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Key Facts About Recent Trends in Global Migration

From Central American tomato pickers in Florida to Indian entrepreneurs in Melbourne, international migration has become a vital part of global life. But people move across borders not just in response to their own economic aspirations, but also to world crises like armed conflict and environmental degradation.

Today, there are 272 million international migrants – roughly 3.5% of the global population. Most live in Europe and North America, while middle-income countries send the most emigrants. Take some time out of your online poker games on platforms described at and let’s learn about global migration.

Developing countries are likely to see more emigration in the coming decades

As the world becomes more interconnected, international migration is a growing trend. People move across borders to pursue better economic opportunities, or to escape escalating poverty and civil conflict in their home countries. These motivations are not new; throughout history, global crises from war to weather have driven population shifts from place to place. But now, it is easier to move internationally than ever before. People can quickly identify attractive destinations and routes with the help of more widely available technology, and it is cheaper than ever to relocate and stay connected with family back home via cheap and fast communications networks.

Economic aspirations are the most prominent force driving migrants to leave their homes in search of better prospects, but quality of life considerations also play a role. Countries that offer high levels of healthcare, social security benefits, and civil liberties protections are likely to attract the most migrants. This is one reason why OECD nations host the vast majority of the world’s migrants, with 45 million people born abroad living in the United States alone.

Developing countries can attract migrants by boosting their economic productivity, as the service and technology sectors have done in Rwanda and Kenya. They can also leverage the expertise of skilled migrants to help develop their emerging economies. For example, in 2012, migrants contributed 13 percent of Rwanda’s GDP despite making up just 5 percent of the labor force, thanks to their contributions to the country’s booming services and technology sectors.

Remittances, the sums of money that migrants send back to their families in their homelands, remain a powerful force driving migration. These remittances account for more than three times the total amount of foreign aid to developing countries, and they have increased dramatically in recent decades as migrant populations have grown.

The pandemic may slow or halt the rise in incomes that would provide many more people with the means to migrate, but the trend is expected to continue over the long term, aided by freer trade and rising aspirations among a growing global middle class.

Public attitudes about international migrants are becoming more favourable

Migration is often a controversial issue, but research suggests that public attitudes about international migrants are becoming more favourable. The majority of people support integration and are willing to work alongside migrant workers. People also recognise the contribution that immigrants make to their societies, and are increasingly aware of the benefits that immigration brings. These trends are largely due to changing economic realities, which have made it possible for more and more people to relocate in search of a better life.

Socioeconomic factors have historically drawn people across borders, and this trend will likely continue in the coming years. The gap in per-capita incomes between OECD and developing countries continues to widen, and rising Internet access means it is easier than ever for migrants to identify desirable destinations. In addition, quality of life considerations will play an important role in migration decisions, and destinations that provide reliable healthcare, good education, social security benefits, and civil liberties protections will remain attractive.

Many of the world’s fastest-growing populations are in developing countries, where rapid population growth is putting pressure on jobs and basic services. These pressures are expected to encourage emigration, especially as some of these nations lack the capacity to create large numbers of new jobs.

However, the majority of people do not migrate to other countries, and much more common are moves between cities and regions within a country. For example, the United States hosts a greater share of the world’s international migrants than any other nation, but it has a smaller share of the global population.

People may also relocate in response to climate change. The deteriorating environment is already making it harder for some people to earn their livings from agriculture, fishing, and herding, which could spur migration in the future. This is particularly true for vulnerable populations in poor countries, and it is likely that they will seek a safer existence abroad.

The global competition for skilled migrants is intensifying, and some destination countries are rewriting their visa policies to favour the most qualified applicants. For example, Canada recently introduced a system to put skilled migrants on a fast-track towards permanent residency. At the same time, sending countries are enhancing their “diaspora engagement strategies,” which aim to maintain contact with the international migrant community and help them invest back home.

Sub-Saharan Africans account for one out of every five people in the world by 2040

A resurgence of population growth in sub-Saharan Africa will see this region account for one out of every five people in the world by 2040. This will probably cause a great deal of concern amongst some western governments, especially in Europe, where populations are ageing and services and infrastructure are being stretched to the limit. However, instead of viewing this influx as a threat, it might be better for the west to view this demographic shift as an opportunity. The huge number of young Africans could be seen as an untapped resource for construction, service and eldercare jobs that cannot be automated.

While this may be the case, emigration will continue to be a significant factor. Better economic opportunities in the destination countries will continue to draw migrants away from their origin countries. The average per capita income in developed countries is about five times higher than in developing countries, a gap that will take a long time to close (Chort and de la Rupelle 2016). Other factors, such as drought, poverty and political instability are also driving migration flows.

Although a majority of international migrants come from low-income countries, middle-income nations are increasing their share of the migrant total. This is due in part to the fact that remittances sent home by migrants exceed foreign aid to these countries by three times, making them a major source of funds for development. Remittances are also increasingly being used to fund the purchase of land and other property.

A large proportion of international migrants are still from India and Mexico, with India generating the largest diaspora by country. But this is changing, with countries such as Australia and Spain becoming more popular destinations for immigration. This is likely to be driven by economic, political and lifestyle motivations, with the latter being influenced by climate change. The climate change effect on migratory patterns is complex, with drought and floods both having positive and negative impacts on migration. Overall, though, a warmer climate is expected to increase the probability of international migration in middle-income countries and decrease it in lower-income nations.

Climate change is likely to contribute to the economic and social stresses that encourage migration

The main drivers of migration vary from country to country, but they tend to include better living conditions and economic opportunities in migrant-receiving countries, along with conflict, poverty, limited access to education, and deteriorating essential services. The latter are particularly significant push factors for people in poor countries who can’t afford to migrate long distances, but whose poverty limits their options anyway.

The most important pull factor, however, is likely to be climate change itself, notably in the form of rising food insecurity, water scarcity, and other environmental degradation. It will probably also exacerbate the already-sharp income disparities between rich and poor countries, increasing pressures to migrate across international borders in search of better opportunities.

In addition, climate change will probably contribute to social unrest and civil conflict by aggravating existing tensions over land ownership and resources, creating new competition for scarce natural resources, stoking scapegoating narratives, and raising the risk of localized flare-ups that may escalate into larger conflagrations.

Whether or not these stresses become major international migration drivers depends on how quickly and how effectively governments respond. Migrant-receiving countries will need to develop policies that are able to respond to changing migration patterns and that make the best possible use of the skills and other contributions migrants bring with them.

For low and middle-income countries that have the highest rates of migration, like Mexico and India, remittances from migrant workers are a vital source of income. In fact, they usually outweigh official development assistance in these countries.

While migration does have some negative consequences, especially for the countries of origin, it is also an important source of human capital and a way for developing countries to build prosperity. It is a key ingredient in the global economy, especially in the highly-skilled sectors of the labor market that require specialized training. And if the right policy frameworks are in place, the world can make the most of these valuable contributions without jeopardizing the health, security, and dignity of its citizens. That’s a policy objective that all of us share. It’s a matter of common sense.