Migration is a process in which individuals and groups of people leave their homes for various reasons. The current mobility of people is higher than ever before in modern history1 and continues to increase sharply, becoming one of the determining global issues of 21st century. Almost all of the approximately 200 world states are countries of origin, transit or destination for the migrants.

FACTS & FIGURES ON WORLD MIGRATION

281 million: The estimated number of international migrants in the world2

  • The overall number of international migrants has increased in the last few years from the estimated 173 million in 2000 to 221 million in 2010 and to 281 million in the present.3
  • The number of persons migrated to foreign countries surged by 107 million (62 %) in the last 20 years (2000-2020).

4.: The migrants would constitute the fourth most populous country in the world

  • If international migrants lived in one state, they would constitute the fourth most populous country in the world, after China, India and the United States, roughly equal to the size of the entire population of Indonesia.

3.6%: The percentage of migrants in the global population4

  • In other words, one out of 28 persons in the world is currently a migrant who lives abroad; in 2000, one out of every 35 persons was considered a migrant.
  • The percentage of migrants in the global population increased from 2.8% in 2000 to 3.6% in the present.
  • In more developed regions (Europe and Northern America, plus Australia, New Zealand and Japan), almost 12 of every 100 inhabitants are international migrants, compared to only 2 in 100 in less developed regions (Africa, Asia excluding Japan, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania excluding Australia and New Zealand.)
  • The percentage of migrants in each country varies considerably. The countries with the highest percentage are the United Arab Emirates (88.1%), Qatar (78.5%), Kuwait (72.8%), Liechtenstein (67.9%) and Monaco (67.8%).
  • Countries with the lowest percentage of migrants are represented by Morocco and Papua New Guinea (0.3% each), the Philippines, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Haiti and Sri Lanka (0.2% each), China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Madagascar, Viet Nam (0.1% each) and Cuba (0%); from the European Union Romania (3.7), Slovakia (3.6%), Bulgaria (2.7%) and Poland (2.2%).5

1/7: Every seventh person in the world is a migrant

  • The estimated number of internal migrants (migrants inside of their country of origin) is 763 million.6 Together with the international migrants there is more than a billion of migrants in the world – every seventh person in the world is a migrant.

20: About two-thirds of the international migrants live in twenty countries of the world7

  • In 2020, two-thirds of all international migrants were living in high-income countries.
  • The majority of all international migrants live in the United States of America (50.6 million, or 18.1% of the world’s total), followed by Germany (15.8 m), Saudi Arabia with 13.5 million of migrants, the Russian Federation (11.6 m), the United Kingdom (9.4 m), the United Arab Emirates (8.7 m), France (8.5 m), Canada (8.1 m), Australia (7.7 m), and Italy with 6.4 million of migrants.8

86.7 million: Europe is the most attractive destination for migrants

  • In 2020, almost one third (30.9%) of the total number of international migrants lived here.9
  • Europe is followed by North America (58.7 million, of which 50.6 million resides in the United States of America) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (49.8 million).
  • Between 2000 and 2020, the fastest increase in the number of international migrants was observed in Europe and Northern Africa and Western Asia.10

35.1 million: The number of migrants in the countries of the EU in 201811

  • Migrants made up 7.9% of persons living in the EU Member States.
  • From the overall number of migrants, 13.3 million migrants were residents of another EU country and the remaining 21.8 million were people with citizenship of a non-member country (representing 4.9% of the 446.8 million people living in the EU).
  • Almost three-quarters (71%) of non-nationals living in the EU Member States were found in 4 EU Member States: Germany (10.1 million), Italy (5.3 m), France (4.9 m) and Spain (4.8 m).

48.1%: Percentage of women in the world migration12

  • In total, 134.9 million female migrants were in the world in 2020.
  • Women accounted for more than one half of the international migrants in 114 countries of the world.
  • In 2020, the number of female migrants slightly exceeded that of male migrants in Europe, Northern America and Oceania due in part to the higher life expectancy of women among long-term migrants and to the increasing demand for female migrants for care-related work.
  • Among the countries with the highest representation of women was Nepal, Hong Kong, SAR of China, Montenegro, Kyrgyzstan and Latvia.

39.1: The median age of all international migrants – compared with 30.9 years in the general world population13

  • One out of every seven international migrants (14.6% or 41 million of the global migrant stock) was under the age of 20.
  • Three-quarters of the total population of migrants (73.2% or 205 million) were of working age between 20 and 64 years, compared to 57 percent for the total population.
  • The world hosted 12.2 percent (34 million) of international migrants of the global migrant stock aged 65 or over.14

666 billion $: Estimated volume of remittances (financial resources) sent to home countries by migrants in 202015

  • The remittances have increased from 132 billion USD in 2000 to 470 billion USD in 2010 and 695 billion USD in 2018.
  • In 2020, the recipient countries with the highest volume of documented remittances were India (75.9 billion), China (60 b), Mexiko (40.5 b), the Philippines (33.3 b), France (25.3 b) and Egypt (24.4 b).16
  • It is estimated that the real volume of remittances, including undocumented formal and informal remittance flows is significantly higher.
  • Until 2021, the estimated volume of remittances is expected to decline to 619 billion USD.

508 billion $: The estimated volume of remittances, which were sent by migrants to low- and middle-income countries in 202017

  • Until 2021, the estimated volume of remittances to these countries is expected to decline to 470 billion USD.
  • Remittance flows to these countries touched a record high of 548 billion USD in 2019, larger than foreign direct investment flows (534 billion USD) and overseas development assistance (about 166 billion USD).

50.4 million: The number of internally displaced persons in 201918

  • This number of internally displaced persons that had been forced to flee their homes by armed conflict and generalised violence, and were living in displacement within the borders of their own country, increased from 21 million in 2000 to 45.7 million in 61 countries and territories at the end of 2019.
  • Three-quarters (34.5 million) of the world’s internally displaced people as a result of conflict and violence live in just 10 countries: Syria (6.5 million), Colombia (5.6 m), Democratic Republic of Congo (5.5 m), Yemen (3.6 m), Afghanistan (3 m each), Somalia and Nigeria (2.2 m each), Sudan (2.1 m) and Iraq (1.6 m) and Ethiopia (1.4 m).
  • In 2019, 33.4 million new displacements associated with conflict and disasters were recorded – that is 1 person forced to flee every 1 second.
  • Of all new displacement in 2019, 8.5 million was triggered by conflict and violence (10.8 million in 2018), and 24.8 million was affected by natural disasters (17.2 million in 2018) – three times the number of displacements caused by conflict and violence.
  • More than half of newly displaced people come from only four countries: India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and China.19

26 million: Estimated number of refugees in the world20

  • Together with 50.4 million internally displaced persons, 4.2 million asylum seekers and 3.6 million Venezuelans displaced abroad there were 84.2 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in 2019.
  • Two-thirds (68%) of all refugees worldwide come from just five countries: Syria (6.6 million), Venezuela (3.7 m), Afghanistan (2.7 m), South Sudan (2.2 m) and Myanmar (1.1 m).
  • For several consecutive years Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees and with 3.9 million refugees (of which 3.6 million Syrian refugees) it became the largest refugee-hosting country worldwide. It was followed by Colombia (1.8 m), Germany (1.5 m), Pakistan and Uganda (1.4 m each).
  • Three out of every four refugees lived in countries neighbouring their countries of origin.
  • The island of Aruba hosted the largest number of Venezuelans displaced abroad in proportion to the national population (1 in 6) while Lebanon hosted the largest number of refugees (1 in 7 people) under the responsibility of UNHCR.21
  • In 2019, 612.7 thousand first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the EU with 676 thousand asylum seekers in total.
  • The largest group of first-time applicants came from Syria (74,000 or 12.1%). Afghanis accounted for 8.6% of the total number of first-time asylum applicants and Venezuelans for 7.3 %, while Colombians and Iraqis for 5.2 % and 4.4 % respectively.
  • One quarter of the refugees who apply for asylum in Europe submit their application in Germany (23% or 142,000 first-time applicants in 2019). It was followed by France (120 thousand), Spain (115 thousand), Greece (75 thousand) and Italy (35 thousand).22

1 Divinský, B., Migration Trends in the Slovak Republic after Its Accession to the EU (2004-2008), International Organization for Migration (IOM), 2009, p. 12 (https://iom.sk/sk/publikacie?download=106:migracne-trendy-v-slovenskej-republike-po-vstupe-krajiny-do-eu-2004-2008).
2 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (UN DESA, 2020) – International Migrant Stock 2020, Workbook: Age, sex and destination (https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/undesa_pd_2020_ims_stock_by_sex_and_destination.xls), UN DESA – International Migrant Stock 2020 Highlights. Ten Key Messages (https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/international_migration_2020_highlights_ten_key_messages.pdf), UN DESA – International Migrant Stock 2020 Highlights (https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/undesa_pd_2020_international_migration_highlights.pdf).
3 Look at [2].
4 Look at [2].
5 Look at [2].
6 UN DESA – Technical Paper No. 2013/1 – Cross-national comparisons of internal migration: An update on global patterns and trends (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/technical/TP2013-1.pdf).
7 Look at [2].
8 Look at [2].
9 Look at [2].
10 Look at [2].
11 Eurostat – Migration and migrant population statistics (as of 1 January 2019) (https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Migration_and_migrant_population_statistics).
12 Look at [2].
13 Look at [2] and UN DESA – World Population Prospects 2019, Median Age of Population (https://population.un.org/wpp/Download/Files/1_Indicators%20(Standard)/EXCEL_FILES/1_Population/WPP2019_POP_F05_MEDIAN_AGE.xls).
14 Look at [2] and UN DESA – International Migrant Stock 2020, Workbook: Age and Sex (https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/undesa_pd_2020_ims_stock_by_age_sex_and_destination.xlsx)
15 The World Bank – Migration and Development Brief 33, October 2020 (https://www.knomad.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/Migration%20%26%20Development_Brief%2033.pdf), Migration and Development Brief 2, November 2006 (http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/372901444756856754/MigrationDevelopmentBriefingNov2006.pdf).
16 The World Bank – Migration and Remittances, Annual Remittances Data as of October 2020 (https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/migrationremittancesdiasporaissues/brief/migration-remittances-data).
17 Look at [15]
18 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (http://www.internal-displacement.org).
19 IDMC – Global Report on Internal Displacement 2020 (https://www.internal-displacement.org/global-report/grid2020/).
20 The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – Global Trends. Forced displacement in 2019 (https://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends2019/). The number includes also 5.6 million Palestinian refugees registered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
21 When Palestine refugees under UNRWA’s mandate are included, the figures rise as follows: 1 in 5 people was a refugee in Lebanon and 1 in 3 people was a refugee in Jordan.
22 Eurostat – Asylum Statistics (https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics).

Last updated on 12 March 2021.

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