The 10th South Asia Economic Policy Network Conference on Migration in South Asia

The Office of the Chief Economist for the South Asia Region is pleased to announce the 10th South Asia Economic Policy Network conference. Twice a year, for this conference, we invite research papers from the region and beyond on the topic of the upcoming South Asia Economic Focus, our bi-annual economic update for the region. In preparation for the Fall 2022 South Asia Economic Focus, the topic will be on “Migration in South Asia”.

Internal and international economic migration, largely temporary in nature, is a major factor in the lives of the poor in South Asia, helping millions of households improve their lives by enabling large remittance inflows and insurance from local shocks, and through the contribution of return migrants to local economies. The act of migration entails potentially high returns but also considerable risks and costs. It is undertaken in conditions of limited information, poor access to finance, and weak institutional safeguards. At the same time, there is great potential to reduce vulnerability and to maximize the benefits of migration for workers from South Asia. Different countries in the region are implementing and developing policies and programs that can be taken at all stages of the migration life cycle, including after return, to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of migrating for migrants themselves, their families, and the home economy. Oftentimes, these new initiatives have to address a range of issues, and balance different trade-offs to address information gaps on employment opportunity overseas at the departure stage, and to prepare migrants adequately for their experience overseas.

Parallel to such economically motivated labor movements within and out of the region, there is also substantial forced displacement within South Asia, linked to issues of fragility, conflict, and violence. In the eastern part of the region, both Afghanistan and Pakistan have substantial populations of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) due to conflict, with Pakistan also hosting substantial numbers of Afghan nationals displaced by conflict, some historically, and others more recently. Bangladesh also hosts a substantial population of Rohingya forcibly displaced from Myanmar due to conflict in Rakhine. Many countries in the region are also experiencing substantial risk of extreme weather events and other climate shocks due to climate change, exacerbating movements due to climate shocks.

The first year of the COVID-19 crisis was a major shock to migration in South Asia. Facing lockdowns, job loss and other difficulties in their host locations, many poor migrant workers were left stranded or returned earlier than planned. However, the pandemic has persisted for almost two years – and is expected to create continuing economic and social disruptions in the near future. Despite that, much of the evidence on the impacts of the crisis on migrants and their households still only dates from the first few months of the crisis. More recent development and longer-term impacts are not well understood. The COVID crisis has also brought to the fore several long-standing policy concerns related to economic migration in South Asia, such as migrants’ access to public services and social assistance, the credit and labor market frictions that impede migration, and the potential negative spillovers of migration on home locations. It has become more urgent than ever to build the evidence base on economic migration in South Asia and bring it to the attention of policy makers.

Against this backdrop, the World Bank, the Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS) and the South Asia Economic Policy Network are organizing a conference on “Migration in South Asia” in November 2022 and invite papers addressing one of the following (or related) questions:

  • What are the causes and consequences of internal and international economic migration in South Asia?
  • How has the COVID-19 crisis affected economic migration in South Asia and what will the post-COVID normal look like?
  • How are economies responding to the challenges and opportunities of international migration in the future, such as the reintegration of returnees, and development of new corridors?
  • What are the trade-offs in different migration-related policies, and how are governments choosing to manage these trade-offs?
  • How have economies and communities been affected by forced displacement (including displacement due to climate shocks and conflict), and what have been the policy responses?
  • What can policy makers do to make economic migration more productive and safer?

Location: Hybrid - Kathmandu, Nepal

Dates: November 7, 2022 - November 8, 2022