, religious, or another form of persecution, make a formal application to that country where refuge is sought and is then usually described as an asylum seeker. If this application is successful this person’s legal status becomes that of a refugee.
  • Migration in geography usually refers to the movement of humans from one place to another. It occurs when the perceived interaction of Push and Pull factors overcome the friction of moving.
    • Push factors: elements of the origin that are perceived negatively leading to a desire to leave.
    • Pull factors: elements of the destination that are perceived positively leading to place attraction.
  • Friction of Moving: costs in time, finance, and emotions in leaving one location and moving to another. The strength of the Pull and/or Push factors to need to overcome these costs to cause potential migrants to turn that into an actual relocation.
  • Perception: how a geographical feature may be received be each individual. A quiet coastal resort may be seen as ‘boring’ by a teenager (and the ‘quietness’ a Push factor), but attractive to a retired couple (so a Pull factor). This may result in coastal resorts seeing a net out-migration of young people and net in-migration of the recently retired.
  • Net Migration: the sum change in migrant numbers between those coming into an area (inmigrants) and those leaving (out-migrants). If migration crosses international borders a person is an Emigrant from the country they leave and an Immigrant to the country they are going to.
Migration Classification

Migration types can be classified according to a range of criteria:

  1. Migration Based on Distance
    • Intra-building: Movement within a building (e.g. user-movements in an airport terminal or hospital)
    • Inter-building: Pedestrian patterns between a complex of buildings (e.g. students moving over a University campus)
    • Local-scale: Moving house to another within a town or city
    • Regional-scale: Migrating within a country from one county/state to another
    • International scale: Migrating from one country to another (emigration/immigration)
    • Global-scale: Migrating between distant continents
  2. Migration Based on Duration
    • Daily: Commuting to and from work each day often resulting in ‘rush hours’
    • Seasonal: Winter snow-sport enthusiasts to the Alps; Summer sun-seekers to the Mediterranean; nomadic herders to fresh grazing pastures.
    • Medium-term temporary: Working in an overseas TNC branch office for a few years; taking up a university course; working in a developing city to pay off rural debts.
    • Permanent: Emigrating to another country with no intention of returning.
  3. Migration Based on Motive
    • Forced (Environment): Fleeing a region of drought / flood / desertification / eruption
    • Forced (Political): Threats to freedom, safety, and liberty due to religious, ethnic, racial, or political persecution, conflict, or war. (Leads to Refugees and Asylum-Seekers)
    • Collective Behaviour: Moving as part of an identified group to maintain group cohesion (Traveller communities, nomadic groups, ethnic groups)
    • Personal Aspiration: Desiring an improved standard of living for yourself or your family through gaining economic and social benefits; Economic migrants.
    • Personal Well-Being: Migration for health reasons (retirees to Florida), or perceived quality of life (relocating to rural areas for a less frenetic pace of life).

World Migration (International migration)

  • Since the beginning of cultural history, it involves well-demarcated temporal category interpreting the practical significance of the Mobility Transition Model.
  • Among the definite category of important trends of migration, the historical and modern trends are included –
World Migration (The International migration)
  • The dividing line of the 2nd World War was first drawn by Zimolsak and Stanshield by writing a book named Human Landscape.
Historical Migration
  • Historical Migration was outlined for the period of the pre-1945 time period. It commonly incorporated mass movement of population across international boundaries due to variable causes leading to variable consequences.
  • Among migratory movement that have a strong imprint on cultural, demography, and economic characteristics the voluntary, economic, and forced migration are included:
  • Voluntary migration:
    • It involves the movement of European settlers settling abroad. The recipients were:
      • Anglo- America
      • Cape province of South Africa
      • Eastern highlands of Africa
      • Australia
      • New Zealand
    • It is the legacy of this migration that Caucasoid race dominates the world map along with the domination of Christianity and the Indo-European linguistic family.
    • This also led to the economic development of Anglo-America and Oceana as with migration of population there was the transfer of technology also.
    • This migration brought about the diffusion of Christianity, European language, science, knowledge, technology to different parts of the world.
    • Incidences of global migration:
      • Perceptible trends and major migrations are more obvious after 14th and 15th centuries from Europe when Europe was able to develop voyages and sea routes (Columbus, Vasco-de-Gama, etc.)
      • Migrations from Europe started towards America and there were two streams:
        • From Britain to NE US (now New England region)
        • From Spain and Portugal towards South America and the Caribbean (therefore Portuguese is the major language of Brazil)
      • The European migration adversely impacted the local indigenous population of America. The invasion almost wiped out the Incas, Mayas (Mexico), Aztecs (Mexico).
      • Between 1400 AD to 1600 AD, Mexico alone saw a decline of its natives from 12 million to 2 million and the Native American population fell from 100 to 8 million. Incas reduced from 13 million (14th century) to less than 5 lakhs by the 1900s.
      • European race were responsible for mixed-race of S. America (Mestizos- mixed European and native Indian blood)
      • In countries like Argentina and Chile, Mestizos make up almost 100% of the population.
      • Migration after 1800
        • With the opening of the Suez Canal (1869), Europeans migrated eastwards and gradually colonized.
        • In Australia, New Zealand, South Asia, and Southeast Asia new colonies were developed.
        • Europeans moving into Australia and New Zealand have almost wiped out the native population (Bindibus of Australia, Maoris of New Zealand)
  • Economic Migration:
    • In this category, the migration of industrial and agriculture laborers are included.
    • In the case of industrial labors, it was a pull factor operational in Western European countries, generated due to Industrial Revolution that caused the migration.
    • Source region largely includes Southern Eastern Europe and Northern Africa.
    • It is this movement that is the cause of the cosmopolitan cultural identity involved in Western Europe.
    • In the case of agriculture labor, it was tropical equatorial Islands induced with traditional plantation agriculture by colonial settlers that involved as a destination. Some of the destination places were;
      • Trinidad and Tobago
      • Cuba for cane plantation
      • Pemba islands
      • Mafia island
      • Zanzibar island for spices (clove plantation)
      • Sri Lanka for tea and Malaysia for rubber.
      • Fiji and Mauritius
    • These islands attracted an agricultural workforce largely from the neighboring mainland depicting the combined effect of Push and pull factors.
    • It is due to this migratory movement that correlates to the ethnic and cultural mix of these far-off islands of the world and Indian culture diffused to a large part of the world.
    • After the slave trade was banned, and in 1800, a new system of labor employment started called Indentured Labor which was responsible for the migration of Asians towards Africa, SE Asia, and towards N America (contract-based labor- Indentured Labor or labor without rights). They were from Kerala, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
    • Indians mainly from Gujarat and Kutch migrated to Eastern Africa (Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Africa). Indians also spread out towards Caribbean Island.
    • The Chinese migrated towards South East Asia and towards N. America wherein in Vancouver city, the Chinese are 20% of the population (the largest dominant ethnic minority). Indians make up greater than 50% of Fiji’s population.
    • These migrations are responsible for Asian Diasporas across the world.
  • Forced migration:
    • Between the 1600s to 1834 (till the abolition of the slave trade), the Europeans were responsible for the migration of Africans into South American and the Caribbean to supply labor to the plantation system under the infamous slave trade.
    • Negroid population largely from upper Guinea (West Africa), sold and purchased as commodities, were forced to migrate prominently in Anglo-America which formed the base for the genesis of the Black population (Anglo American in the USA).
    • Slaves were subjected to oppressive working and living conditions with prominent tasks performed by them like clearing of forests, leveling of land, and facilitating the development of conditions required for basic infra growth.
    • Intermixing between Africans and other populations was responsible for creating new mixed races like Mulattoes and Zamboes.
    • It also led to racial discrimination in the global profile with dominating nature in Caucasoid prominent regions.
Triangular slave trade
Modern migration
  • After the 2nd World War, the beginning of the end of the colonial regime and evaluation of the most consolidated political map of the world paved the way for modern migratory movements
  • These movements unlike historical migration involved greater travel distance but also correlated to more individualistic movement.
  • Modern migration was
    • Selective in nature due to migration of an only selected group of people like colonial settlers, migration of population affected from partition, etc.
    • Temporal in nature like settling of Jews in Arab
    • Highly globalized since colonial settlers from all around the world were returning to their home countries.
  • Chronologically this phase is sub-classified as
    • The transitional phase of modern migration (1945-60): This phase involves setting down of new evolving political map with the mass movement of population. This involved:
      • The retreat of colonial settler
      • Partition (Indo-Pak) recorded one of the most violent migrations where more than 10 million populations crossed borders in few weeks.
      • During and after the world war, the Jews from Germany and the US moved into West Asia in large numbers with the creation of the Israel state. These migrants Jews displaced the local Arabs who now live as political refugees in other Arab lands (especially in Jordan).
      • During the war and after the war there was migration within Europe due to the gradual disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. A lot of North African and West Asian (like Turkish) moved into Western Europe. Southern France has a lot of Algerian population, a lot of Turkish population has moved into Germany and Switzerland.
    • Migration post-1960:
      • The 1970s witnessed the construction boom of West Asia that encouraged migrant workers most of whom lived as sojourners in West Asia.
      • Contemporary phase (post-1960): This phase primarily involved an economic cause of movement with the developing world being the source area and the developed world being the destination
        • During 1970 to 1980: The economic commercial mobilization of crude oil facilitated the evolution of West Asia as an important destination. It resulted in the opening of fundamentalist closed Islamic cultural identity of west Asia but also multiplied the geopolitical importance of this region (that also led to political uncertainty, sectarian violence)
        • Through the 1970s and continuing now one of the major migrant groups Asians towards Europe and new world economies of US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Most of these migrants are professionals (and not laborers)
        • In the USA, in the 1960s there was an in-migration of doctors, whereas in the 1990s IT professions, university lecturers were the major in-migrant groups.
        • During this phase, migration was within Africa. It was more of forced distressed migration of people escaping drought, agriculture failure, and even tribal conflicts. E.g. Anglo-Rwanda (Migrate), Hulu-Tusti tribal conflict, conflicts in Uganda, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, a conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. It has led to the displacement of a lot of Africans.
        • This period also saw the out-migration of due to the conflicts in Central and West Asia such as-
          • Iraq war
          • Afghan war
          • Displacement after the disintegration of the USSR.
          • Displacements of Kurds
          • Migration of Hazaras from Afghanistan
        • These are all political migrants, classified under refugees (“people of concern” by HDI report)
Refugee movement
  • UN convention on refugees justifies that 9 out of 10 refugee movements across the international borders are from illegal migration which continues to stay in the country, creating challenges on the economic, demographic, and security front.
  • Africa
    • It is the continent of Africa that such mass movements are most consistent caused due to the reoccurring food scarcity in the Sahel making people migrating to neighboring food-sufficient countries like Nigeria.
    • People are also migrating from tribal conflict countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and going to Kenya, Tanzania, etc.
    • Evaluation of the youngest state on the political map of the world, South Sudan has been an additional cause of mass displacement of the population across the international boundary within the continent.
Intra national Migration

Causes of Migration:

  • People migrate for many different reasons. These reasons can be classified as economic, social, political, or environmental:
    • economic migration – moving to find work or follow a particular career path
    • social migration – moving somewhere for a better quality of life or to be closer to family or friends
    • political migration – moving to escape political persecution or war
    • environmental causes of migration include natural disasters such as flooding
  • Some people choose to migrate, eg someone who moves to another country to enhance their career opportunities.
  • Some people are forced to migrate, eg someone who moves due to war or famine.
  • A refugee is someone who has left their home and does not have a new home to go to. Often refugees do not carry many possessions with them and do not have a clear idea of where they may finally settle.

Push and pull factors

  • Push factors are the reasons why people leave an area. They include:
    • lack of services
    • lack of safety
    • high crime
    • crop failure
    • drought
    • flooding
    • poverty
    • war
  • Pull factors are the reasons why people move to a particular area. They include:
    • higher employment
    • more wealth
    • better services
    • good climate
    • safer, less crime
    • political stability
    • more fertile land
    • lower risk from natural hazards
  • Migration usually happens as a result of a combination of these push and pull factors.

Consequences of Migration:

Migration is a consequence of the uneven – distribution of opportunities over space. People tends to move from a place of low opportunity and low safety to a place of higher opportunity and better safety. Results can be observed in economic, social, cultural, political and, demographic terms.

Economic Consequences

  • These consequences are positive as well as negative:
    • Positive Remittances are important for the economy of a country. As migrants sent remittances to their family members for food, repayment of loans/debts, treatment, marriages, children’s education, agricultural inputs, construction of houses, etc.
      • Green Revolution in the rural areas of Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh was a success because of the migrants from rural areas of ‘ Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha.
    • Negative: Overcrowding due to unregulated migration. Development of unhygienic slums in industrially developed states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi.

Demographic consequences

  • These consequences can be both positive or negative:
    • Positive Redistributing of the population within a country. The process of urbanization is dependent on rural-urban migration.
    • Negative Imbalance in demographic structure. Age and skill selective out-migration created an imbalance in the demographic structure of rural areas. Age and sex composition are seriously affected in the states of Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Eastern Maharashtra due to migration. The same situation happens in the recipient states.

Social consequences

  • These consequences are both positive as well as negative:
    • Positive Migrants work as an agent of social change. They diffuse new ideas of science and technology, family planning, girl’s education, etc from one place to another place. People also bring different cultures with them which helps to break the narrow considerations and broaden up the mental horizon of the people.
    • Negative Anonymity increases and creates a social vacuum and a feeling of ejection. This feeling ultimately results in anti-social activities such as crime, drug abuse, theft, etc.

Environmental consequences

  • Negative Large-scale rural-urban migration leads to overcrowding in the cities and puts tremendous pressure on the infrastructure.
  • It also results in an unplanned and haphazard growth of cities in which slums and shanty colonies are very common.
  • Overcrowding is also related to over-exploitation of natural resources and cities are facing serious problems of water shortage, air and water pollution, problem of sewage disposal, and management of solid wastes.

Other consequences

  • When male migrants leave their wives in rural areas, this puts extra physical and mental pressure on women.
  • Migration of women for education and employment gives them more freedom, on the other hands it also adds to their vulnerability

Rural to urban migration trends

  • It is now a characteristic of developing countries.
  • This was a characteristic of developed countries from 1750 to 1950.
  • Presently developed countries have developed a tendency to Urban to Rural migration.
  • In spite of that, there are some cities in developed countries where Rural to Urban migration is high e.g. Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Osaka, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans.
  • Tokyo, Osaka, Los Angeles have almost the same pattern as of Rural to Urban migration as in developing country with 1.5 to 1.7 lakh migrants.
  • In developing countries, the pattern of migration is necessarily rural to urban migration with the destination being Capital towns, Metropolitan cities, new growth centres. These create pull factors from rural areas.
  • The push factors from rural areas are:
    • Rapid rural population growth
    • Growth of unemployment
    • Growth of social tensions in rural areas
    • Development of transport links
    • Lack of infrastructure and rural development
    • With the increase in population, landholding size is decreasing which leads to a decrease in per labour productivity and is increasing pressure on agricultural land.
  • Effects of the above factors:
    • New growth centres are becoming overpopulated
    • Rapid working of push forces causes greater arrivals in urban areas which creates the problems like-
      • Growth in slums
      • Pavement settlements
      • Squatter settlements
  • Effects of rural to urban migration:
    • As per the UNICEF report, most of the adolescents and kids who are in extremely unhygienic conditions are rural to urban migrants.
    • Urban poverty increases due to rural poor becoming urban poor.
    • Shortage of houses leading to squatter settlement on rural-urban fringe.
    • Rapid growth in informal sectors.
    • Growth of unplanned rural-urban fringe
    • Environmental problems
    • Social problems
  • Rural to urban migration provides workers to the town but most of them are unskilled or semiskilled, thus, becoming a liability to urban areas.

Measures to address the problems due to rural to urban migration

  • The solution to the above problems involves the 2-dimensional approach
    • Rural urbanization
    • Development of satellite towns
  • Rural urbanization
    • It refers to bringing about rural development by providing urban facilities in rural areas. Economists call it rural urbanization. For e.g. RURBAN Mission, Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, PURA, Highway-Village nests, etc.
    • It is also about bringing the development of receiving cities. Within the towns there should be:
      • Development of functional towns with functional specialization
      • Internal urban development programs such as slum renewable, low-cost housing, etc.
  • Presently many developing countries have adopted a city-regional planning approach.
  • It is expected that this approach will include rural development and also contribute to urban ecology in old cities.
  • Case study: Development of functional towns in china which includes the towns which are developed for specific factions such as a town specially made for textile manufacturing, a town for automobiles, etc. In this way, these towns consume the migrating population in efficient way and make their full utilization.

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