Decent Rural Employment


The majority of migrants worldwide, about 763 million, move within their own countries rather than abroad. A large share of migrants come from rural areas. They move from one rural area to another or from rural to urban areas. People decide to migrate for many reasons. Individuals and families consider factors such as risks, aspirations and socio-economic conditions. For many, migration is a way to cope with unemployment, food insecurity, poverty, or vulnerability to climate change. For others, it is an effective livelihood diversification strategy to adapt to the seasonality of agriculture. In recent years, demographic forces, globalization and climate change have been increasing the pressure to migrate both within and across countries.

Migration poses challenges and opportunities for food security, sustainable agriculture and rural development. For instance, losses in human capital and agricultural labour may have negative impacts on crop production and food availability. On the other hand, people who migrate may be able to escape poor living conditions, reduce pressure on resources in the places they leave behind and support rural areas of origin through transfer of skills, know-how and  remittances to family back home. Furthermore, migrant workers play an essential role in agri-food systems and ensuring food supplies. Fostering rural-urban socio-economic linkages; enhancing and diversifying employment opportunities in agri-food systems and green sectors, especially for women and youth; helping the poor to better manage risks through social protection; and leveraging remittances for investments in the rural sector can be effective strategies for improving livelihoods, increasing resilience and addressing the adverse drivers of migration. At the same time, it is key to facilitate better mobility between rural and urban areas, and between sectors of the economy to enhance the benefits of migration and its contribution to agriculture, rural development and climate adaptation.

The role of FAO:

When well managed, migration can have far-reaching potential for migrants as well as their communities, countries of origin and destination. FAO aims to harness these opportunities in the interest of rural poverty reduction and food security. In particular, FAO works to:

  • Develop more evidence on the impact of rural migration and remittances on food security and rural livelihoods. FAO builds and disseminates knowledge on migration drivers, patterns and impacts to inform policies that affect the lives of migrants, their communities and countries.
  • Strengthen policy dialogue and coordination across key sectors and stakeholders. FAO works closely with governments and civil society, including producers’ organizations and migrant networks, to promote policy options that address the adverse drivers of migration and facilitate safe rural mobility. It also supports the inclusion of migration issues into agriculture and rural development strategies.
  • Develop technical and functional capacities of stakeholders at regional, country and community levels on rural migration and to support the preparation, implementation and evaluation of evidence-based policies, projects and programmes.
  • Increase advocacy and outreach to help shape emerging global, regional and national agendas on migration and raise awareness of the critical role migration plays in agriculture and rural development, and the need to improve outcomes for migrant workers in agriculture.
  • Contribute to international cooperation mechanisms such as the UN Network on Migration FAO engages with partners such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Bank and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to promote migration for development.

Facts and figures

  • In 2019, there were 272 million international migrants, comprising 3.5% of the global population. This figure refers to the stock of migrants and includes all the people who were living in a country other than where they were born (UN DESA PD, 2019/IOM, 2019). 

  • The number of internal migrants, globally, is higher than international migrants, at over a billion  internal migrants according to the estimates from the 2018 SOFA. In low-income countries, internal migrants are five times more likely to migrate internationally relative to individuals who have not migrated at all (FAO, 2018).

  • Women account for almost half of all international migrants (UN DESA PD, 2019/IOM 2019).

  • One-third of all international migrants are aged 15-34 (UN DESA PD, 2017).

  • In 2019, 79.5 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution, including nearly 26 million refugees, 4.2 million asylum-seekers and 45.7 million internally displaced persons. 40 percent of the world’s refugees are children. 80 percent of the world’s displaced people are in countries or territories affected by acute food insecurity and malnutrition (UNHCR, 2019).

  • 40 percent of international remittances are sent to rural areas, indicating the rural origin of a large share of international migrants (IFAD, 2017).

  • In the first half of 2020 alone, disasters displaced 9.8 million people and remained the leading trigger of new internal displacements globally (IDMC, 2020b).