[Answered] Define circular migration and differentiate it from other forms of migration. Discuss its historical evolution and the factors that have contributed to its rise in India.

Introduction: Describe circular migration.

Body: How does it differ from other forms of migration. What factors contributed to its rise?

Conclusion: Way forward

Circular migration is temporary & usually repetitive movement of migrant workers between home & host areas, mainly for employment. Unlike permanent migration, where individuals or families move to a new location to settle there permanently, circular migration involves returning to the place of origin after a period of work or other activities at the destination. It is a phenomenon mostly among low-income groups who migrate to avail of seasonally available jobs in another country, city, place, etc.

How does it differ from other forms of migration?

  • Permanent migration: In the case of permanent migration, individuals or families relocate to a new destination with the firm intention of making it their permanent place of residence. Their reasons for this move could include pursuing employment opportunities, educational pursuits, or seeking an improved quality of life.
  • Seasonal migration: It exhibits resemblances to circular migration, yet it is typically constrained to particular seasons or time frames. Seasonal migrants temporarily relocate to a destination for work that corresponds with specific seasons, such as engaging in agricultural labour during planting or harvest periods, and subsequently return to their original place of residence upon completion of the work.
  • Rural-Urban Migration: Rural-urban migration entails a unidirectional shift from rural regions to urban centres, where individuals or families make a permanent move in pursuit of improved economic prospects and enhanced living standards. This type of migration does not typically include a cyclical return to the original place of origin.

Evolution & Factors contributing to the rise of circular migration in India

  • Historical reasons: Circular migration in India has a deep-rooted historical background that stretches back to ancient times when it was common practice for laborers and skilled artisans to traverse various regions in pursuit of diverse work prospects, including seasonal agricultural labour, trade activities, or craftsmanship. Under the dominion of British colonial rule, circular migration patterns assumed a more organized and institutionalized character. Laborers were frequently enlisted to work in mines, plantations, and various industries located in far-flung regions within the Indian subcontinent.
  • Economic disparity: In India, the uneven development post-liberalization, has led to a lot of circular migration, with States like West Bengal, Odisha, and Bihar having some of the highest rates of out-migration to Delhi, Mumbai & southern States.
  • Seasonal nature of jobs: India’s labour-intensive industries, including agriculture, construction, and brick-making, often exhibit seasonality in their operations. This phenomenon acts as a catalyst for both seasonal and circular migration, as workers migrate to locations where job opportunities are present during particular seasons.
  • Lack of permanent housing: Certain circular migrants may find themselves lacking the necessary resources or legal status needed for permanent settlement in urban areas. Consequently, they return to their place of origin, primarily due to their restricted access to housing, social services, or formal employment opportunities.


There is an urgent need to formulate policy to ensure migrant rights are protected & their issues are addressed to integrate them physically, socially, culturally, and politically in destination states.

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