Using a primary data set comprising the worklife histories of 90 child labour migrants from Coastal and Central Karnataka who migrated to Mumbai, Bangalore and other destinations sometimes between 1935 and 2005, we study persistence, change and spatial variation in the incidence and causes of child labour migration, in the nature of intrahousehold agreement and dissent that preceded these migration events and in the workplace experiences and other migration outcomes awaiting these very young migrants.
While migration prior to 1975 mostly was from the Coastal belt, often was prompted by financial distress and usually involved migration to small South-Indian eating places in Bombay, more recent migration frequently involves educational misfits. Inspite their young age when leaving home, our informants typically regard migration as a transformative and attitude changing experience that opened new avenues for acquiring work-related and other skills, languages included.
This transformative scope varies across time, destinations and occupations and is intimately linked to leisure becoming a reality. Particular limitations are identified for those who migrated early, for agricultural labourers whose social lives often were confined to caste fellows from the same or nearby villages and for girls working as domestic servants. We illustrate how early migrants to Bombay were uniquely placed in that migration for work improved their educational opportunities. Their accounts of the Kannada Night Schools they attended are a useful corrective to official documents and evaluations.