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Call for Proposals: Value Chain Analysis of Recruitment Costs

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Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development
Thematic Working Group on Low-skilled Labor Migration

Call for Proposals: 
Value Chain Analysis of Migration Cost


The Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) is a global hub of knowledge and policy expertise on migration and development issues. More specifically, under the auspices of the Thematic Working Group (TWG) on low-skilled labor migration, this research will conduct a value chain analysis of migration costs that occur in the migration cycle including the process of recruiting low-skilled expat workers. The analysis would delve into migration streams, in order ultimately to identify costs at each stage and thus help analyze winners and losers from lowering migration costs. This work will complement the TWG’s on-going work on measuring migration costs of low-skilled labor migrants (through migrant surveys), serve as a conceptual framework to analyze migration cost data, and help identify policies and strategies to reduce migration costs – with a view to adopting it as a global policy agenda.


This study aims to provide a methodological framework for conceptualizing a more holistic, end-to-end migration process of low-skilled workers. It involves not only efficiently moving a worker (recruiting him/her) from a country of origin to a country of destination, but also incorporating and actively engaging a broader set of stakeholders in a wider range of activities including recruitment fees and administrative costs.

While definitions may vary, migration costs here refer to financial costs that a low-skilled labor migrant and his(her) family members incurred at each stage of the labor migration cycle – job offer, recruitment/ deployment, employment, and return. Personal networks, technology (including communication) and employment services would be support inputs that influence migration costs.

This value chain analysis will map the actors in the chain and their functions as well as their interrelationships, and thus help better understand costs arising at each point in the chain. Key actors vary at each stage of the migration cycle – e.g., migrant workers and their families, migrant-sending and receiving governments, recruiters, intermediaries in the recruitment process, marketing agents in the country of destination and employers.

The study shall highlight policy, institutional and infrastructural settings as well as governance structures that influence migration costs. More specifically, the study will aim to identify causes for migration costs – such as inefficiency in administrative procedures, market failures (e.g., competition and information asymmetry), regulatory capture and other rent seeking behaviors. This will help identify areas for necessary regulatory reforms and policy interventions, as well as the role of supporting/facilitating organizations and institutions at local /regional/national levels.

The conceptual framework may focus on specific occupations in destination countries which have a high concentration rate of low-skilled migrant workers such as construction, domestic works and agriculture. It may also look into specific migration corridors – e.g., workers from Bangladesh to United Arab Emirates for employment, from Yemen to Saudi Arabia and from Mexico to the United States.

Scope of the Study

The study will conduct a comprehensive value chain analysis using disaggregated data to the extent possible. It shall cover the following, but not necessarily limited to:

  1. Set out the conceptual framework of the labor migration cycle and identify costs/ fees (see Figure 1 below for information).
    1. Within the framework, identify a typology of various labor migration streams which can be predetermined by bilateral labor arrangements between parties.
    2. Map various inputs to the respective value chain such as actors involved, governance and power structures, job order/ deployment procedures and processes, actors who bear costs, information and knowledge flows to interested parties. Actors may include  institutions, civil society organizations and private sector  for a selected value chain and their involvements may vary from national to regional/local levels and can contribute to reducing migration costs
    3. In relation to the mapping, determine the “length” of each type of a value chain – including the categories of intermediaries, and the number of steps involved for an employment abroad.
  2. To the extent possible, quantify volume, costs, additional fees, and income generated at different levels of value chain. In other words, identify costs incurred by the employers, recruiters, brokers, sub-brokers (agents) and migrants at each point of the value chain. These costs arising at each stage of the value chain could involve payments in exchange of services, job order, job information, documentation, and any other payments to brokers and sub-brokers.
  3. Costs can be put it in the context of wage differentials: wage differentials multiplied by the contract duration. Quantify how wage differentials between countries of origin and destination are distributed to actors involved at each stage. This may involve economic analysis, including identifying marginal values added along the chain including income.
  4. Discuss constraints and opportunities at each stage of the respective value chain and identify leverage points to reduce migration costs.
  5. Identify elements for improved enabling environments for low-skilled labor migration - migration policies, recruitment/ deployment regulations, financial development, labor protection and rights (including labor contracts), visa regimes, wage differentials, and role of civil society organizations.
  6. Illustrate the value chain using a case study.
  7. Recommend priority areas for reforms and policy interventions to increase efficiency in the system and reduce migration costs incurred by workers.

This study is limited to regular low-skilled labor migration.


The research paper will be disseminated through a KNOMAD conference, tentatively planned in end May 2015. The venue is yet to be determined. The participation of various types of stakeholders (academics, practitioners, government officials and development partners and others) in the conference with diverse range of disciplinary and professional backgrounds is likely to result in improved understanding on the need for generation of quality data, further research and appropriate policy making.

Research Proposal Format

Interested research/ practitioner teams are invited to submit research proposals by 25 January 2015 Dilip Ratha ( and Soonhwa Yi (, the KNOMAD Secretariat, the World Bank. The researchers of selected proposals will be notified by 30 January 2015 and the first drafts of the papers will need to be submitted by 15 April 2015.

Terms of KNOMAD grants shall be specified in each contract, including milestones, deliverables, delivery dates, and installments. This research grant does not award overhead.

KNOMAD strongly encourages proposals from research teams that consist of diverse regions of the world and that include academics and practitioners. Preferences shall be given to those with track record in value chain analyses and in analyzing the migration cycle.

Proposals should be in English and should not exceed 5 pages (at 1 line spacing and 12 point font).

Proposals should concisely and clearly describe:

  1. Research question, motivation, objectives, and methodology (including focus group interviews).
  2. Research activities
  3. Relevant literature review
  4. Team composition indicating a principal research and add a CV of each team member.
  5. Indicative budget
  1. Track record in value chain analysis (experience in leading several work related to value chain analysis) and with good understanding of migration processes, including recruitment, employment, remittances, and return/ reintegration.
  2. Expertise in international recruitments of low-skilled workers a plus.
  3. Proven research skills, preferably demonstrated by previous work involving field research on migration and recruitment services.


Dilip Ratha

Lead Economist and Economic Adviser to the Vice President of Operations, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, World Bank

Soonhwa Yi

Senior Economist, Development Economics – Global Indicators Group (DECIG), World Bank

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