Independent child migrants in developing countries: unexplored links in migration and development

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This paper focuses on independent migrant children, defined as below 18 years old, who choose to move from home and live at destinations without a parent or adult guardian. It summarises quantitative and qualitative research, and uses this to reflect on research agendas and global debates towards linking migration and development. The paper surveys historical evidence on linkages between children's migration and societal development in earlier periods of modernisation, and identifies parallels to contemporary developing countries. The contemporary situation in developing countries is described in terms of: (1) numerical scale; (2) individual and family characteristics of the children involved; (3) decision-makers and decision-making processes in children's movements; (4) why it happens, including from children's viewpoints; (5) modes of movements; and (6) situations of children at destinations. The paper considers the extent to which children may demand migration opportunities, and how this demand may be met partly with forms of movement specific to children. Research strategies are discussed to provide a bridge to development issues, including conceptualization of children's independent movements, children's labour migration, migration statistics and selection of who migrates. A final section draws on the review to reflect on global debates in child development and societal development