Yangchen C Rinzin 

The migration of people from rural to urban centres is no longer the largest flow of internal migration according to the Rural-Urban Migration and Urbanisation in Bhutan report.

National Statistics Bureau (NSB) report released yesterday stated that rural-to-rural migration has become the largest internal migration flow and migrant flows from urban areas to rural and other urban areas.

More than half (52 percent) of all recent migrants originating in rural areas did not move to an urban centre, but to another rural area and 47,000 people moved from rural to urban areas in the five years preceding the 2017 census. It was also recorded that another 29,000 moved in the other direction, from urban to rural areas in the same period.

Migration is a change of place of usual residence from one area to another and thereby crossing an administrative border according to NSB’s definition. While internal migration in this report refers to the migration between gewogs or towns.

The top reason for migration was related to employment.

Deputy chief statistical officer Pema Namgay said if a sole bread earner was transferred to a different workplace, the dependents migrate too, mostly for public servants. Other reasons for internal migration were education, training and marriage.

“The top three reasons for movement for men are employment, education and transfer. For women, the transfer of husband is the top reason followed by education and employment,” Pema Namgay said, adding 65 households in 13 gewogs and seven tshogpas were interviewed for the report.

The report stated that the government plays an important role in maintaining high levels of migration. “Migration related to education and training is strongly concentrated in the age group 10-24, migration related to employment was mostly among those in age group of 25 and 64, and marriage migration shows a moderate concentration in the age group of 20-34.”

The report has also observed a change in the pattern of internal migration where in the past, rural-to-urban migration made up the largest internal migrant flow, however, this was not the case anymore.

In the last five years before the 2017 census, more migrants moved between rural areas and increasing numbers were moving between urban areas. “The slowing down of net rural-to-urban migration has led to the urbanisation rates that have decreased since 2005 census.”

The report recommended the government deal with negative effects of rural depopulation, improve the urban sector to address unemployment in the urban, and improve statistics and administrative information.

“Government must implement effective policies to facilitate the creation of productive employment in the urban sector, particularly for young entrants to the labour market,” the report stated. “Town planning capacity should be sufficiently developed and implemented to avoid environmental degradation and inadequate infrastructure.”

The findings of the report also recommended re-allocation of government services from the capital and development of secondary and smaller towns, which would reduce pressure on land and services in the capital.

“The government should replace the current administrative population registration with a population register.”