|Institute for Social and Economic Change|
Migration, Informal Work and Urban Poverty:
|Seminars and Training||
However, the divergence of perspectives on urban poverty is fairly stark. According to the World Bank and other international agencies, the poor are urbanizing faster than other sections, and while urbanization entails gains for the poor, the gains are not large enough for the previously poor new urban residents to escape poverty. Thus the migration process puts a brake on the decline in urban poverty incidence, even when total poverty is falling. In fact, for many countries, rising or stagnant urban poverty is “only the other side of the coin to what is in large part a poverty reducing process of urbanization”. On this view, then, urban poverty is rising, but as part of the story of falling overall poverty, and urbanization remains a powerful tool of poverty reduction.
If the role of migration in explaining urban poverty is contested, as outlined above, the structural roots of urban poverty provide even greater challenges for urban scholars. Much of the World Bank and similar studies have gone in the direction of seeing urban poverty within the overall framework of governance, service delivery and infrastructural issues. On the other hand, the co-relation of poverty with the structure of work, has led other scholars to the domains and dynamics of urban informality and to what extent informal work itself underpins urban poverty.
Informality, again, is a contested terrain. Some scholars have seen informality as, potentially at least, positive ( efficiency enhancing), and to the extent that it has negative consequences (insecurities and vulnerabilities), these can be addressed by some kind of regulation; Ravi Kanbur, for example, sees informality as a trap only in some sectors, and not something that cannot be addressed. On the other hand, scholars such as Kalyan Sanyal have seen the informal sector as structured by the particular pattern of economic growth that is taking place as a result of the globalization of capital. Barbara Harriss-White, underlining that capitalism structures poverty in the current scenario, has also drawn attention to the ways in which caste, gender and religion continue to play central roles in confining certain categories to informal work. Yet others have drawn attention to the need for state sponsored social insurance in a context where the growth of the informal sector in a market-driven economy is pretty much inevitable.
This conference perceived itself at the intersection of these varying perspectives on migration, urban poverty and informality. In particular we have addressed critical issues such as:
The conference had two principal objectives; first, to facilitate dialogue across disciplines of the social sciences -- demography, economics, sociology, political science -- amongst scholars engaged in migration and poverty studies. Secondly, to bring together migration and urban poverty scholars across the spectrum, that is, those who focus on macro, national or even cross national data, and those who are engaged in ethnographic work. Thus a forum was created where the relative importance of local, national, global perspectives were discussed; that is, what are the questions - both academic and policy - which can best be addressed by macro level analyses, and what issues are best addressed by studying the local. In building bridges across these different domains understanding of urban poverty in each discipline was enriched by learning from others
Dialogues were also created across the divergent perspectives outlined at the outset of this note:
The conference brought together scholars working on these issues who presented their most current research on migration and urban poverty which were spread across in seven technical sessions.
Three Key note addresses were presented at the conference:
The Inaugural session of the conference was Chaired by Prof. K R S Murthy, Chairman, Board of Governor, ISEC. Prof. R S Deshpande, Director, ISEC, welcomed the participants and the Chief Guest of the conference was Shri Sanjeev Kumar, Principal Secretary, Dept of Planning, GOK.
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