Research Themes


Urbanization and Development

Development Finance

Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources

Inequality, Poverty, Social Protection and Social Policy

Rule of Law, Governance, Institutions and Development

Human Capital Formation, Education and Development

Labor Markets, Employment and International Migration

Labor Markets, Employment and International Migration

[Multi-cultural markets resulting from international migration, London.]

For a very substantial part of the population in the developing world, labor remains the main source of income. In this context, ensuring that workers have access to good quality jobs is becoming a prerequisite to improving standards of living and lift people out of poverty. The recent global financial crisis on the other hand led many governments in the developing world to adopt policies, gradually shifting from those focused on income protection towards those seeking to bring individuals back to work. Yet, developing countries should not lose track of the medium-term agenda, which focuses on structural problems that keep the majority of the labor force in low productivity jobs while lacking access to social protection.

This is becoming a central issue particularly in countries with young populations, where the number of youth entering the labor market for the first time is growing rapidly. In this regard, specific policy interventions will need to consider differences in initial conditions, including levels of economic and institutional development and demographic structures. Important challenges here include inter alia: reducing distortions that negatively affect investment, the creation and growth of firms, or innovation; facilitating transitions into self-employment; upgrading the skills of the labor force and addressing constraints affecting its mobility; improving the matching of skills and jobs; and extending the coverage of social insurance programs to the unorganized sector. It is also becoming imperative that we need more and better research on the above issues in developing countries.

Finally, important developments in recent years on the international migration front are expected to have far reaching implications for the labor markets of both source and destination countries of migrants. Needless to say, these implications go well beyond the labor market sector and affect the whole development process. In this context, it remains vital to do further research on the determinants of international migration, shed more light on the overall developmental impacts of migration (thus moving beyond traditional approaches focusing only on the economic impacts of migration) and on the policies to be adopted so as to facilitate the migration process and the flow of capital in the form of remittances arising from migration.

Key research questions include: (non-exhaustive list)

  • What do we need to know about the mechanisms and the policies that facilitate the overall process of job creation in the developing world?
  • How the rise of the emerging big economies in the South is expected to affect global labor markets and what the implications will be for the labor markets of the low income countries?
  • What are the mechanisms to enhance the numerous positive effects of international migration?
  • How can we evaluate how migration as a whole affects development as a whole?
Related GDN Activities

In GDN's program, Development on the Move (implemented from 2007-2009), teams based in seven developing countries examined a wide range of impacts of migration on socio-economic development in their countries and designed appropriate policy responses. Read more.