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MigFacts: International Migration (10 Jul 2017)

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The lack of good migration data has long been recognized as an obstacle to understanding migration and developing an evidence-base for policy [1]. GMDAC MigFacts bring together the available migration data on a variety of themes that are highly relevant to global policy-makers and processes, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. By communicating these data clearly, quickly and visually, MigFacts aim to boost an understanding of migration and migration data among policy-makers, other stakeholders, and the general population.

International Migration

Global statistics on migration compiled by the United Nations Population Division, define an international migrant as any person has who has changed their country of usual residence for at least one year. [2]

Although international migrants have retained roughly the same share of the global population for the last several decades, their absolute number reached an all-time high in 2015 – an estimated 244 million. [3]

This MigFact presents some of the core data required for understanding International Migration, namely:

  • 244 million international migrants in 2015 – 3.3% of the global population
  • Three times more international migrants in 2015 than in 1970
  • International migrant population has remained relatively stable over several decades
  • Sex: 48% of international migrants are women
  • Age: 39 years old is the median age of an international migrant
  • Location: the United States is the top country of destination for international migrants (46.6 million in 2015), followed by Germany (12.0 million), the Russian Federation (11.6 million), Saudi Arabia (10.2 million) and the United Kingdom (8.5 million).
  • 62% of all international migrants live in Asia and Europe.
  • The United Arab Emirates has the highest share of international migrants (88.4% of their population), followed by Qatar (75.5%) and Kuwait (73.6%).
  • China, Viet Nam and Cuba have the lowest share of international migrants, less than 0.1% of their population.
  • 37% of all international migrants moved between countries in the Global South – 90.2 million. A greater share than migrants who moved from the Global South to the Global North.  

[1] “Despite the growing importance of international migration and the concerns it often raises, the statistics needed to characterize migration flows, monitor changes over time and provide Governments with a solid basis for the formulation and implementation of policy are often lacking” (UN Recommendations on International Migration, UN, New York, 1998. From: IOM Global Compact Thematic Paper: International Migration Statistics, IOM, 2017, fn.2).

[2] United Nations (1998). Recommendations on Statistics of International Migration, Revision 1. United Nations: New York.

[3] UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2008 Revision, May 2009, and 2015 Revision, December 2015