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Migration as opportunity: innovation, policies and practice

Working papers

Written by Nicole Johnson, Kate Rist

Hero image description: A migrant worker harverts dates in Bahrain Image credit:ILO/Apex Image Image license:CC BY-NC 2.0

Migrants already make significant socioeconomic contributions in host countries and countries of origin, but more can be done to optimise these contributions and remove the barriers to achieving them. This working paper reviews existing practice and proposes a typology to identify the different types of programmatic and policy intervention that can maximise migration’s socioeconomic benefits – described here as ‘productive migration’ interventions. Building on this, the paper presents a series of shared challenges and next steps for practitioners and policymakers seeking to advance programming in this area.

Key messages

  • There is a broad spectrum of policies and programmes that aim to make the most of human mobility in host countries and countries of origin, facilitating migrants’ socioeconomic contributions and, ultimately, development outcomes.
  • These interventions fall into two categories: those that seek to introduce new migration pathways or expand existing ones; and those focused on maximising migrant communities’ socioeconomic contributions.
  • Current practice provides a strong foundation, but more can be done to optimise migrants’ contributions, remove barriers and scale up impacts.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to build new momentum, placing human mobility at the heart of the global recovery.
  • Future interventions should begin from an understanding of the political economy in specific contexts, address policy barriers to migrants’ contributions and focus on building trust between diverse stakeholders.
  • Interventions should be designed with outcomes in mind and embed a clear focus on upholding migrants’ rights, alongside wider vulnerabilities and inequalities.

Christopher Smart and Karen Hargrave with Nicole Johnson and Kate Rist