Is there a Secret Weapon for Fighting Poverty?

Every so often the international development blogosphere starts talking about labor migration. It’s been obvious for years that it brings cash into the lives of poor people faster than any development intervention we’ve come up with yet. It’s not targeted, it’s not systemic, and it’s not sustainable in any traditional sense. But it works.

In my current country of residence, Tajikistan, remittances are equal to 40-50% of the nation’s GDP.

A blog post that went up yesterday on a World Bank blog points to a new paper on evaluation of a seasonal worker program in the Pacific. It comes out very powerfully in favor of seasonal migration for poverty alleviation. Here’s the graph:

Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?

I think this gives us a lot to think about in terms of development. There are solid arguments in favor targeted development interventions. Off the top of my head– not everyone can migrate for work, it has a powerful destructive effect on families, and improving private incomes doesn’t necessarily lead to improved infrastructure. But if we just get out of people’s way and let them change their own lives, they can do it.

Exciting, isn’t it?!