People on the Move: Advancing the Discourse on Migration & Jobs

9 December 2018

JJN released its signature volume for 2018, People on the Move: Advancing the Discourse on Migration & Jobs, which brings together insights from multiple countries and contexts.

More people in the world are migrating than ever before. And the reasons run the gamut from choosing to seek opportunities away from home to having no other options. While migration isn’t a bad thing, it is associated with a lack of opportunity in migrants’ places of origin and new challenges at their destinations. As migration becomes the norm, who is responsible for managing it?

JustJobs Network (JJN) partnered with the Centre for Policy Research and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung to host a conference about Building Jobs Ground Up: Forging Place-Based Solutions to the Jobs Crisis this year. At the conference, JJN also released its signature volume for 2018- People on the move: Advancing the discourse on Migration & Jobs, a volume that brings together insights from multiple countries and contexts.

One cross-cutting question has emerged in all the research and discussions around migration: To help people sustain livelihoods either in their place of origin or their new destination, how can we build on workers’ strengths, government resources for service delivery, and the private sector’s ability to create growth?


One way is through public-private partnerships (PPPs). By pooling public and private funds and reducing risk such as transaction costs over multiple years, PPPs can bring solutions within reach for seemingly intractable problems. Where can they make a difference in the migration and jobs discussion, and what are their limitations? A closer look at PPPs in agriculture and transportation suggest that they can address major challenges related to migration, but policy-makers need to create appropriate legal structures and protections.

Agriculture: Strengthening livelihoods at home

In many developing countries, agriculture employs more people than other sectors. Many aspire to leave the low prospects of subsistence farming. As countries become more developed, they shift away from agriculture into high-growth sectors like services. This can happen quickly—since 2000, the share of people working in agriculture in South Asia has fallen by 28 percentage points. But for those who remain, high debt and the inability to make a living persist. It is not surprising that young people would want to leave behind the perceived lack of opportunity in rural communities.

How can government and the private sector help rural communities strengthen livelihoods closer to home? PPPs in agriculture are fairly new. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the goal is to modernize the agriculture sector and help smallholder farmers make a sustainable living, which is no easy task. FAO studied how governments and agribusiness companies in 15 countries have partnered to support value chains, innovation and technology transfer, market infrastructure, and business services for farmers.

What are the benefits? FAO found that smallholder farmers can increase their incomes, via better access to markets, higher productivity, and better-quality products or lower costs from adopting new technologies. What’s more, these gains can spur more employment. Private firms can increase sales and market shares. Public-sector partners can improve their project management skills and public institutions.

Could PPPs stem migration from rural areas? FAO found that PPPs are very dependent on the strength of local policies for land access, contracts, and other structures to encourage investment. Transparency in selecting private partners and mechanisms to protect farmers and resolve conflicts are important. PPPs require a baseline level of local capacity and may not be practical for all contexts, which could leave out the most vulnerable farmers who need support the most. But where sufficient conditions exist, PPPs could help to reduce flight to urban areas by raising career prospects in agriculture.

Transportation: Improving prospects for urban migrants

How can PPPs make a difference for urban migrants? Migrants to urban areas face a host of challenges to decent employment, from sub-standard housing to a lack of networks. One major constraint is finding reliable transportation to work that’s also affordable, especially on a low income.

Here, too, PPPs can help governments address the high costs and risks of building large-scale infrastructure. In a study of transport PPPs in six cities in Asia and Latin America, Willoughby (2013) found that despite multiple setbacks, partnerships improved transport and poorer people’s access to work and services. In addition, both the private and public sectors increased their technical and managerial capacities. Similar to FAO’s findings, regulatory structures for land use and investments, consultation mechanisms, and transparency are critical for results.

Public transportation represents a classic case of market limitations in delivering a public good. A recurring theme from the conference was the key role of infrastructure—either as a means to improve livelihoods, or as a barrier to investment and job growth when absent. PPPs can create the inputs that workers and employers need for growth at the local level.

In summary, PPPs can be a triple-win for workers, governments and the private sector. Through improving capacities, PPPs can also force the public and the private sector to be more responsive to the needs of local communities. For successful PPPs, policy-makers, civil society, and the private sector need to press for clear regulatory structures, especially around land use and protections of all parties.

These types of studies, together with the findings from the JustJobs Network volume on migration and the joint conference, could serve as a foundation for discourse on migration and jobs. Case studies and research also help to outline priorities and next steps for policies that could improve the lives of migrants and their communities.
References Elder, Sara. (2018). Asia-Pacific employment and social outlook 2018: Advancing decent work for sustainable development. Bangkok: International Labour Organization.

Dewan, S. and Randolph, G., eds. (2018). People on the move: Advancing the discourse on migration & jobs. JustJobs Network Inc.

Rankin, M., et al. (2016). Public-private partnerships for agriculture development. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization.

Willoughby, C. (2013). How much can public private partnership really do for urban transport in developing countries? Research in Transportation Economics. 40 (1): p. 34-55.