Migration is generally defined as a geographical form of population movement involving change of usual place of residence. It is a geographical mobility of a person of group from one place to another particularly with the intension of permanent settlement. Lee, “Migration broadly considers it as a permanent or semi-permanent change of residence with no restrictions on the distance involved In movement”.

The UN multilingual Dictionary, “Migration is a form of geographical mobility between one geographical unit and another, generally involving a change in residence from the place of origin or place of departure to the place of destination or place of arrival.” Bouge, “Migration to only those changes of residence that involve the complete change and readjustment of community affliction of the individuals.”

Causes of Migration

Push factors

  • No possibility of economic improvement
  • Lack of peace and security
  • Situation of poverty
  • Lack of physical infrastructure
  • No opportunities of education, health, employment etc
  • Lack of fertile land
  • Slow or no development of market and lack of appropriate environment for investment.

Pull Factors

  • Possibility of economic improvement
  • Provision of education, health, employment opportunities, technical education etc.
  • Good provision of peace and security
  • Attraction of friends and relatives
  • Fertile land
  • Development of physical infrastructure
  • Provision of market
  • Opportunities of business
  • Appropriate environment of investment

Types of Migration

Internal migration: - Internal migration is associated with change of usual place of residence within the national boundary.

  • Hill to Terai migration
  • Rural to urban migration
  • Rural to rural migration
  • Urban to urban migration

International Migration

  • Emigration/ Out migration
  • Immigration/ In migration

Consequences of Migration

Positive consequences

  • Improvement in economic condition
  • Increasement of individual achievement
  • Cultural change
  • Growth in social prestige
  • Creation of cultural syncretism

Negative Consequences

  • Decrease in social prestige, norms and values
  • Separation from relatives, family and ethnicity
  • Less sense of social security
  • Imbalance distribution of population
  • Pressure on physical infrastructure in destination place
  • Different type of social problems arises
  • Uneven distribution of population.

Historical Trend of Migration

Historical trend of Internal Migration: - Historically Nepal has witnessed three distinct trends of internal migration. The first wave of internal migration came during the unification of Nepal by King Prithivi Narayan Shah and his successors until the early eighteen century. Internal migration in this period was mainly under the compulsory labour services imposed by the then rulers, called Jhara labour, in which youths were used for different purposes such as transport of military and other supplies, construction of temples, palaces, bridges, forts, etc. Jhara labour was a kind of forced and generally unpaid labour.

Jhara labourers were frequently required to leave their villages to provide services in distant communities. The second Trend of internal migration emerged in the mid-50s with the implementation of the state sponsored resettlement programme of hill people to Tarai. The main objective of the resettlement programme was land colonisation of Tarai and increased agricultural production. Launched by Rapti Valley Development Project (RVDP) and Nepal Resettlement Company (NRC), the resettlement programme continued until the late 80s in Chitwan and Nawalparasi. Many hill migrants who could not receive land under the project also encroached upon forest land of Chitwan, Nawalparasi and Rupendehi. Under the RVDP, 5,233 households were settled in Rapti Valley of Chitwan.

In addition, an estimated 7,000 families settled spontaneously each year in the Tarai region. NRC settled 1,504 families in Nawalparasi and there were more than 10,000 spontaneous settlements. Likewise, as of early 1988, the NRC settled 4,026 migrants under the Dhanewa project. The Third Trend of internal migration emerged with the socio-economic transformation of the country. With the advent of democracy in 1951, the country embarked upon planned economic development of the country. This required increasing investment in various sectors of the economy, such as expansion of roads and transport, development of agriculture, health, education, and industrial development.

It can be inferred that people from less developed areas started migrating to more developed areas, especially to areas where there was better infrastructure and economic opportunities. After the restoration of democracy in 1991, the country witnessed a rapid increase in the volume of internal migrants. The Third Trend of internal migration emerged with the socio-economic transformation of the With the advent of democracy in 1951, the country embarked upon planned economic development of the country. This required increasing investment in various sectors of the economy, such as expansion of roads and transport, development of agriculture, health, education, and industrial development.

Trends in life-time migration

A person is a lifetime migrant whose current area of residence is different from his area of birth, regardless of intervening migrations. In Nepal, the 1961 census collected data on internal migration for the first time. The volume of lifetime migrants in Nepal for the last 50 year period from 1961-2011 by districts, and 3 ecological zones. There were 422,402 inter-district lifetime migrants in 1961, which increased to 3,788,049 in 2011. This shows nearly a nine-fold increase in the number of inter-district migrants during 1961-2011 in Nepal. The 1971 census counted a total of 506,925 inter-regional migrants, which, with an increase of 5.2 fold reached 2,654,047 in 2011. During the same period, the number of inter-zonal life-time migrants increased by 4.7% from 445,128 in 1971 to 2,088,170 in 2011. The inter-district lifetime migration line rises slowly until 1991 and then gets stepper thereafter, implying a more rapid increase in the number of lifetime migrants after 1991.

Rural-urban Migration

From the 2001 census data has indicated that, in Nepal, the major streams of internal migration are rural-to rural (68.2%) and rural-to-urban (25.5%). Urban-to-urban (2.8%) and urban-to-rural (3.5) are of lesser importance. The 2011 census also shows that rural-to-rural migration still predominates over other streams. But compared to the 2001 census, there has been a noticeable decline in the proportion of migrants who move from rural to rural areas (68% in 2001 to 59% in 2011) in 2011, with a corresponding increase in the proportion who move from rural to urban areas (25.5% in 2001 to 33.5% in 2011). The 2011 census further reveals that of the total migrants who originated from the rural areas of mountain and hill districts, more than 60% went to rural areas of other districts in other regions. As compared to other regions, the predominance of rural-to-rural migration stream was exceptionally high in mountain region (89%) in 2001. Tarai experienced a significant reduction in the scale of rural-to-rural migration stream during 2001-2011 (78% in 2001 and 50% in 2011). Hill region, on the contrary, shows an apparent increase in the scale of rural-to-rural migration stream (52% in 2001 and 62% in 2011).

International Migration

International migration in Nepal started with the recruitment of physically strong youth by the British Army. Later on it became a “Lahure” culture, that is, In the 19th Century, Nepali (Gurkhas) were recruited to serve in the British Army and British India, while recently, during the latter part of the 1990s, Nepali began to migrate increasingly to the Gulf countries for work. Recently, Nepal has observed a rapid increase of absent population over census periods. In the 2001 census, 762,181 persons were reported to be absent. The figure went up to 1,921,494, more than doubled in 2011. The emigration rate for 2011 is estimated at 10.77 per thousand populations, whereas the immigration rate for the same period stands at 0.46 per thousand populations.

The 2011 census recorded households with absent populations. The data revealed that, one in every four households (25.42%; 1.38 million households) reported that at least one member of their household was absent or living out of the country. The percentage of absent population going to India sharply decreased in 2011, from 77% in 2001 to 38% in 2011. However, the volume of absent population going to India has increased, from 589,050 in 2001 to 722,256 in 2011, which is an increment of 1.2%. One of the reasons for the dramatic percentage decrease is the growing number of youths tending to go to other countries. Among the total absentees in India, 605,869 (83.9%) were males whereas 116,362 (16.1%) were females. While more males (75.4%) were destined for private jobs, almost one third (32.2%) of female absentees were found to be dependents. Proportionately more females (14.2%) were found to go abroad to study than males (5.8%).

Trend of foreign born population in Nepal

Information on both foreign-born populations and foreign citizens are available from the 1961 census. The figures collected so far by the various censuses of Nepal indicate a fluctuating trend. Whereas initially in 1961, the percentage of foreign born population of the total population was nearly 4%, it decreased to 1.6% in 1981, before increasing to 2.4% in 1991, 2.7% in 2001 and 1.8% in 2011. Immigration is largely dominated by persons whose birthplace is India, over 90% as recorded in every census. In 1961, 324,159 of the foreign born population were from India. This figure increased to 449,149 in 2011, 94% of the total foreign-born population. This heavy domination is due to the open border between Nepal and India and the official and non-official social, cultural and economic ties that have prevailed between these countries historically. The majority of the foreign-born population stay in Nepal for more than a decade (54%), followed by 1-5 years (17.3%) and 6-10 years (14.7%). Fewer males (47.7%) tend to live in Nepal more than 10 years than females (56.6%), which indicates that marriage is the main reason for staying in Nepal for females.

Opportunities of Migration

Migrants arrive with skills and contribute to human capital development of receiving countries. Migrants also contribute to technological progress. Understanding these impacts is important if our societies are to usefully debate the role of migration.

  • Young People gain more skills though education
  • To earn higher wages
  • Get good exposure
  • Increase living standard
  • To get access of good facilities


  • Absence of employees opportunity
  • Scarcity of health and education services
  • Unequal distribution of people