From Left Behind to Staying Back: Rethinking Policy Responses to Children in Migrant Households

Presenting new research and analysis that challenges dominant policy and practice narratives on stay behind children.

- Europe/Berlin

Migration profoundly affects the lives of children – both those who move and those who do not. The phrase “left-behind children” is often used to refer to children who remain in their home country when their parents migrate to another country; and can also be applied to children whose parents have migrated internally.

Existing research tends to focus on the difficulties facing children left behind by their parents, arguing that despite improved family economic conditions, these children experience a care deficit which has a negative impact on their long-term development and may even lead to situations of exploitation.

This roundtable provided an opportunity to learn about new research and analysis that challenges this dominant policy and practice narrative. Researchers from the Migration for Development and Equality (MIDEQ) Hub advocated for the term “stay back,” which better encapsulates the ways in which migration forms a part of household strategies aimed at improving children’s educational and other opportunities, and called for a rethink of policy responses to reflect children’s realities and their agency.

A recording of the roundtable is available here.

A discussion paper exploring issues discussed at the roundtable is available for download here

An animation - 'The Boy With More?' - produced by Positive Negatives, in collaboration with MIDEQ and NISER, highlights the impact of migration on migrants abroad and their families back home, and is available here.   

Roundtable objectives

The roundtable showcased the findings of MIDEQ’s research with children in migrant households in the Global South and on developing policies and practices that respond appropriately to the needs and capabilities of children. The focus was on:

  • Strengthening support for children who stay back and securing children’s basic social and economic rights as recognized by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Reducing the stigma experienced by stay back children and parents who migrate, and
  • Centring the rights of children who stay back in policy discussions on labour migration and migration management.


The roundtable was aimed at UN agencies, Member States, NGOs, civil society organizations, academia and others working with, or responding to the needs of, children in migrant households in the Global South.


The event was organized by UNU-CPR in partnership with MIDEQ Hub and Positive Negatives.


Anita Ghimire

Co-investigator for the Nepal–Malaysia corridor

Gabriel Sangli


Meron Zeleke


Rawan Rbihat

Lead for research in the Jordan–Egypt corridor

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