Global migration, by the numbers: who migrates, where they go and why

plane

(Patrick Tomasso, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Charlotte Edmond, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • There are an estimated 272 million international migrants – 3.5% of the world’s population.
  • While most people leave their home countries for work, millions have been driven away due to conflict, violence and climate change.
  • Most migrants come from India; the United States is the primary destination.

There are an estimated 272 million international migrants around the world. And while that equals just 3.5% of the world’s population, it already surpasses some projections for 2050. Since 1970, the number of people living in a country other than where they were born has tripled.

The scale and speed of migration – defined by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as the movement of persons away from their place of usual residence, either across an international border or within a state – is notoriously difficult to predict given it can go hand in hand with events such as severe instability, economic crisis or conflict.

While the overall figure has remained relatively stable as a proportion of the global population, the numbers from the World Migration Report 2020, published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), clearly demonstrate the impact that events of the past two years have had on the movement of people around the world.

Snapshot of international migrants.
International migration around the world, by the numbers
Image: IOM World Migration Report 2020

Conflict in countries including Syria, Yemen, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, as well as the kind of extreme violence that forced Rohingya to seek safety in Bangladesh, have led to the displacement of millions of people.

Although refugees and internally displaced persons make up a relatively small portion of the total number of migrants, they are often most in need of help.

How is the World Economic Forum helping to improve humanitarian assistance?

With more than 132 million people worldwide requiring humanitarian assistance, humanitarian responses must become more efficient and effective at delivering aid to those who need it most.

Cash assistance has been recognized as a faster and more effective form of humanitarian aid compared to in-kind assistance such as food, clothing or education. Cash transfers give more control to their beneficiaries, allowing them to prioritize their own needs. They also have a proven track record of fostering entrepreneurialism and boosting local economies.

When the UN Secretary-General issued a call for innovative ways to improve cash-based humanitarian assistance, the World Economic Forum responded by bringing together 18 organizations to create guidelines for public-private cooperation on humanitarian cash transfers.

The guidelines are outlined in the Principles on Public-Private Cooperation in Humanitarian Payments and show how the public and private sectors can work together to deliver digital cash payments quickly and securely to crisis-affected populations. Since its publication in 2016, the report has served as a valuable resource for organizations, humanitarian agencies and government leaders seeking to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian aid and advance financial inclusion.

Learn more about this project and find out how you can join the Forum to get involved in initiatives that are helping millions of lives every day.

Climate change and weather-related hazards have also driven many people away from their homes, particularly in Mozambique, the Philippines, China, India and the United States.

But the overwhelming reasons most migrants leave their home are related to work, family or study.

Migrants’ primary destinations

India continues to be the main origin of international migrants, with 17.5 million Indian-born people living abroad. Mexico and China both also have more than 10 million former residents spread around the world.

Top destinations and origins of migrants in 2019 (millions)
More than 40% of all international migrants worldwide in 2019 were born in Asia.
Image: World Migration Report 2020

The United States is the primary destination for migrants, though as a proportion of its population, the United Arab Emirates has the largest migrant contingent.

Migration has been a key contributor to population change in some countries, such as Equatorial Guinea, where the proportion of international migrants as a percentage of the country’s population has increased sharply in recent years. Nearly 17% of people now living in Equatorial Guinea are migrants, compared to less than 1% as recently as 2005.

Gulf Cooperation Council states also have seen significant population changes as a result of migration. With many people moving to the region for work, migrants make up the majority of the population in GCC countries with the exception of Oman and Saudi Arabia.

With the total number of refugees the highest on record, Turkey was the biggest host nation for the fifth consecutive year, taking in millions of refugees, particularly from Syria.

Key facts and figures of the world migration reports, 2000 and 2020.
The number of refugees and internally displaced persons has doubled in the past 10 years.
Image: World Migration Report 2020

Dangerous journeys

In the wake of the death of hundreds of people when two boats sank near the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013, the International Organization for Migration started tracking the numbers of people dying on migratory routes worldwide.

In the five years since, more than 30,900 people have lost their lives trying to reach other countries. The Mediterranean sea remains the deadliest route, claiming the lives of nearly 18,000 people in that time. Since 2014, over 1,800 deaths have been recorded along the border between the United States and Mexico.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Why collective action is the key to saving our forests

EU Commission: Growth first then fiscal consolidation

IMF launches a new offensive against Germany

Transport Committee pledges to stop empty flights due to COVID-19

Africa is helping the drone industry get off the ground. Here’s how

The EU Consumer Policy on the Digital Market: A Behavioral Economics View

South Sudan: UN official welcomes release of women and children abducted by armed group

Calculators didn’t replace mathematicians, and AI won’t replace humans

Mental Health of Health Professionals Facing COVID-19

SMEs are the most valuable partners. Here’s why

EU Commission indifferent on Court of Auditors’ recommendations

What does the world really think about the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

A brief history of cryptography and why it matters

European Commission adopts rules to ensure a smooth transition to its next President and the next College of Commissioners

Hollande protects the euro from the attacks of extremists

A geared turbofan at Pratt & Whitney's production hub in West Palm Beach (copyright: Pratt & Whitney - a UTC Company- 2018; Source: Pratt & Whitney's website, media center)

The EU Commission approves UTC’s acquisition of Rockwell Collins under conditions

Now’s the time to take up cycling – here are 6 reasons why

UN police officer recognized for protecting vulnerable Somali women from abuse

Coronavirus: the truth against all myths

Why exchange programs are essential for the medical students of the 21st century

Here’s why e-mobility must be at the heart of the green recovery

How can we make entrepreneurship serve the greater good?

Malta: Human rights experts call for justice in case of murdered journalist

This is what happened to CO2 emissions in the EU last year

Energy: EU priority projects should be aligned with 2050 climate objectives

EU Commission: Germany can make Eurozone grow again just by helping itself

FROM THE FIELD: Weather reports come to aid of Uganda’s farmers

Good grub: why we might be eating insects soon

5 ways to fast-track the transition to a carbon neutral world

18th EU Eco-Innovation Forum in Barcelona shows the way for Europe’s new Environmental policy

UN and African Union in ‘common battle’ for development and climate change financing

The role of junior entrepreneurs as a bridge between academia and business world

GSMA Mobile 360 – MENA Dubai on 26-27 November 2019, in association with The European Sting

Facebook changes its terms and clarify its use of data for consumers following discussions with the European Commission and consumer authorities

UN chemical weapons watchdog adds new powers to assign blame, following attacks

Brexit: UK business fear of a no-deal scenario preparing for the worst

The new ethical dilemmas in medicine of the 21st century

How building renovations can speed up the electric vehicle revolution

European Commission increases support for the EU’s beekeeping sector

What just happened? 5 themes from the COP24 climate talks in Poland

Launch of Pact for Youth: European Youth Forum calls for real business engagement

Coronavirus could worsen hunger in the developing world

UN highlights profound implication of population trends on sustainable development

Back to the Basics: Primary Healthcare

India’s economy is growing fast, but its poorest areas lag behind. Here’s why this could be about to change

We’ll succeed together

M360 Security for 5G: Security for 5G Predictions 2020, in association with The European Sting

3 ways to nurture collaboration between universities and industry

Unity, regional cooperation and international support needed for Horn of Africa to develop sustainably

Can the US deal a blow to EU and Russia together over Ukraine?

State aid: Commission approves €286 million Finnish measure to recapitalise Finnair

Food safety critical to development and ending poverty: FAO deputy chief

Protect women’s rights ‘before, during and after conflict’ UN chief tells high-level Security Council debate

The EU now has rules that say household appliances must be easier to fix

Data and the future of financial services

EU: Tax evasion and fraud flourish under political protection

MEPs wants to increase research funding to €120 billion in 2021-2027

We had the hottest June ever this year – this is what happened around the world

We can use plastics to change the world for the better

Robots will soon be a necessity but they won’t take all our jobs

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s