Migration and development

To make the most of migration, developing countries need a more coherent policy agenda, says new OECD Development Centre report


New York City – 17 February 2017 - Migrants make a positive contribution to development in both their countries of origin and destination as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises. Yet, this contribution remains limited in many cases. One reason is that public authorities are often unaware of the effects of migration on their areas of competency and, conversely, of the effects of their policies on migration. Developing countries therefore need a whole-of-government approach in which migration becomes an integral part of their development strategies, argues a new OECD Development Centre report.

Interrelations between Public Policies, Migration and Development (IPPMD) is the fruit of four years of fieldwork, empirical analysis and policy dialogue conducted in ten low and middle-income countries: Armenia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, Georgia, Haiti, Morocco and the Philippines. Overall, more than 20 500 households, representing about 100 000 individuals, were interviewed during this ambitious study, co-funded by the European Commission. The findings build on innovative household data that, for the first time, combine questions related to migration and to public policies. Ultimately the OECD Development Centre will make the final data publicly available as part of a pioneering and unique online database.

The OECD Development Centre IPPMD report, launched at the United Nations headquarters in New York City during the 15th Coordination Meeting on International Migration, examines how migration affects key policy sectors, especially the labour market, agriculture, education, investment and financial services, and social protection and health. It also analyses how sectoral policies influence different migration outcomes, such as the decision to migrate or return, the use of remittances and the integration of immigrants in host countries.

The way sectoral policies affect migration is not straightforward, but strongly depends on the country context and the conditions of implementation of those policies. A one-size-fits-all solution does not exist to curb – or encourage – migration flows, turn remittances into productive investment or better integrate immigrants into host societies. The report highlights that the objectives of migration and policies in other sectors need to be aligned with each other. In fact, the lack of policy coherence can even bring unintended effects and undermine the effectiveness of public policies.

One expectation, for example, is that investing in vocational training might reduce migration outflows. Yet, the report shows that in most countries the share of people planning to emigrate is higher amongst those who benefit from vocational training. When the training does not match the needs of the local labour market, beneficiaries tend to look for employment opportunities abroad. On the other hand, by providing better information on domestic job opportunities, government employment agencies improve the functioning of a country’s labour markets, which tends to curb emigration.

Similarly, money transfers by migrants, which constitute an important source of development finance for developing countries, often fail to stimulate long-term development. This is the result of inadequate supporting policies: while remittances represent on average 8% of GDP across the IPPMD countries, few households actually use these remittances to invest. This is often explained by inefficient and non-inclusive financial institutions as well as the lack of financial education. It is striking that less than half of the households interviewed have access to a bank account, and less than 10% benefitted from financial training in the five years preceding the survey. These low rates of financial inclusion and literacy represent a missed opportunity when it comes to channelling remittances towards productive investment.

Likewise, immigrants could bring more benefits to their countries of destination with the right policies in place. The fact that many immigrants in developing countries do not have regular status, or do not benefit from formal labour contracts and social protection, represents an obstacle to their integration. It also translates into lower levels of investment. In countries such as Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire and the Dominican Republic, immigrant household heads with regular migration status are more likely to own a business.

Overall, the IPPMD report concludes that policy makers should aim at creating an environment where people migrate by choice, not by force, and where those who migrate can positively contribute to the development of both their countries of origin and destination. In this respect, it is a mix of migration and non-migration policies that makes migration work for development. A more coherent policy agenda requires that policy makers avoid operating in silos and do more to integrate migration into development strategies. This involves not only adopting specific initiatives focused on migration and development, but also including migration in the design, implementation and evaluation of all relevant sectoral policies.


  • To obtain a copy of the report or for further information, journalists are invited to contact David Khoudour (; +33 (0)1 45 24 16 10) at the OECD Development Centre.





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