The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 178–194 | Cite as

The Relationship Between MGNREGA and Internal Labour Migration in Tamil Nadu, India

  • Warren DoddEmail author
  • Sara Wyngaarden
  • Sally Humphries
  • Kirit Patel
  • Shannon Majowicz
  • Matthew Little
  • Cate Dewey
Original Article


India’s constitution contains provisions for the ‘right to work’ and the ‘right to movement’ for all citizens. Established in 2005, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is broadly considered to operationalize this ‘right to work’. At the same time, a public discourse persists that views MGNREGA as a substitute for internal labour migration. Drawing on the results from 300 household surveys in three panchayats in the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu, we test the validity of this discourse in this setting. We find that households that rely exclusively on MGNREGA have different demographic and socioeconomic characteristics compared to households that rely exclusively on remittances from internal labour migration. Furthermore, 20 per cent of households surveyed use both MGNREGA and internal labour migration as complementary livelihood strategies. We argue that there is a need for better understanding and recognition of the complementary potential of MGNREGA and internal labour migration.


MGNREGA internal migration human rights rural livelihoods poverty alleviation employment remittances development 

La constitution de l’Inde contient des dispositions pour le «droit au travail» et le «droit de circuler» pour tous les citoyens. Créée en 2005, la loi nationale Mahatma Gandhi de garantie de l’emploi en milieu rural (MGNREGA) est largement considérée comme rendant opérationnel ce «droit au travail» . Dans le même temps, un discours public persistant considère la loi MGNREGA comme un substitut à la migration interne de main-d’œuvre. Sur la base des résultats de 300 enquêtes auprès des ménages dans trois panchayats du district de Krishnagiri au Tamil Nadu, nous testons la validité de ce discours dans ce contexte. Nous constatons que les ménages qui dépendent exclusivement de la loi MGNREGA ont des caractéristiques démographiques et socioéconomiques différentes de celles des ménages qui dépendent exclusivement des envois de fonds provenant de la migration interne de la main-d’œuvre. En outre, 20% des ménages interrogés utilisent à la fois la loi MGNREGA et la migration interne de main-d’œuvre comme stratégies de subsistance complémentaires. Nous soutenons qu’il est nécessaire de mieux comprendre et de reconnaître le potentiel de complémentarité de la loi MGNREGA et de la migration interne de main-d’œuvre.



The authors thank DHAN Foundation and specifically the field office in Anchetty for logistical and research support. We also thank S. Shankara Gowda and T. Madhe Gowda for research and translation assistance. This project was conducted under the larger ‘Revalorizing Small Millets in Rainfed Regions of South Asia’ funded by the International Development Research Centre and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development in Canada (now Global Affairs Canada) through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund. The authors are thankful for the insights and support of other collaborators on the RESMISA project in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Canada. Direct financial support for this work was provided by the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship programme through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and an Ontario Veterinary College Doctoral Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Warren Dodd
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sara Wyngaarden
    • 1
  • Sally Humphries
    • 2
  • Kirit Patel
    • 3
  • Shannon Majowicz
    • 4
  • Matthew Little
    • 1
  • Cate Dewey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Population MedicineUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  3. 3.International Development Studies ProgramMenno Simons College affiliated with the University of Winnipeg and Canadian Mennonite UniversityWinnipegCanada
  4. 4.School of Public Health and Health SystemsUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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