Poverty reduction and social development

Migration and Development: EADI Conference 2008


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On 27 June 2008, the OECD Development Centre organised a session at the 12th General Conference of EADI on "Migration and Development: Policy Coherence and Effective Partnerships". The session took stock of what we know about the effects of migration on development and distilled from that knowledge a set of policy recommendations for sending and receiving countries. Participants shared their specific country or regional experiences to illustrate the mechanisms that link migration and development, in particular related to labour-market effects, the brain drain, remittances, Diaspora networks and return migration.

  • Chair: Ibrahim Awad (ILO)
  • Speakers: Denis Drechsler (OECD), Bachir Hamdouch (Université Mohammed V) and Binod Khadria (Jawaharlal Nehru University)



Denis Drechsler gave an overview of the migration-development nexus. Based on the Development Centre publication on "Migration and Developing Countries", he highlighted important links through which migration can contribute to development: notably through changes in labour supply, productivity gains and remittances. However, he also emphasised that migration might contain risks for developing countries, especially if governments fail to adapt to the changes that are implied by migration (e.g. replacement of needed human resources). Click here to download the presentation.


Bachir Hamdouch presented experiences from a migrant sending country, focusing his intervention on Morocco. Many of the findings of other developing countries also apply to Morocco, notably the fact that low-skill migrants disproportionately contribute to development in their home countries by transfering more remittances than the highly skilled. Furthermore, Morocco has seen an increase in the skill level of migrants, which supports the thesis that the prospect of migration can give an incentive for people to seek higher education.


Binod Khadria explained the changing attitude towards migration in India, where the discussions have evolved from focusing on the "brain drain", to becoming a "brain bank", to achieving a "brain gain". As a large country with excellent educational facilities it is not surprising that Indian migrants rank highest in terms of educational attainment and income in many countries, notably in the United States. As regards recipient countries, he noticed a partial opening towards selective migration. For example, the "fortress Europe" has recently begun to re-thinking its migration policy with the Blue Card initiative, aimed at attracting high-skilled migrants. Click here to download the presentation.



The presentations were followed by a lively debate on the relative merits of migration for development. Below are a couple of the arguments that were discussed:

  • Most remittances are sent by workers with low-skilled jobs which also contribute the most to poverty reduction in the countries of origin
  • The concepts of “brain drain” and “brain gain” are not clearly defined, and are still being controversially discussed
  • Migrants often do not want to return to their countries of origin due to a lack of flexibility of social security mechanisms
  • What constitutes a high-skilled, skilled and unskilled worker needs to be defined more clearly
  • The migration of the highly skilled does not automatically lead to development and might even imply some labour market imbalances
  • International migration is increasing and migration flows are more and more difficult to measure, in particular as a result of temporary and circular migration
  • The EU migration policy is ambiguous. On the one hand, migration of the highly skilled is facilitated through the Blue Card initiative. On the other, migration of unskilled workers tends to become more difficult
  • The competition between the US und the EU for high-skilled migrants influences their immigration policies
  • The development impact of migration focuses strongly on remittances flows. Related questions of interest were the influence of Diaspora networks and the social costs of migration
  • Destination countries and migrants' countries of origin should cooperate more closely to maximise the benefits from migration
  • It should be taken into account that migration has long-term implications




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For more information, please contact Estelle Loiseau (estelle.loiseau@oecd.org; +33 1 45 24 95 59).