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Abstract

This paper is concerned with circular migration between the agriculture and construction sectors in Karnataka, South India. It analyses the class and household-based outcomes of migration during the 2000s between Karnataka’s poorest district and the building sites of Bangalore – a city seen internationally as one of the epicentres of globalisation in South Asia. Its central argument is that migration’s spatial extension of exploitation slightly shifts the balance of class forces in favour of the labouring class in source areas. 62 percent of households are found to gain from migration, but better design and implementation of welfare policies intended for migrant labourers (primarily those relating to health) would significantly increase migration’s contribution to labouring class socio-economic and socio-political mobility. Positive outcomes are restrained, though, by the broader social relations of production and the ways in which capital shapes the outcomes of public policy. It is found that class-based impacts and household investments in productive assets are greater in villages with higher levels of migration and socio-economic and socio-political inequality, whilst household gains amongst unskilled labourers are more likely where socio-economic inequalities are lower.

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