Enumerating Migration in Nepal

Type Working Paper - Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility
Title Enumerating Migration in Nepal
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
URL http://www.ceslam.org/docs/publicationManagement/Survey_Migration_History_Nepal.pdf
This working paper provides an overview of quantitative surveys on migration in Nepal,
including various national censuses, with a specific focus on their methodologies. It
aims to document the evolution and key characteristics of migration surveys, and
proposes to answer the following questions: How have such studies evolved in Nepal?
What kind of quantitative data is available on migration? What aspects or forms of
migration have been studied? And, what specific methodologies have been used?
Our literature search produced 49 quantitative researches conducted in Nepal so
To the extent possible, this list is comprehensive but we may have missed out
some relevant surveys. If that is the case, we would like to invite readers to inform us
of relevant published or unpublished studies that have not been included here. Our
ultimate aim is to create a central resource bank on migration surveys for the benefit
of researchers, students, journalists and others interested in the subject.
At a general level, the national census and most surveys have collected data on the
demographic and socio-economic characteristics of migrants and their households,
the reasons for migration, land-holding patterns, and remittance transfers. The
existing data have offered explanations on patterns, causes and consequences of
Our review shows that these surveys and censuses contain an implicit assumption
that migration is an economic endeavour and most migrants are poor, the corollary
of which is that people migrate because of poverty. Further, the trend has been for
internal migration to be of prime concern of the few migration surveys conducted until
the early 1990s while a gradual shift towards studying international migration became
evident after the mid-1990s. This change in focus reflects the overall trend of migration
in Nepal.
The first wave of migration began in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when
state policies and agrarian changes forced hill peasants to move out of their land and
seek livelihoods elsewhere, both within Nepal and across the border into India. The
second wave started in the mid-1980s, accelerated in the 1990s, and dramatically
increased in the mid-2000s, when Nepalis not only continued to migrate to work
in India but also began to seek out new destinations, mainly the Gulf states and
Malaysia. The opening up of newer markets for Nepali labourers in these destinations and the decentralisation of passport issuance after 1990 contributed to this new wave
of migration, and has since become a very important part of Nepal’s economy as well
as society.
Although most of the quantitative surveys on migration are small scale, there are a
number of larger surveys, even apart from the national census, that offer quantitative
data on migration at the level of generalisation. Institutions and organisations,
primarily, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Central Department of Population
Studies (CDPS) at Tribhuvan University, International Labour Organisation (ILO),
the World Bank (WB), National Institute of Development Studies (NIDS), United
States Agency for International Development (USAID), and United Nations
Population Fund (UNFPA), have been active in conducting or supporting surveys
that collect data on migration.
This paper begins with a brief discussion on how the quantitative study of migration
evolved in Nepal. It then outlines the categories of migration identified, based on
their patterns, forms and nature. The section that follows looks at the methodologies
used in the major surveys, with a particular focus on sampling method, sample size,
study area, unit of analysis and major variables. Also included is a detailed analysis of
the national censuses based on the questions that were asked. The paper concludes
with general observations on the surveys and censuses and highlights issues that
require further examination.

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