Migration for Sustainable Development

Click on a development sector or a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and scroll down to explore its migration linkages, relevant Global Compact for Migration (GCM) Objectives, data and measuring tools, case studies and resources. 

Human mobility affects and is affected by all development areas: for example, healthy and educated migrants and displaced persons can more easily participate in and contribute to society and migrants with regular status have improved access to decent and safe work. Migration is a global phenomenon affecting all countries and its effective governance needs global partnerships.

To create the future we want and need, we must empower migrants to fulfil their development potential, which can, in turn, have positive ripple effects for communities locally, regionally and globally. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent our global effort to progress towards prosperous and healthy societies. Migrants have a critical role to help fulfil the promises of these Goals; indeed, SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) calls for the promotion of safe, orderly and regular migration. The Global Compact for Migration (GCM) sets out a roadmap to help us do exactly this. Read more about M4D and our approach.


Migration, industry, private sector development and trade are inextricably linked. When enabling conditions are in place, private sector development and trade are vital for inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Well-managed migration has a role in this dynamic and can be leveraged for sustainable development. Migrants can be facilitators of trade and investment in goods and services, by connecting countries of origin, transit and destination through trade routes and business linkages. This can improve and broaden market access, increasing demand, strengthening value chain linkages and lowering expenses. Migrants may also be direct providers of goods and services that are subsequently traded across borders, or they may generate demand for goods and services in countries of destination and transit, thereby encouraging trade from countries of origin.

Migrants can also be agents for private sector development at all stages of migration, from pre-departure to return. They can directly start private enterprises and/or support existing enterprises through start-up or growth financing. They also contribute knowledge and skills transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship. As the private sector is the largest employer of migrant workers, well-managed migration can also match skills to fill labour market gaps in countries of destination and respond to labour market surpluses in countries of origin.

But the links between the private sector development and trade interventions and migration don’t stop there. They are context-specific but often cross-cutting with other sectoral areas such as:

  • Education: Migrants and displaced people not only need access to schools and vocational training, but their existing skills and certifications must be recognized in destination countries. This recognition, along with skills and vocational training, especially for women migrants and cross-border traders, can allow migrants to fully leverage their human capital and entrepreneurial capacity to innovate private sector enterprises and open new avenues for trade. (In line with SDGs 4, 5 and 8)
  • Employment: Migrants and displaced people fill crucial private sector labour needs. Effective protection of their labour rights can allow them to fully contribute to private sector development. Migrants can facilitate trade, which in turn promotes economic growth and creates livelihood opportunities. And migrants, especially migrant entrepreneurs, can be job-creators, providing livelihood opportunities for migrants and communities. (In line with SDGs 5, 8 and 10)
  • Environment and climate change: Migrant workers and migrant owned enterprises must not be overlooked in green growth opportunities. Migrants must be re-/up-skilled, building on their existing skills, experiences and innovation, to adapt to the transition to green economies. (In line with SDGs 8, 9 and 13)
  • Security: Integrated border management services can promote safe migration and protect migrant rights, while also lowering barriers to cross-border and regional trade. Efficient trade across borders depends on the regular movement of persons, which in turn relies on coherent procedures and cooperation across border authorities (including customs, immigration, health, among others). (In line with SDGs 16, 17)
GCM Objectives

Private sector development and trade and its important role in migration governance is recognized primarily in Objective 18: Invest in Skills and Development and Facilitate Mutual Recognition of Skills, Qualifications and Competences, but also has strong relevance in other objectives, including notably Objective 11: Manage Borders in an Integrated, Secure and Coordinated Mannger. For a full list of Objectives relevant to private sector development and trade, please see the icons below, and learn more from the UN Network on Migration's GCM Booklet and  Migration Network Hub.

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With enabling conditions, private sector activities and trade can promote socio-economic development and mitigate adverse drivers in local communities.

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Regional and transborder infrastructure can facilitate the safe, orderly and regular movement of people, which in turn promotes new and stronger trade relations.

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Private sector actors are often key advocates for enhancing regular pathways for migration, with a view towards labour market skills matching.

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Skills development, especially for youth and returnees, can ensure migrants and displaced people are able to meet labour and skills demand.

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Awareness raising in the private sector, including for recruitment agencies, on decent work and ethical recruitment can ensure rights are protected and best able to contribute to sustainable development. 

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Migrants foster trade by developing links between communities of origin, transit and destination, while innovating supply chains and generating demand for new products. Similarly, migrants in highly technical private sector roles can engage in knowledge transfer to support entrepreneurs and private sector actors in communities of origin.

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An integrated border management approach is crucial to allow small cross-border traders, many of whom are women, to move regularly in their daily work.

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Private sector actors typically provide remittance services, so strong partnerships with the private sector can increase access to remittance sending and lower remittance costs.

Data & Measuring Results

For the latest data on migration, industry, private sector development and trade interventions check out: 

Infographic on human mobility and industry, private sector development, and trade, based in SDG 9.


Developed under the Mainstreaming Migration into International Cooperation and Development (MMICD) initiative, the Toolkit on Integrating Migration into Private Sector Development and Trade Interventions helps integrate migration into any stage of the Intervention Cycle. The toolkit includes practical tools for practitioners including for measuring results, such as a Theory of Change and Indicator Bank.

What SDG 9 targets are relevant for migration?

  • 9.1 Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all 
    • Generating domestic employment and decent work through infrastructure development, and addressing unemployment as a potential driver of migration. 
    • Facilitating the participation of migrant groups in infrastructure development employment, including by helping provide adequate skills and training. 
    • Ensuring infrastructure, especially transborder infrastructure, is affordable and equitable to all migrant groups. 
  • 9.2 Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and, by 2030, significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, in line with national circumstances, and double its share in least developed countries 
    • Generating domestic employment and decent work through inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and addressing unemployment as a potential driver of migration. 
    • Facilitating the participation of migrant groups in industrialized employment, including by helping provide adequate skills and training. 
  • 9.3 Increase the access of smallscale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets. 
    • Expanding access of all migrant groups and migrant-founded enterprises to financial services, including refugee and returned migrant enterprises.
Case Studies

How do migration and the private sector development and trade interventions truly impact people’s lives? Joji is a return migrant from the Philippines who was a financial advisor in Canada. Upon return, harnessing the skills she developed abroad, she started a social enterprise to contribute to peacebuilding. She is now expanding her business by training local farmers to grow, sell, and trade their own coffee and improve sustainable livelihoods.

This video is a part of a #MigrationConnection series that have been produced by IOM through the “Mainstreaming Migration into International Cooperation and Development” (MMICD) initiative funded by the EU.


Key resources on migration and private sector development and trade interventions: