Labour mobility and capability expansion: an experiment from india

Mishra, Nripendra Kishore (1); Tripathi, Tulika (2) (2018). 'Labour Mobility and Capability Expansion: An Experiment from India' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The literature on labour mobility suggest that people move when they have capability to do so, where the latter is manifested in various forms. One of the important contributors of labour mobility is social network and therefore, members of the most resourceful families tend to move first. Of course, displacement and forced migration is also a form of labour mobility which has adverse effect on capabilities. The present paper conceptualizes mobility within the CA framework, where it defines mobility as functioning expansion at first and capability expansion latter on, resulting into various doings and beings for individuals and households. However the doings and beings are also not free from what Fucko called ‘the context’, as they are further embedded in the social system within which the choices are being made. It is hypothesised that labour mobility is capability expansion to acquire many functionings like, to be healthy, educated, well - nourished and out of poverty. Considering this contextual reality for each group of people to be different, the present work takes up the socio-economic characteristics and endowments of the household and the level of mobility at two time periods with gap of twenty years. 

The present study is based on LSMS –I (Living Standard Measurement Survey – I) and its repeat survey (henceforth LSMS-II). LSMS –I was carried out in 1997 by the World Bank and LSMS – II is carried out by us in 2017.  The survey was focused on migration and poverty belt of India, which is Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Northern Bihar. LSMS-2 selected 21 villages out of original 124 villages of LSMS - 1 and revisited same households to construct a panel of households and members. Thus, we have cross section data of around 900 households for two point of time, which is 1997 and 2017. Remarkably, 1990’s are the time when road, transportation and communication started expanding in India. Globalization and capitalist expansion ensured that infrastructure and market expansion took over which have led to increase in labour mobility. Thus, these two data points provides an opportunity to examine globalization and its impact on labour mobility and to understand the nature and pattern of labour mobility expansion with capitalist expansion in India. This is important for the fact that this belt has seen highest out migration and labour mobility (Census 2011).  The present work uses this household data from two time periods by forming a panel of households to look at labour mobility characterized by the endowment and social characteristics of household. It also examines how the market expansion has altered characteristics after the twenty years time period; from onset of globalization to maturing of globalisation. The present paper examines differential functioning level of these household given their social context, as Sen suggests that the doings and beings are not independent of social structure. Thus, we pick up households of 1997 having mobility from LSMS –I and examine their doings and beings in LSMS –II (2017).

In order to analyse the functioning expansion of mobility we used structural equation measurement taking socio-economic characteristics as latent variable affecting mobility and consequently leading to varying trajectory of doings and beings. To do so we have compared households within the same social group and not between group, having experienced labour mobility and no-mobility in 90’s and their growth trajectory in 2016, measured in terms of education, health of family members and income level of household.

Our results indicate that labour mobility varies a great deal with the social context and endowments of household in terms of place of mobility and nature of activity. Not only that, the social context impacts the whole trajectory of progress of households and their doings and beinings as there exists differential choices of doings and beings based on their social context. In fact, the area of our study Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are known to be centre of distress labour mobility in India. Our analysis shows that impact of labour mobility on capability expansion is mediated by social context and endowment. It results into higher income and better health and education outcomes for upper caste, males and higher wealth quintile families. Its effect on capability expansion is limited in case of lower caste, female and lower income quintile families. Qualitative data is also used in the present study delineating the pathways of this causation.

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