Guide to Data





Population and Housing Census

The main source for internal migration data is the Census, which has been conducted on decennial basis since 1872. The last Population and Housing Census was conducted in 2011.

On the basis of the responses to place-of-birth question in the 2011 Census questionnaires, migrants have been defined as persons who were enumerated in a district different from the one where they were born in. Based on this definition, 13.5 million persons, constituting nearly 10 per cent of the total population of 139 million were recorded as inter-district lifetime migrants.

The Census data also provides information on the reasons for internal migration; inter-district internal migration over the last five years; return migration from abroad, along with the reasons for return; and international migration, along with the reasons for immigration.

To access the Migration data tables of the Population and Housing Census 2011, click here (accessed June 7, 2017)

To view the chapter on internal migration in the Population Monograph of Bangladesh, click here (accessed on June 7, 2017)

Source: Population and Housing Census 2011
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS)

Migrating out of Poverty – Bangladesh Household Survey 2013

The Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium collected data on internal migration and remittances in Ghana, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe between 2013 and 2015 through comparable quantitative household surveys.
A total of 1,205 households in Bangladesh, of which 905 were households with migrants, were interviewed in 2013 as part of the survey.

To access the data files for Bangladesh, click here (accessed on August 8, 2017)



The source for internal migration data in Bhutan in the 2005 Population Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB).

Internal migration is captured in the Census through the place of birth approach, which counts persons enumerated in a place different from their place of birth as migrants. The Census also contains information the duration of stay in current place, the place of last residence and the reason for migration. A total 206,416 persons were enumerated as migrants in 2005 PHCB, constituting 32.5 per cent of the total population of 634,982.

Data on international out migration is calculated through a question on absent members of a household, with follow-up questions on the destination country and duration of absence.

To access the migration data tables of the 2005 PHCB, click here (accessed on June 7, 2017)



Government data on internal migration in India is mainly drawn from two main sources – the decennial population Census and the quinquennial migration surveys carried out by the National Sample Survey (NSS) Office. In both the surveys, a resident is defined as one who has been staying in a location for six months or more (except newly born infants).

Census of India

Migration in the Census of India is of two types – migration by place of birth, and migration by place of last residence. When a person is enumerated in Census at a place, i.e., village or town, different from her/his place of birth, she/he would be considered a migrant by place of birth. A person would be considered a migrant by place of last residence, if she/he had last resided at a place other than her/his place of enumeration.
Historically, information on migration has been collected since 1872. It was confined to seeking information only on place of birth till 1961. The scope of collecting information on migration was enlarged by including the rural or urban status of the place of birth and duration of residence at the place of residence in 1961. Since the 1971 Census, data is being collected on the basis of place of last residence in addition to the question on birth place. A question on ‘Reason for migration’ was introduced in 1981. The pattern adopted in 1991 and 2001 Census remained same as in 1981 except that in 2001 Census the rural urban status of place of birth was not collected. Also the category ‘Natural Calamities’ as one of the reasons for migration was excluded and a new reason ‘Moved at birth’ was added.

The Census also captures the reasons for migration. The following reasons for migration from place of last residence are captured: Work/ Employment, Business, Education, Marriage, Moved after birth, Moved with household and any other. In addition, the Census collects data on the age and sex of the migrant, its duration, place of origin, and the industry and occupation of the migrant; the results are available up to the district level. The Census 2011 has introduced the provision to specify the present name of the Village/Town of the Birth Place as well as the Place of Last Residence.

According to Census 2011 data, nearly 454 million people comprising 37.5 per cent of the population of India are internal migrants.

To view provisional data on migrants by place of last residence, age, sex, reason for migration and duration of residence in Census 2011, click here (XLS; 490 kB accessed on January 12, 2017)

To view data highlights of migration tables in the Census 2001, click here (PDF; 169 kB accessed on December 16, 2013)

The National Sample Surveys

The National Sample Surveys (NSS) use the UPR (usual place of residence) definition of the migrant. The NSS collects data on the age and sex of the migrant, reason for migration, its duration, place of origin, and the industry and occupation of the migrant. The NSS also collects additional data on items such as the consumption expenditure of the migrant’s household, educational attainment, activity, industry and occupation of the household at the place of origin, as well as remittances. Since NSS data are available at household and individual levels, it can also be cross-classified and analysed in detail. NSS results for migration are available till 2007–2008.

To access the meta data of the NSS 64th round (2007–08), click here

To access the National Sample Survey Office report based on the migration data collected in the 64th round, click here (PDF; 22 MB)

One of the main lacunae of both the Census and NSS surveys is their failure to adequately capture seasonal and/or short-term circular migration, and their coverage is best for permanent migrants and reasonably adequate for semi- permanent migrants. However, while the Census confines itself to only one definition of a migrant, the NSS has tried to collect information on migration flows from different perspectives.

The 64th Round of the NSS collects data on (i) migrants using the UPR approach; (ii) migrant households; (iii) out-migrating individuals; (iv) seasonal or short-duration migrants, that is, those who have migrated out for a period of more than one month but not exceeding six months, for employment; and (v) return migrants. However, except in the case of UPR migrants, strictly comparable estimates are not available from the earlier rounds. Despite improvement in coverage of seasonal/circular migrants, NSS estimates are still inadequate for such migrants for two major reasons. First, in many cases, the seasonal/circular migration cycle is longer than six months. Second, quite often, entire households and not individuals participate in seasonal migration.

Source: Ravi Srivastava, 2012, Internal Migration in India: An Overview of its Features, Trends and Policy Challenges, in National Workshop on Internal Migration and Human Development in India, Workshop Compendium, Vol. 2, New Delhi: UNESCO.

To read more, click here



The most comprehensive source of information on migration in the Maldives is the Population and Housing Census.  Maldives has been conducting censuses since 1911, with the first modern Census conducted in 1977. Censuses are generally conducted every five years. However, the 2005 Census was delayed to 2006 due to tsunami of 2004. The 2014 Census is the 29th Census of the Maldives, conducted after a gap of 8 years.

The measure of the migratory movement of the population is based on the comparison of data on the place of previous residence with the place of usual residence at the time of Census. Persons who have ever changed their island of usual residence are classified as migrants according to this definition. Lifetime migrants are also included in the 2014 Census. A life-time migrant is defined as one who was born outside their island of usual residence.

In the past censuses, foreigners residing in the Maldives were not included in the Census while Maldivians residing abroad were included. According to the international recom­mendations, only the population residing in the country should be included in the Census. The 2014 Census is making a substantial change in the population that is included in the Census, in order to move closer to the international recommendations for census taking. In the 2014 Census, to enable comparison with previous censuses, the Maldivians residing abroad were also included.

Census 2014 broadly measured internal migration through place of birth, place of registration, place of usual residence, reasons for migration and place of previous residence. It also includes data and information on international migration of foreigners to the Maldives and international migration of Maldivians abroad.

According to the 2014 Census, out of the 338,434 resident Maldivians, 147,883 persons or nearly 44 per cent of the population were lifetime migrants.

To view the final results of the 2014 Population and Housing Census, Maldives containing the informa­tion on migration, click here (accessed on June 7, 2017)

Source: Population and Housing Census 2014, Statistical Release II: MIGRATION
National Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Male’, Maldives



The main source of migration data in Nepal is the decennial population census, which was introduced in 1911. Detailed data on migration is however only available from 1961 onwards. The last three censuses (1991, 2001, 2011) followed the place of birth approach, that is, persons enumerated in a place different from their place of birth were counted as lifetime migrants. These censuses also included a question on residence at a fixed prior date.

The 2001 and 2011 censuses introduced a question on duration of residence, however a question on the place of last residence is not included. Due to this the Nepal census data fails to count persons who return to their place of birth after living in another place as migrants.

In 2011, the volume of lifetime migrants in Nepal was nearly 3.8 million persons, constituting over 14 per cent of its total population of 26.5 million.

Information on international migration from Nepal can inferred from a question on the status of presence at home, which records international migrants as ‘absent population’. Follow-up questions capture the sex, age, educational attainment, duration of absence, reasons for absence, and the destination country of the absentee. The 2011 Census recorded an absent population of 1.9 million, or 7.3 per cent of the total population.

To access the National Population and Housing Census 2011 questionnaires, reports and data tables, click here (accessed on June 7, 2017)

Source: Population Monograph of Nepal, 2014
Central Bureau of Statistics, Government of Nepal



Due to lack of data, the phenomenon of migration in Pakistan has not been extensively studied. The main sources of data on migration in Pakistan are the Population Census and the Labour Force Survey.

Population Census

The most recent available census data for Pakistan is from the 1998 Population Census. The results of the 2017 Census have not yet been released. The 1998 Census defines a migrant as an individual who has moved from one district to another in their lifetime. It only captures inter-district movement of the population, and does not provide information on the direction of movement. According to the results of the 1998 Census, a total of 10.8 million persons constituting over 8 per cent of the total population of 132 million were inter-district migrants. These migrants include 2.2 million individuals who were born in another country.

For information on Migrant Population by Place of Previous Residence and Migrant Population by Reason of Migration from the 1998 Census, click here

To access additional data from the 1998 Census, click here (accessed on Aug 6, 2017)

Labour Force Survey

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) provides information on inter-district movement, duration of residence, place of previous residence and the main reason for migration. The 2014–15 LFS is based on a representative sample of 42,108 households.

To access the migration data tables from LFS 2014–15, click here

For further information on Labour Force Statistics in Pakistan, click here (accessed on Aug 7, 2017)

Source: Rashid Memon, 2005, Determinants and Trends of Internal Migration in Pakistan, in International Labour Migration in Pakistan. Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization. Available here.



Census of Population and Housing

The 2012 Population and Housing Census of Sri Lanka provides information on internal migration on the basis of questions on the district of birth, the period of residence in the district of usual residency, the district of previous residency, and the reason for migrating.

A lifetime migrant is defined as one whose usual residence is a place other than the place of birth. Using this criterion, Sri Lanka has 3.4 million migrants, who constitute nearly 17 per cent of the population. This approach however fails to count those who have resided in another district, but have returned to their district of birth at the time of census enumeration as migrants.

The question on the district of previous residency provides a clearer picture of the number of actual lifetime migrants. Using this measure, 4.1 million persons, or over 20 per cent of the population have been classified as internal migrants.

To access the data table on migrant population and reasons for migration, click here (accessed on June 7, 2017)

Source: Census of Population and Housing Report 2012
Department of Census and Statistics, Government of Sri Lanka

Data on Displacement

UNHCR data suggests that the total population of concern in Sri Lanka was 185,863 at the end of 2016. This figure includes 39,370 internally displaced persons and 117,447 refugees originating from Sri Lanka.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimates that the stock of people displaced by conflict in Sri Lanka at the end of 2016 was 43,607. An additional 500,000 people were displaced by disaster in 2016.

To download UNHCR time-series data on total persons of concern in Sri Lanka from 1985 to 2016, click here, or visit the UNHCR database here (accessed on August 7, 2017)

To access the IDMC data on Sri Lanka, click here (accessed on August 7, 2017)