Stay up-to-date with what we are doing


Innovation for Labor Migration Data: A BD4M Conference with Egyptian Public Officials and Private Stakeholders

Posted on 28th of March 2023 by BD4M Team

Innovation for Labor Migration Data: A BD4M Conference with Egyptian Public Officials and Private Stakeholders
Innovation for Labor Migration Data: A BD4M Conference with Egyptian Public Officials and Private Stakeholders

Last month, the Big Data for Migration (BD4M), a joint initiative of GMDAC, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC), and The GovLab, in collaboration with IOM Egypt, held a 3-day event in Cairo to explore how innovative data sources, methods, and tools can support labor migration in Egypt. 

The “Innovation of Labor Migration Data” event was held under the auspices of the "Towards a Holistic Approach to Labor Migration Governance and Labour Mobility in North Africa" (THAMM) program, supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with funding provided by the European Union (EU) via the "Emergency Trust Fund for Stability and Addressing the Root Causes of Irregular Migration and Displaced Persons in Africa. Focusing on Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, the program seeks to build a holistic approach to labor migration governance and mobility in South-North and South-South migration contexts.

In line with THAMM and broader regional IOM goals, the BD4M sought to look at how innovative data sources, methods, and tools can be used to inform labor migration policies in Egypt. Specifically, we wanted to assess the most relevant sectors, skills, and other relevant factors across the foreign and domestic labor markets as they relate to Egyptian labor migration policymaking.

From February 21-22, officials from the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the Ministry of Manpower (MoM), The National Coordinating Committee for Combating and Preventing Illegal Migration and Trafficking in Persons (NCCPIM TIP), the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research (MoHE) heard from public officials working with migration data and private sector data holders on how they use data for innovative policy and decision-making. On February 23, these officials, along with some private sector representatives, took part in an interactive studio session to map the data and policy gaps that could be met with non-traditional data and new methods of collaboration to unlock this data for use in the upcoming Egyptian International Migration Household Survey (HIMS).

Screenshot 2023 03 28 At 11.50.40 Am

Event Takeaways

From the event, we identified four key takeaways, namely:

  1. Labor migration in Egypt is affected by economic, social, and cultural dimensions. When mapping the problem space around labor migration, participants noted how the existing job market and cultural and social atmosphere influence labor migration. Specifically, they mentioned that a challenged local labor market coupled with high youth unemployment leads Egyptian youth to explore foreign opportunities, contributing to brain drain. As well, a lack of social value placed on trades jobs causes shortages of trained Egyptian workers who can fill these roles, resulting in foreign labor inflows. Further, entrenched gender roles tend to limit women’s ability to invest in their skills and seek further training and employment. High-quality data about these issues can help pinpoint where upskilling and educational and employment investment can unlock more opportunities for Egyptians to thrive in local and foreign labor markets.

  2. New data sources and data analysis techniques can provide insight into labor migration behaviors and opportunities. The event introduced how new data sources such as mobile records, networking and employment social media data, and publication databases can be leveraged to illustrate migration trends. For example, tracking when and where web searches of foreign media spike in Egypt could give insight into seasonal workers in the country. As well, identifying Egyptian academics publishing at foreign institutions through publications data can pinpoint diaspora populations to tap into for educational migration. These insights can serve host and origin countries to build directed cross-border labor migration practices.

  3. Building data knowledge and capacities inside government is essential for Egyptian labor migration policymaking. Practical examples and use cases of innovative data sources, such as LinkedIn or mobile phone data, and techniques, including Google Trends, Meta for Good, and onomastic analysis demonstrated how innovative data could be leveraged by officials. Participants cited the usefulness of demonstrating these tools in action to improve their understanding of how to incorporate them into existing practices. Hosting additional technical demos and studios is needed to keep policymakers up-to-date on how data can improve their policymaking.

  4. The private sector is an underrepresented yet necessary stakeholder for officials to collaborate with. A main challenge that arose during the event was the barriers to bringing the private sector to the table due to the lack of awareness of the possibility and benefits of public-private collaboration in Egypt. Clarifying the questions that seek to be answered through private sector data and how all stakeholders benefit from unlocking their data is needed. As well, discussions should be held with national institutions and private sector officials regarding their potential commitments and data protection policies for business-to-government data collaboration.

Day 1: “Setting the Scene: Labor Migration Statistics and Policy Context”

The first-day workshop looked at generating the key pressing issues around labor migration in Egypt with attendees and understanding the state of affairs and challenges facing labor migration data, statistics, and policies in the African and particularly, the Egyptian setting. 

  • Opening Panel — Objectives, approach, and expected outcomes of the workshop: BD4M members Damien Jusselme (GMDAC) and Uma Kalkar (GovLab) first introduced the importance of good questions to lead robust data-driven initiatives. They led the Egyptian government authorities through a topic mapping to define the problem space for labor migration in Egyptian, and then a question taxonomy to formulate and organize data-actionable questions. These questions illuminated key issues of brain drain and lack of opportunities for youth, gender and cultural barriers to economic advancement, skill recognition integration issues, and inadequate policy support for workers.

Screenshot 2023 03 28 At 11.52.20 AmTaxonomy for data-actionable questions.

  • Session I — Trends and challenges in labor migration statistics and policy on a global level: Kenza Aggad (GMDAC) detailed the prevailing patterns in labor migration statistics, with a particular focus on the broader global demographic trends. In particular, the presentation scrutinized the contrasting demographic developments among Global South and European countries, highlighting their impact on the dynamics of labor market migration and the challenges that ensue. She then delved into the crucial definitions that underpin labor market statistics and the data sources used for labor market statistics. These discussions paved the way for an assessment of the present state of labor market statistics in the African context, with specific reference to the African Union.

  • Session II — Labour Migration in Egypt: Egyptian Government: A representative from the CAPMAS agency of the Egyptian Government gave a comprehensive overview of the existing and forthcoming labor migration policies in Egypt and the role big data could play in them. Moreover, the representative made explicit reference to the global context, emphasizing the international dimension of labor migration policies.

  • Session III — Big data, skills mapping, and diaspora engagement: Michael Newson (IOM Vienna) presented use cases of how the IOM Regional Office in Vienna had used big data for skills mapping and to analyze and outline diaspora engagement. He showed how:
    • Google Trends was used to analyze seasonal migration by looking at when and where spikes in foreign media web searches in a specific country occurred;
    • Onomastic analysis of names on ORCID and ZoomInfo within specific regions to identify highly skilled migrants; and the
    • Meta for Good data platform was leveraged to understand mobility trends and social networks for filtered diaspora mapping.


Day 2: "Focus: Application of Examples of Innovative Data Tools and Sources for Labor Migration"

Screenshot 2023 03 28 At 11.53.37 Am

On day two, speakers presented concrete big data and non-traditional data applications in global and national labor migration contexts.

  • Session I — Data Innovation and Labour Migration: Tuba Bircan (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) interwove the themes of data innovation and labor migration. She defined what are the sources of big data and non-traditional data and the advantages and hurdles associated with them for (labor) migration across a range of global examples.

  • Session II — Using innovative data in the science for policy cycle: Martina Belmonte & Sona Kalantaryan (JRC) provided attendees with a comprehensive outline of the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography (KCM), highlighting its remit of conducting new research and managing migration research. They demonstrated the various applications that KCM employs to use innovative data through the case study of Facebook meta-data to gauge displacement in Ukraine.

  • Session III — Mobile Phone Data: Thomas Smallwood (Flowminder) explained how mobile phone data can be used to examine labor migration data and enhance existing research findings. He addressed the most relevant cases for labor migration policing, including measuring human mobility and migration movements at national, and local levels.

  • Session IV — Using LINKEDIN and other digital recruitment platforms: Claudia Calderon Machicado (World Bank) showed how LinkedIn data can support labor migration data and, in turn, inform policymaking. The session elaborated further on the dimensions of LinkedIn data, established indicators of LinkedIn data and its limitations. Additionally, she provided examples of current applications where LinkedIn data is being utilized for this purpose, such as a current report by the World Bank analyzing LinkedIn Data from 27 countries across sub-Saharan Africa to better understand the level of digital skills in the region.

  • Session V — Using innovative methods to leverage labor migration and national labor market needs:  Matt Sigelman (The Burning Glass Institute) discussed how innovative methods can be used to leverage labor migration and national labor market needs by outlining the key potentials and pitfalls of labor migration analysis using large data sets. He further highlighted the most relevant use cases in methods for identifying labor migration and market needs, and how they could be of potential relevance for the MENA region.

  • Session VI — Using Artificial Intelligence to match migrants' profiles with national labor market needs: Derya Ozkul (University of Oxford) concluded the second day of the workshop with insights on how Artificial Intelligence can be used to match migrants' profiles with labor market needs and to showcase concrete application examples of matching tools like the Annie Moore project, the GeoMatch project or the Match’In project.

Studio Session

During the third day of the event, BD4M held an interactive studio with public and private sector experts on tangible measures and steps to utilize traditional and non-traditional data for the HIMS. The discussions centered around pertinent questions, such as:

  • How can we leverage big data and non-traditional data to capture these insights and link them to this traditional survey?
  • How can considerations of age, gender, population density, and climate change be bolstered with sharing of non-traditional data?
  • How do we facilitate B2G data flows (and build a sustainable system for data access and (re)use)?

In the light of these questions, the demand and the currently existing supply for data were defined and the value proposition behind data access and re-use was determined. The participants pulled from the talks during the two preceding days, pointing to how data from Google Trends or Meta for Good could be applied to improve the survey. 

After a discussion about data collaboratives, the studio participants used The GovLab’s 9Rs Framework for establishing the business case for data re-use and the Contractual Wheel of Data Collaboration as a framework to elaborate on how exactly supply and demand can be matched. The multi-sectoral discussions allowed participants to identify what governance, operational, and technical requirements were needed to bring novel data sources to the table and work with the Egyptian government to understand and leverage their domestic and foreign labor migration trends.


Overall, the event helped showcase how innovative data and methods can address crucial gaps in labor market and labor migration issues and enhance the capacity of Egyptian authorities in managing and acquiring knowledge and data about legal labor migration and mobility. By strengthening the ability to analyze demographic and labor market structures of both origin and destination countries, authorities can develop appropriate labor market policies that respond to existing labor migration trends while laying the groundwork for future legal migration pathways. This is crucial for promoting mutually beneficial legal migration and mobility, and for adopting a holistic approach to labor migration that benefits not only the destination countries but also the countries of origin and therefore contributing to the overall objective of the THAMM program.

The event also laid a foundation for IOM Egypt to support the development of more detailed implementation plans and trainings on how to use innovative data in conjunction with administrative data for more robust and holistic insights. Ultimately, the event supported the overarching goals of the BD4M, IOM Egypt, and Egyptian public officials in furthering the knowledge and evidence base for achieving safe, orderly, and regular migration.

About the Big Data for Migration Alliance

The Big Data for Migration Alliance (BD4M) is a multisectoral initiative led by the IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (IOM-GMDAC), the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography (KCMD), and The GovLab at New York University. BD4M’s mission is to accelerate the responsible and ethical use of novel data sources and methodologies—such as social media, mobile phone data, satellite imagery, and artificial intelligence—to support migration-related programming and policy on the global, national, and local levels.

Back to the Blog