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International migrant population reaches 244 million
January 16, 2016, 5:37 pm

According to the latest report on international migrant trends, published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), in 2015 there were 244 million international migrants — persons living in a country other than where they were born. This figure represented a 41 percent increase from the number of migrants in 2000, and included around 20 million refugees.

The new UN dataset, ‘Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 Revision’, shows that in 2015 there were 16 million Indians living outside their country’s borders, making India the country with the largest diaspora population in the world. Other countries with large diaspora population included Mexico with 12 million, Russia with 11 million and China with 10 million migrants, as well as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ukraine, Philippines, Syria and the United Kingdom with a 5 million diaspora.

Of the twenty countries with the largest number of international migrants living abroad, 11 were in Asia, 6 in Europe, and one each in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Northern America. In Europe, Northern America and Oceania, international migrants account for at least 10 percent of the total population. By contrast, in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, fewer than 2 percent of the population are international migrants.

In 2015, two thirds of all international migrants were living in only 20 countries, starting with the United States hosting 47 million, followed by Germany and Russia with 12 million each, Saudi Arabia with 10 million, the United Kingdom with 9 million and the United Arab Emirates, Canada and France hosting 8 million each.

In 2015, two out of three international migrants lived in Europe or Asia. Nearly half of all international migrants worldwide were born in Asia. Among major regions of the world, Northern America hosts the third largest number of international migrants, followed by Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania. Between 2000 and 2015, Asia added more international migrants than any other major region, or a total of 26 million additional migrants.
The new UN dataset shows that the number of international migrants has grown faster than the world’s population. As a result, the share of migrants in the global population reached 3.3 percent in 2015, up from 2.8 percent in 2000. There are, however, considerable differences between large regions of the world.

Between 2000 and 2015, among the regions of the world, Asia added more international migrants than any other major area. Asia gained 26 million international migrants during this period followed by Europe with 20 million, Northern America with 14 million and Africa added 6 million migrants. Both Latin America and the Caribbean and Oceania added comparatively smaller numbers of migrants during this period of around 3 million each.

In many parts of the world, migration occurs primarily between countries that are located within the same major area. In 2015, the majority of the international migrants living in Africa (87 percent), Asia (82 percent), Latin America and the Caribbean (66 percent) and Europe (53 percent) originated from another country located in the same major area. In contrast, the majority of international migrants living in Northern America (98 percent) and Oceania (87 percent) were born in a major area other than the one where they currently reside.

Between 2000 and 2015, the female share in the global international migrant stock fell slightly, from 49.1 percent to 48.2 percent. In 2015, the percentage female among all international migrants was highest in Europe (52.4 percent) and Northern America (51.2 percent). It is much lower in Asia (42.0 percent) and Africa (46.1 percent), where male migrants significantly outnumber female migrants. Latin America and the Caribbean and Oceania host almost equal numbers of female and male migrants.

In 2015, the number of international migrants below age 20 reached 37 million, or 15 percent of the global migrant stock. Around 72 percent or roughly 177 million international migrants were between the ages of 20 and 64. Europe and Northern America have the largest share of migrants of working age (75 percent each), followed by Asia (73 percent) and Oceania (71 percent). In 2015, the world hosted an estimated 30 million international migrants aged 65 or over, equal to 12 percent of the global migrant stock.  International migrants living in Africa are the youngest, with a median age of 29, followed by Asia (35 years) and Latin America and the Caribbean (36 years). Migrants are older in Northern America, Europe, and Oceania, where the median age is 42, 43 and 44 years, respectively.

“The rise in the number of international migrants reflects the increasing importance of international migration, which has become an integral part of our economies and societies. Well-managed migration brings important benefits to countries of origin and destination, as well as to migrants and their families,” noted Mr. Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, on the importance of international migration.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders last September at the United Nations, stresses the multidimensional reality of migration. The Agenda calls on countries to implement planned and well-managed migration policies, eradicate human trafficking, respect the labor rights of migrant workers and reduce the transaction costs of migrant remittances.

The Agenda also highlights the vulnerability of migrants, refugees and IDPs, and emphasizes that that forced displacement and related humanitarian crises threaten to reverse much of the development progress made in recent decades.

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