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Circular migration

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: TH

 Context: Circular migration involves people moving to and from a destination country based on employment availability, rather than migrating permanently or temporarily.

  • Circular migration gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s due to globalization, improved transportation, and social networks.

To be considered a circular migrant, certain criteria must be met, including temporary residence in the destination, multiple entries into the destination country, freedom of movement, legal right to stay, protection of migrants’ rights, and demand for temporary labour.

This type of migration is now viewed as a balanced approach that benefits both sending and receiving countries.

  • For sending countries, it can boost the domestic economy through remittances, foreign capital, and improved infrastructure. However, it can also lead to brain drain as talented individuals may seek opportunities elsewhere.
  • For receiving countries, circular migration can help fill low-income, low-skill job gaps and mitigate concerns related to population growth. It promotes brain circulation, where individuals contribute to both countries’ development.


In India, internal migration has often been circular, particularly from rural to urban areas, driven by industrialization and job opportunities in the manufacturing, construction, and services sectors. Inter-state migration is prevalent, with states like West Bengal, Odisha, and Bihar experiencing high out-migration rates. Circular migrants benefit from better-paying jobs, remittances, and improved household welfare. However, they may face challenges, such as exploitation, language barriers, and seasonal job insecurity.