Migration has been a common phenomenon found in the earliest glimpse of history. This approach has resulted in the establishment of communities all over the world. Either voluntarily or involuntarily, people migrate all across the world. In the latter case, individuals could be forced to relocate due to conflict or natural disasters.
According to data compiled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the estimated number of international migrants has grown over the previous 50 years. In 2020, the number of international migrants grew by 281 million, which was 128 million more than in 1990, and more than three times as many were estimated to be living abroad in 1970.
The key facts of international migration
Most people still live in the countries where they were born. Only one person in every 30 is a migrant. Research by Pew Research Center reveals the 8 key facts about international migrants, based on the latest data available from the UN and other sources.
The majority of international migrants live in Europe and Asia
In 2020, Europe was home to an anticipated 86.7 million foreigners, with Asia shortly behind with an estimated 85.6 million. The IOM reports that the population of foreign migrants in these two areas has been growing continuously since 2005. Northern America is the third on the list with 58.7 million.
Oceania is the only region where international migrants make up a larger share of the population than in any other region. In 2020, international migrants made up 21.4% of Oceania’s population. Oceania consists of Australia, New Zealand, and a number of Pacific island nations and territories.
After Oceania, the second-most-populous area with foreign-born residents is Northern America, at 15.7 percent. Europe is the third region where about 1 in 10 Europeans are immigrants. They make up 2.3% or less of the population in all other parts of the world.
The US & Middle East has the highest population percentage of international migrants
The United States led the world by a considerable margin with approximately 51 million migrants in 2020. Germany is next with about 15.8 million migrants, and Saudi Arabia is third with 13.5 million.
People born in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories are automatically considered U.S. citizens, but the United Nations considers them to be international migrants if they live in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia.
In general, the countries with the highest number of international migrants are not the same as those with the highest proportion of international migrants. For example, the U.S. has more migrants than any other country, but migrants only make up about 15.1% of the U.S. population. This is a smaller proportion than in 24 countries or regions with a combined population of at least 1 million.
The majority of the top 10 countries by percentage of migrant population are in the Middle East. In 2020, the percentage of foreign-born residents in the United Arab Emirates was the highest at 93.9%, followed by Qatar (80.6%) and Kuwait (71.3%). Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon are also among the top 10 countries in the Middle East.
Most migrants originate from India
India has been a significant source of international migrants for over a hundred years. India was the country of origin for 17.9 million international migrants in 2020, followed by Mexico with 11.2 million and Russia with 10.8 million.
There are Indian migrants all over the world, but the United Arab Emirates (3.5 million), the United States (2.7 million), and Saudi Arabia (2.5 million) account for the top three countries with the most Indian migrant populations.
The pandemic cut remittances by $11 billion from 2019 to 2020
Global remittances have been continuously increasing since 2010, but it dipped from $722 billion in 2019 to $711 billion in 2020. (These amounts are not adjusted for inflation.) Particularly, in April 2020, when much of the United States was quarantined for to the COVID-19 outbreak, remittances fell drastically for various Latin American countries before they regained.
According to the World Bank, remittances increased to $781 billion in 2021 and was predicted to reach $794 billion in 2022.
India has received the most remittances since 2010
Between 2010 and 2021, remittances to India increased from $53 billion to $89 billion. Mexico is in the second list with $54 billion and China in the next with $53 billion.
Since 1990, the U.S. has been the largest sender of remittances. In 2021, overseas migrants residing in the United States had sent $73 billion abroad in remittances.
Global displacement reached 89.4 million in 2020
Displaced people are those who are forced to leave their homes because of war, violence, fear of persecution, or natural disasters. They consist of persons who have fled their home country to seek asylum elsewhere and those who have been forcibly relocated within their own country.
According to the United Nations’ World Migration Report 2022, the total number of displaced people increased from 84.8 million in 2019 to 89.4 million in 2020. Globally, displaced people represent approximately 1.1% of the population.
In 2020, over 34%, or 30.5 million, of the world’s displaced population resided outside their country of origin as refugees (26,4 million) or asylum seekers (4.1 million). In 2020, there were 3.9 million Venezuelans who had fled the country but had not yet registered for refugee or asylum. More than half of the world’s refugees (55.5 million) fled their homes within their home nations due to violence, conflict, or natural catastrophes.
Male foreign migrants have risen over decades
In 2000, men accounted for 50.6% of overseas migrants and women for 49.4%. According to UN projections, by 2020, men account for 51.9% of international migrants, while women make up around 48.1%.
International migrants spent most of 2020 in their home countries
In 2020, although some migrants had settled in other parts of the world, 54.9% were still located in their original region. Nonetheless, international migration within regions remains very unpredictable. For instance, in 2020, 69.9% of the world’s foreign migrants lived in Europe, largely because many people from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Romania had moved westward to join those countries.
Asia and Oceania international migrants are the next most likely to reside in their region of origin, with 59.6% and 56.2%, respectively. About the same number of African immigrants live in Africa (51.6%) as those who live outside of Africa (48.4%).
Migrants from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Northern America are the least likely to live in their region of origin, at 26.3% and 25.2%, respectively.
Source: Pew Research Center