Types of Mobility of Labour

Mobility of labour means movement of labourer/worker. Labour is geographically and occupationally mobile and land is geographically immobile but occupationally mobile thus labour is more mobile than land. However labour is less mobile than capital as it is attached to land, family and home, environment etc. and therefore unwilling to move.

Mobility of labour is,“The degree to which people are able and willing to move from one occupation to another, from one industry to another or from one area to another in order to work” or “the capacity and ability of labour to move from one place to another or from one occupation to another or from one industry to another .”

We need to encourage labour mobility as a key part of a healthy growing economy.

Mobility of Labour is of Two Types

1] Geographical mobility.

Geographical mobility is the actual or physical movement of labour from one place to another. Therefore geographical mobility of labour is, “People are willing to move between within a country or from one country to another in order to take a new job”

eg when a workers moves from Delhi to Mumbai or from India to England.They often have to take a new home in order to take up work.

2] Occupational mobility:

Occupational mobility is the movement of labour from one occupation or profession to another. Therefore occupational mobility of labour is, “People are willing and able to move from one occupation / job to another” or “the ease with which a workforce can switch industries, retrain for new jobs and transfer to other sectors”

eg a coal miner becomes a salesman. The job may be different from their earlier or the existing one.

eg consider ice delivery or typewriter repair a hundred years ago, before the advent of the refrigerator and the computer, these jobs were plentiful and important. As technology evolved, these jobs evaporated. People who had delivered ice or repaired typewriters had to find new jobs in new industries in order to earn incomes. This may have required most if not all of these workers to learn new skills and persue other interests. The degree to which they were able to “jump” to new industries easily was a sign of a country’s occupational mobility of labour

Occupational mobility of labour is important because it helps the economy to grow and protects it from the downturns. When labour is able to move from one industry/job to another relatively quickly, unemployment reduces and productivity increases.

When occupational mobility of labour does not exist, workers tend to rely on one skill set and cannot change jobs easily or at all.

There are two types of occupational mobility.

a. Horizontal mobility: labour moves from one occupation to another without change of the nature of work, status and authority of worker, though it may involve a change in skill and nature of work. Therefore horizontal mobility of labour is, “Horizontal mobility refers to the movement of labour from one occupation/ job to another in the same grade or level”

Interdepartmental transfers are examples of horizontal or lateral mobility of labour.

eg. a manager in a government firm becomes a manager in a printing firm, Doctor in a government hospital opens his own dispensary, a bank clerk joins as an accountant clerk in another company.

b. Vertical mobility: Change from one occupation to another and from a lower position to a higher one. This change brings about the change in the nature of work, authority, status and salary of the worker. Therefore horizontal mobility of labour is, “Vertical mobility refers to the movement of labour from one industry/occupation/job to another at a higher grade and status”

e.g. an accountant becomes a chief accountant in another firm, a schoolteacher becomes a principal in another school, a clerk becomes a manager, a fitter leaving a steel mill and joining an automobile factory etc.


Vertical mobility is more difficult than horizontal mobility. It requires higher efficiency, skill and training; greater experience, improvement in production of worker.


Geographical mobility and Horizontal mobility are not exclusive. They may co-exist in relation to same factors e.g. a professor from one college may become a professor in another college.

Factors that move freely are said to have mobility.

Posted in General Economics