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Global migration climbing – snapshot study finds

16 October 20180 comments

An estimated 258 million people currently live in a country other than that of their birth, a figure that is up from 173 million in 2000, and 102 million in 1980, according to the latest world snapshot of migration data.

And the proportion of international migrants in the world population continues to rise and is now at 3.4 per cent – compared to 2.8 per cent in 2000 and 2.3 per cent in 1980, according to the 2018 Global Migration Indicators report.

Produced by the UN’s migration agency IOM, the report says that included in the 258 million figure are 125 million women, 36 million children, 150 million migrant workers and almost 5 million international students and 25 million refugees.

The 25 million refugees are included among some 68.5 million people forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict or human rights violations, the report says.

It says that globally 35-40 million people migrate every five years.

The latest available estimates for the number of labour migrants are based on data from 2013 which shows that two-thirds of all international migrants globally were migrant workers in that year.

Among an estimated 150.3 million migrant workers globally, 11.5 million were domestic workers and among all migrant workers, 66.6 million (or 44 per cent) were female, the report says.

Males make up 83.7 million or 55.7 per cent of the total of migrant workers.

One in eight migrant workers is between 15 and 24 years-old and almost half (48.5 per cent) of all migrant workers are located in two broad subregions: North America and Northern, Southern and Western Europe. Almost 12 per cent of all migrant workers are in Arab States.

Global estimates of the number of international students are based on 2016 figures which show around 4.8 million international students, up from 2 million in 2000.

More than half of these were enrolled in educational programs in six countries: The United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany and the Russian Federation.

The top countries for sending international students include China, India, Germany, South Korea, Nigeria, France, Saudi Arabia and several Central Asian countries, the report said.

It says that after two consecutive years of decline, estimates of officially recorded remittance flows to low and middle income countries increased $US 613 billion in 2017 up by 8.5 per cent compared to 2016.

This is a new record according to the World Bank, and remittances are now more than three times the size of official development assistance.

Except for China, remittance flows are also significantly larger than foreign direct investment.

In 2017, the top remittance receiving countries were India, China, the Philippines, Mexico and Nigeria.

Remittances as a share of GDP varied in 2017; smaller countries saw higher rates such as the Kyrgyz Republic (35.2 per cent), Tonga (33.4 per cent) and Tajikistan (30.7 per cent).

According to the World Bank, the cost of sending money to LMICs remained flat at 7.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2018 but this is still well above the UN’s strategic development goal (SDG) target of three per cent by 2030.

The IOM report said there were an estimated 58 million irregular migrants (or asylum seekers) in 2017, up from 50 million in 2009.

More than 11 million undocumented migrants lived in the United States in 2016, according to the report which cited data from the Pew Research Centre based on census figures.

There were 1.9 to 3.8 million irregular migrants in the EU in 2008 – 7 to 13 per cent of the foreign-born population.

But in 2017, the total number of irregular border-crossings into the EU dropped to its lowest in four years.

The annual total of 204,719 marked a 60 per cent decrease compared to the 511,047 apprehensions of 2016, the IOM report said.

In 2017, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project documented the deaths of 6,163 people during migration to international destinations, the fourth consecutive year that more than 5,000 fatalities were recorded.

But the report warns these figures are a conservative estimate of the actual number of deaths during migration worldwide, as official data on migrant deaths are extremely scarce.

Accurate numbers of human trafficking were also difficult to estimate, the report said.

It cited ILO and Walkfree Foundation figures which estimated there were 40 million victims of modern slavery in 2016, including 25 million people in forced labour and 15 million people in forced marriage.

In 2012, ILO estimated that 19 per cent of labour exploitation and 74 per cent of sexual exploitation involves cross-border movement.

Figures on people smuggling were difficult to obtain, the IOM report says.

But one estimate cited says 2.5 million migrants were smuggled for an economic return of $US5.5-7 billion in 2016. This is roughly equivalent to what the United States of America or the European Union countries spent on humanitarian aid globally in 2016.

The IOM report also tries to assess migrant integration – covering areas such as the labour market, education, health, well-being and other outcomes for migrants.

Data from 2012–13 shows that on average two in three migrants in OECD countries were employed – one per cent higher than for the native-born.

This varied cross regions, however; in the EU, the employment rate of immigrants (62 per cent) was three per cent lower than for the native-born.

The report cites the McKinsey Global Institute with estimates that migrants contributed roughly $US6.7 trillion, or 9.4 per cent, to global GDP in 2015 – some $US3 trillion more than they would have produced in their origin countries.

The estimated number of children (aged under 19) living outside the country of birth rose 36 million in 2017 – an increase of 21 per cent compared to 1990, the report says.

In recent years, the number of unaccompanied child migrants has increased fivefold to between 2011 and 2016. While global figures are difficult to obtain, the number of unaccompanied and separated children applying for asylum outside the EU increased from 4,000 in 2010 to 19,000 in 2016.

The IOM report says that 18.8 million people in 135 countries were newly displaced in the context of sudden-onset natural disasters within their own country.

This is in addition to millions already living in displacement following previous disasters; between 2008 and 2016 an estimated 227.6 million people were displaced by disasters.

South and East Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific were the most affected regions; in particular, China, the Philippines and Cuba recorded the highest numbers of displacements.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) continued to be disproportionately affected by natural hazards.

In 2017, disaster displacement was caused primarily by extreme weather events, especially flooding (8.6 million) and storms (7.5 million).

Globally, public opinion is divided on the question of whether to increase, decrease or keep present immigration levels.

Figures from the largest available dataset on this from Gallup show that on average, most of the world’s population is generally more likely to want immigration in their countries to be kept at its present level (22 per cent) or increased (21 per cent), rather than decreased (34 per cent).

There is significant regional variation in public opinion. People in Europe tend to hold more negative views towards immigration, with the majority (52 per cent) saying immigration levels should be decreased.

Attitudes are more positive in the United States and Australia, with the majority (62 per cent and 55 per cent respectively) saying immigration levels should be increased.

The report also found that while large numbers of people around the world express a general desire to migrate (710 million), far fewer report they are actually planning or preparing to migrate in the next 12 months.

Half of all adults planning to migrate live in just 20 countries, including eight African countries: (Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Algeria and Côte d’Ivoire); four Asian countries (India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan); three Latin American countries (Mexico, Colombia and Brazil); two Middle Eastern countries (Iran and Iraq); and two European countries (Italy and Spain).







Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist