Research Topic

The Well-being of International Migrants in Rural Areas: Bridging the Migration-Development Nexus

About this Research Topic

Two parallel narratives have characterized the debates on international migrants as agents of development, both of which privilege instrumental perspectives. These narratives highlight, on the one hand, migrants’ contribution to development and poverty alleviation in their countries of origin through remittances and return migration; and on the other, their contributions to economic growth and addressing skills shortages/gaps in the context of declining fertility rates and an ageing population in destination countries. These demographic shifts are identified as posing particular challenges for rural areas in the Global North, but also increasingly in the Global South. Against this background, two contrasting yet persistent tropes of migrants as either essential to plugging labour shortages/skills, or as taking jobs and resources away from ‘locals’ are continually reinforced. This has resulted in contradictory discourses, initiatives and experiences of welcoming and exclusion. Significantly, in destination countries these narratives privilege a one-dimensional view of migrants as primarily economic beings resulting in a neglect of their well-being and human rights.

This Research Topic seeks to focus on migration to rural regions and communities, which have tended to be neglected in migration scholarship in the Global North. Similarly, the scholarship of rural development has rarely considered the contribution of migrants – the migration-rural development nexus.

Rurality in this context is understood as relational, stretching within and across national spaces and embodying notions of race, ethnicity, social class, nationhood, gender, and age among other markers, all with varying impacts on migrants’ lives as well as on long-term residents of rural communities.

The last decades have witnessed an increase in the range and scope of literature on international migration, including migration to rural regions, to towns within large metropolitan regions and to countries with little or no previous experience of international migration. Rural regions are where the instrumental argument for international labour migrants has at times been most prominent (especially but not exclusively in the Global North). Against the background of a growing older population, low fertility rates and high levels of out migration of youth and the economically active, international labour migrants are identified by governments and employers as being critical in meeting labour shortages and skills in sectors such as the agri-food business, forestry and services sectors. They are also seen as important in countering demographic decline and supporting the overall sustainability of rural communities. The diversity of both rural communities and international migrants globally calls for detailed case studies and comparative approaches that help in understanding how broader processes of change are experienced by different populations in a range of locales. Despite ‘development’ being a contested concept and the emergence of a strong critique of the migration-development nexus, rural development scholarship has rarely problematised the role of migrants. Furthermore, the empirical evidence concerning the rural development-migration nexus (e.g. the contribution of remittances to development in the country of origin) is widely acknowledged as being equivocal and there is a dearth of information on how the varied legal and governance regimes in destination countries impact on international migration trends and migrants to rural and urban areas. The prevailing instrumental discourse, towards notions of ‘inclusive growth’ and development leading to a ‘win-win’ for destination countries and countries of origin, tends to be characterized by a distinct lack of due care to the well-being and human rights of international labour migrants, as well as the social and emotional consequences of migration for the relationships, households and communities of those who have migrated and those who are left behind.

The overall aim of this Research Topic is to enhance and strengthen the evidence base and knowledge of the migration-rural development nexus. In particular we encourage an interest in (i) posing new research questions by engaging with analytical discussions, and by drawing on empirical approaches to illuminate and develop a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between migration and rural development and the consequences for migrants and non-migrants; (ii) strengthening the evidence base by drawing on national and transnational comparative studies as well as by paying attention to intersectional identities. Possible areas to explore (without being limited to these areas) might include the following:

What is the contribution of international migrants to rural development? How is it / should it be measured?

What difference does attention to international migration to rural communities make to the scholarship of rural development?

How does a critical perspective on the migration-rural development nexus contribute to the sustainability of rural communities?

What does inclusive rural development in countries of origin and host communities imply, and what does it mean for migrants as well as local host communities?

Which migrants and non-migrants are made visible–invisible in rural development discourses? What are the consequences for both migrants and non-migrants, and for rural development? What are the human rights consequences of invisibility/visibility?

What is the impact of different legal regimes in destination countries on migrants? How do visa ( e.g. special, temporary and permanent) requirements differ within and between countries and rural vs urban communities, and why?

What are the social determinants of well-being for international migrants to rural areas? How do different visa requirements within and between destination countries impact on their rights and well-being?

In what ways does migration contribute to change in local rural communities in countries of origin and destination countries?

What are the strategies and experiences of transnationalism in the lives of migrants to rural communities?

What is the contribution of critical perspectives, strategies and initiatives to addressing demographic trends and challenges: e.g. attraction and retention of internal economically active migrants; utilizing the skills and experiences of older people, etc?

Contributions should not exceed 10,000 words including tables, figures, and references. All contributions will be reviewed in a single-blind process. Deadline for submissions will be 30 June 2020.


Keywords: Migrants, Rural, Development, Host communities, Well-being, Human rights, Economic growth, Social change, Demography, Remittances


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Two parallel narratives have characterized the debates on international migrants as agents of development, both of which privilege instrumental perspectives. These narratives highlight, on the one hand, migrants’ contribution to development and poverty alleviation in their countries of origin through remittances and return migration; and on the other, their contributions to economic growth and addressing skills shortages/gaps in the context of declining fertility rates and an ageing population in destination countries. These demographic shifts are identified as posing particular challenges for rural areas in the Global North, but also increasingly in the Global South. Against this background, two contrasting yet persistent tropes of migrants as either essential to plugging labour shortages/skills, or as taking jobs and resources away from ‘locals’ are continually reinforced. This has resulted in contradictory discourses, initiatives and experiences of welcoming and exclusion. Significantly, in destination countries these narratives privilege a one-dimensional view of migrants as primarily economic beings resulting in a neglect of their well-being and human rights.

This Research Topic seeks to focus on migration to rural regions and communities, which have tended to be neglected in migration scholarship in the Global North. Similarly, the scholarship of rural development has rarely considered the contribution of migrants – the migration-rural development nexus.

Rurality in this context is understood as relational, stretching within and across national spaces and embodying notions of race, ethnicity, social class, nationhood, gender, and age among other markers, all with varying impacts on migrants’ lives as well as on long-term residents of rural communities.

The last decades have witnessed an increase in the range and scope of literature on international migration, including migration to rural regions, to towns within large metropolitan regions and to countries with little or no previous experience of international migration. Rural regions are where the instrumental argument for international labour migrants has at times been most prominent (especially but not exclusively in the Global North). Against the background of a growing older population, low fertility rates and high levels of out migration of youth and the economically active, international labour migrants are identified by governments and employers as being critical in meeting labour shortages and skills in sectors such as the agri-food business, forestry and services sectors. They are also seen as important in countering demographic decline and supporting the overall sustainability of rural communities. The diversity of both rural communities and international migrants globally calls for detailed case studies and comparative approaches that help in understanding how broader processes of change are experienced by different populations in a range of locales. Despite ‘development’ being a contested concept and the emergence of a strong critique of the migration-development nexus, rural development scholarship has rarely problematised the role of migrants. Furthermore, the empirical evidence concerning the rural development-migration nexus (e.g. the contribution of remittances to development in the country of origin) is widely acknowledged as being equivocal and there is a dearth of information on how the varied legal and governance regimes in destination countries impact on international migration trends and migrants to rural and urban areas. The prevailing instrumental discourse, towards notions of ‘inclusive growth’ and development leading to a ‘win-win’ for destination countries and countries of origin, tends to be characterized by a distinct lack of due care to the well-being and human rights of international labour migrants, as well as the social and emotional consequences of migration for the relationships, households and communities of those who have migrated and those who are left behind.

The overall aim of this Research Topic is to enhance and strengthen the evidence base and knowledge of the migration-rural development nexus. In particular we encourage an interest in (i) posing new research questions by engaging with analytical discussions, and by drawing on empirical approaches to illuminate and develop a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between migration and rural development and the consequences for migrants and non-migrants; (ii) strengthening the evidence base by drawing on national and transnational comparative studies as well as by paying attention to intersectional identities. Possible areas to explore (without being limited to these areas) might include the following:

What is the contribution of international migrants to rural development? How is it / should it be measured?

What difference does attention to international migration to rural communities make to the scholarship of rural development?

How does a critical perspective on the migration-rural development nexus contribute to the sustainability of rural communities?

What does inclusive rural development in countries of origin and host communities imply, and what does it mean for migrants as well as local host communities?

Which migrants and non-migrants are made visible–invisible in rural development discourses? What are the consequences for both migrants and non-migrants, and for rural development? What are the human rights consequences of invisibility/visibility?

What is the impact of different legal regimes in destination countries on migrants? How do visa ( e.g. special, temporary and permanent) requirements differ within and between countries and rural vs urban communities, and why?

What are the social determinants of well-being for international migrants to rural areas? How do different visa requirements within and between destination countries impact on their rights and well-being?

In what ways does migration contribute to change in local rural communities in countries of origin and destination countries?

What are the strategies and experiences of transnationalism in the lives of migrants to rural communities?

What is the contribution of critical perspectives, strategies and initiatives to addressing demographic trends and challenges: e.g. attraction and retention of internal economically active migrants; utilizing the skills and experiences of older people, etc?

Contributions should not exceed 10,000 words including tables, figures, and references. All contributions will be reviewed in a single-blind process. Deadline for submissions will be 30 June 2020.


Keywords: Migrants, Rural, Development, Host communities, Well-being, Human rights, Economic growth, Social change, Demography, Remittances


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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