PEP-PAGE project

Estimating the effects of emigration and remittances on the left-behind in Cambodia

While their results show that emigration and remittances have positive impact on poverty headcount (reduction of 2 to 5%) in Cambodia, the researchers also find that they can, in turn, generate a “dependency effect” among left-behind members, due to a decrease of 5 to 9% in hours worked by (employed) adults in the migrant-sending household, as well as a decrease in the total salary earnings. Find out more below and/or through the PEP publications: working paper 2015-06 and policy brief 119

Context, issues and objectives

This project examines the effects of emigration and remittances on welfare and productivity of left-behind housedholds in Cambodia.

In 2012, nearly 60 million workers emigrated from Asia to other parts of the world searching for better livelihood and higher earnings; together, these migrants have remitted approximately 260 billion USD to their countries/households of origin. Cambodia is among the top four remittance-receiving countries in ASEAN - behind the Philippines, Vietnam and Timor-Leste.

More than half of the population in these countries live in rural areas, and international remittances play an important role in the livelihoods of these households. 


Migration, however, can also be « in-country », as a migrant is defined as a person who has left the household for more than six months to live or work elsewhere, either internally or abroad.

In 2008, remittances contributed about 3.4% of Cambodia’s gross domestic product, equivalent to 325 million USD. 80% of migration in Cambodia is « internal », and essentially a rural phenomenon – with people moving from less-developed rural provinces to Phnom Penh. Albeit still relatively small (20%), international migration has also been growing, mostly to neighboring Asian countries.

This project investigates the impact of emigration and remittances on both the well-being and livelihood of left-behind household members in Cambodia (through various outcome variables), while differentiating between migration and remittances - as the two may have distinct socioeconomic impacts, especially on migrant families and the village of origin.

Research method and key findings

To do so, the researchers apply the specific analytical technique of "propensity score matching" (PSM) on micro data from the 2009 Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey (CSES), which includes a sample of 15,000 households. The PSM technique allows them to use counterfactual information to be able to compare outcomes between households with and without migrant member(s).

From this analysis, the researchers find that both emigration and remittances have positive impact on poverty headcount in Cambodia. The results indicate that households with at least one migrant member (with or without receiving remittances) can reduce their headcount poverty rate by 2 to 5%, as compared to "non migrant-sending" households. However, the results also show that emigration and remittances can, in turn, generate a “dependency effect” among left-behind members, due to a decrease of 5 to 9% in hours worked by (employed) adult in the migrant-sending household, as well as a decrease in the total salary earnings.

Moreover, the study finds mixed evidence of the impact on paddy productivity (of rural migrant-sending households), as well as inconclusive evidence of investment effects of remittances on production inputs (fertilizer, energy and manpower). Find out more through the PEP publications below - including the full working paper 2015-06 and related policy brief 119.

Project links and documents

Research team

Find out more about this project - its analytical approach and outcomes - through the following links/documents:
  • Vutha Hing
    Research Fellow, Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI)
  • Phann Dalis
    Research Associate, CDRI
  • Roth T.M.S. Vathana
    Research Associate, CDRI
  • Sreymon Sum
    Research Associate, CDRI
PEP Project PMMA-12379 (source page) Working paper 2015-06 (PDF)
Project proposal (Word) Policy brief 119 (PDF)

Final report (PDF)


Also published in the
Journal of Development Studies

Policy engagement, consultation and dissemination

While the main objective of the research is to understand, from a quantitative point of view, the effect of migration on the family members left behind, the broad implications of the results are critical to inform policymaking  on migration in Cambodia.

In addition to helping the team understand the updated context and legal framework related to migration in Cambodia, initial consultations with ILO Cambodia (International Labour Organization) and other experts from the CDRI (Cambodia Development Resource Institue) have resulted in generating keen interest and expectations in regards to the research findings, as well as to the method and related expertise to be used/built by the team. It was also made clear that the issues to be examined were of the utmost importance for development in Cambodia.

So far, the team members have had the opportunity to present their preliminary work and findings during special meetings/seminars, so as to gather comments and feedback from various audiences and stakeholders. The most important was a research workshop, organized jointly by the CDRI and OECD Cambodia, on "relationship between public policy, migration and development in Cambodia", held on November 26, 2013, and during which the project leader was invited to present and discuss the research objectives, methods and preliminary findings.

Regarding the outcomes of their participation to this specific event, the researchers said :

"The presentation of our research findings at CDRI-OECD workshop help provide concrete evidence of migration contribution to livelihood improvement, a very valuable contribution to migration literature in Cambodia, especially in terms of using a more reliable method to estimate impacts. Our findings also attracted a debate on remittances and their usage in productive investments, as well as on the migration-productivity nexus." (Exerpt from the research team's technical report to PEP)

PEP-PAGE projects

The project described above is one of the several projects selected for support under the PEP research and capacity building initiative for Policy Analysis on Growth and Employment (PAGE) in developing countries. The PAGE program is co-funded by UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and Canada's International Development Research Center (IDRC).

This particular project was selected in May 2014, following the first of three competitive calls for proposals of the PAGE initiative. A total of 65 projects have been selected for support under the three PAGE funding rounds. Find out more


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