Studies under this theme relate to population, demographic changes, labour, nature of employment, diversification of economic activities and migration. The Institute has made significant contribution in these areas, especially during the 1980s and 1990s. The interest in labour issues stems from a concern about the process of informalisation of the labour and production systems and the insecurities arising in the labour market as a consequence of this. An understanding of the micro-processes of diversification of economic activities has been an important contribution. In the wake of economic reforms, jobs in the formal sector are shrinking and people are increasingly being pushed into the informal economy. Consequently, the working and living conditions of the workers are deteriorating. The role of the state in the provision of certain basic securities is also undergoing change. Social security to informal workers and the institutional mechanisms required to deliver have been a related area of enquiry at the Institute. The links between the formal and informal economy and the contribution of the latter to the national income are other major areas of concern.

In these areas the Institute has been active in influencing the systems of data collection. It has undertaken methodological studies on collection of data on child labour for the International Labour Organization and employment in the informal sector for the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India. Further, on the request of the International Labour Organization, Geneva, a research methodology has been developed to assess the implications of a disaster, such as the earthquake, on livelihoods of the people.

An emerging aspect has been to study international migration to trace social, economic, cultural and political influences through remittances, social spending and norms setting. Issues concerning the rise of migrant workers and child labour, often due to fast urbanization, have prompted research contributing to both policy and improved methodology in obtaining and analyzing information.

Urban services and aspects of urban economy and governance have been an important emerging area of research at the Institute.