Migration and development

The University of Sussex is ranked 1st in the world for Development Studies (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022). Our research on the interactions and intersections between migration and development is internationally-recognised; much of it has explored the ways in which migrants (and potential migrants) aspire to migration and mobility as a route out of poverty.

A migrant-worker picking strawberries in the USA

A migrant-worker picking strawberries in the USA (Photo: Mossholder, 2021)

Migration and development

Read more below about our current and past projects on the intersections between migration and development.

  • Inclusive Urban Infrastructures

    How is urban infrastructure provided in the Global South and how can the most marginalised, including migrants, benefit from it?

    The long-term goal of this project is to contribute to the inclusive provision of infrastructure to off-grid settlements in cities across Africa and Asia.

    You can read more at the Inclusive Urban Infrastructures website.

    Funder: GCRF/ESRC

    SCMR people: Michael Collyer, JoAnn McGregor

    Partners: Centre for Migration Research & Development (Sri Lanka); Development Governance Institute (Zimbabwe); Dialogue on Shelter (Zimbabwe); Durham University (UK); Institute for Development Studies (UK); Institute for Peace & Conflict Studies (Somaliland); International Centre for Climate Change & Development (Bangladesh); Ministry of Planning & National Development (Somaliland); PositiveNegatives (UK); SEVANATHA (Sri Lanka); Slum/Shack Dwellers International; Shushilan (Bangladesh)

    Project dates: 2020-2023

  • Thai Coast: Coastal Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation in Thailand

    The goal of the Thai-coast project was to improve scientific understanding of the vulnerability of Thailand's shoreline and coastal communities to hydro-meteorological hazards, including storms, floods and coastal erosion, under future climate change scenarios. 

    SCMR members were involved to provide a social science perspective on the effects of climate change, erosion and flooding on mobility and wellbeing.

    Read more about the project on the UKRI website.

    This project is an outcome of the Sussex-Mahidol Migration Partnership (SMMP).

    Funder: NERC

    SCMR people: Paul Statham, Charles Watters

    Partners: Edge Hill University; Tsinghua University; Nat Oceanic and Atmos Admin NOAA, USA; Chulalongkorn University; Thammasat University; Ambiental Technical Solutions Ltd; National Centre for Atmospheric Research, USA; Mahidol University

    Project dates: 2018-2022

  • "Selling Thai-ness" to Westerners

    This research studied the opportunities for, and social consequences, of “selling Thainess” to Westerners within Thailand’s strategy for tourist-driven development. We examined the opportunity structure for viable small-scale businesses, such as spas, or massage parlours, that sell distinctive “Thai” services and how entrepreneurs market “Thai-ness” as a cultural product for Westerners. We addressed the social consequences of selling “Thai-ness” for people (especially women) who work in this sector, and explored how “selling Thai-ness” works as a strategy for Thai women migrants in their efforts to improve their life chances in Britain.

    Read a journal article that resulted from this project. 

    This project is an outcome of the Sussex-Mahidol Migration Partnership (SMMP).

    Funder: British Academy

    SCMR people: Paul Statham, Sarah Scuzzarello

    Partners: Mahidol University

    Project dates: 2018-2022

  • Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium

    The Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium was a multidisciplinary, multi-country partnership. It focused on the relationship between internal, regional and international migration and poverty. It was funded by UK Aid, from the UK government's Department for International Development, Research and Evidence division (now, FCDO).

    Migrating out of Poverty was coordinated by the University of Sussex and collaborative research was undertaken with partners in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.  The consortium emerged from a previous 6-year research programme on migration and development led by SCMR members, funded by DFID, the Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty.

    Read the final report.

    Read more about the Migrating out of Poverty on the MOOP website.

    Funder: FCDO (DFID)

    SCMR people: Priya Deshingkar, Anne-Meike Fechter, JoAnn McGregor, Michael Collyer, Julie Litchfield, Dorte Thorsen, Alan Winters

    Partners: The African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa; The Centre for Migration Studies at the University of Ghana; The Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa, Ethiopia; L'université Assane Seck Ziguinchor, Senegal.

    Project dates: 2010-2019

  • Brokered Migration for Domestic and Construction Work in Ghana and Myanmar

    Migrants are often portrayed as victims without agency, their migration through brokers is labelled as trafficking and their working conditions as tantamount to slavery. Children, and especially girls, are constructed by policy makers and development practitioners as incapable of making decisions and assessing migration risks themselves.

    The research built on extensive research on migration into low-skilled occupations in Ghana and Myanmar to understand the infrastructure of brokerage and how migrants view the process. 

    Read a journal article that resulted from this project.

    See the project website.

    Funder: British Academy

    SCMR people: Priya Deshingkar

    Partners: Centre for Migration Studies, University of Ghana; International Organization for Migration, Myanmar

    Project dates: 2017-2019

  • Capitalising Human Mobility for Poverty Alleviation and Inclusive Development for Myanmar

    The Capitalising Human Mobility for Poverty Alleviation and Inclusive Development for Myanmar (CHIME) study addressed the knowledge gap on labour migration and its relationship with poverty and development in four areas in Myanmar. CHIME employed a mixed-methods design, including a quantitative household survey and qualitative in-depth interviews.

    The household survey identified growing levels of out-migration from rural households in all surveyed regions and states, with approximately a quarter of all households surveyed having at least one migrant. Migrants were also typically younger (in their 20s), moving primarily for work, and that there was a low incidence of return.

    Read the project report on the LIFT website.

    Funder: Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT)

    SCMR people: Priya Deshingkar, Julie Litchfield

    Partners: Metta Development Foundation; International Organization for Migration (IOM)

    Project dates: 2016-2018

  • Migrants on the Margins

    Migrants on the Margins was the Royal Geographical Society's flagship field research programme. It was collaborative project that investigated the movement of migrants into and around four of the world’s most pressured cities: Colombo in Sri Lanka, Dhaka in Bangladesh, Harare in Zimbabwe and Hargeisa in Somaliland. The research team adopted a comparative approach to look at the opportunities available to migrants in order to better understand their experiences and vulnerabilities.

    Project key findings show the incredible challenges of living in the neighbourhoods studied. The research also highlights the impact of clear gender differences in men’s and women’s roles in communities, as well as the effect of evictions and tenure security on residents, and how people can easily become ‘trapped’ within these neighbourhoods.

    Read the project report and other outputs on the Migrants on the Margins Website.

    Under the umbrella of the Migrants on the Margins programme were two additional ESRC-funded projects, led by SCMR members: 

    Funder: RGS / ESRC

    SCMR people: Michael Collyer, JoAnn McGregor, Dom Kniveton

    Partners: Durham University; SOAS, University of London

    Project dates: 2016-2018

  • UNEP International Resource Panel (Migration and Natural Resources)

    The Panel’s mission is to provide independent, coherent and authoritative scientific assessments of policy relevance on the sustainable use of natural resources and, in particular, their environmental impacts over the full life cycle; and contribute to a better understanding of how to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.

    SCMR member Professor Dom Kniveton is a panel member specialising in Natural Resources and Migration.

    Read more about the panel on the UNEP Resource Panel website.

    Funder: UN

    SCMR people: Dominic Kniveton

    Partners: UNEP

    Project dates: 2020 - ongoing