Why and How Development Agencies Facilitate Labor Migration

Development agencies in high-income countries spend a large amount of both official development assistance (ODA) and other forms of financing on migration programming. While most of this spending is aimed at deterring migration, increasingly more is being focused on facilitating migration: to the high-income country itself; within and between low- and middle-income countries; and supporting people on the move and the diaspora. This paper, written by the Center for Global Development and Mercy Corps, aims to explore why and how development agencies in high-income countries facilitate labor, or economic, migration, and how they have been able to justify and expand their mandate in this area. Based on interviews with nine development agencies, we find that development agencies use a range of arguments to justify their work in this area, including supporting economic development and poverty reduction in partner countries while also meeting labor market demands at home or other countries. Yet expanding a mandate in this area requires substantial cross-government coordination and political buy-in, both of which are difficult to achieve. It also requires the ability to be able to use ODA to facilitate labor migration, which is currently up for debate. As development agencies seek to expand their work on labor migration, it will be necessary to define shared goals and start with pilot projects that focus on low-hanging fruit, while maintaining a focus on development and poverty reduction.

An earlier version of this paper incorrectly reported Ghana’s engagement with the Better Regional Migration Management program (Box 4). This version corrects that error.


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