International migration

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Net migration rates for 2008: positive (blue), negative (orange), stable (green), and no data (gray)

International migration involves people crossing state boundaries and staying in the host state for a minimum length of time.[1] Migration occurs for many reasons. The overwhelming majority of people migrate internationally for reasons related to work, family and study – involving migration processes that largely occur without fundamentally challenging either migrants or the countries they enter. In contrast, other people leave their homes and countries for a range of compelling and sometimes tragic reasons, such as conflict, persecution and disaster. While those who have been displaced, such as refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), comprise a relatively small percentage of all migrants, they are often the most in need of assistance and support.[2] The terms "international migration" and "international migrant" are different but often conflated and used (incorrectly) interchangeably. International migration is the process of moving from one country to another. It involves action. In contrast, a "migrant" is a person described as such for one or more reasons, depending on the context. While in many cases, migrants do undertake some form of migration, this is not always the case. In some situations, people who have never undertaken migration may be referred to as migrants – children of people born overseas, for example, are commonly called second or third-generation migrants. [3] While there are several different potential systems for categorizing international migrants, one system organizes them into nine groups: temporary labour migrants; irregular, illegal, or undocumented migrants; highly skilled and business migrants; refugees; asylum seekers; forced migration; family members; return migrants; and long-term, low-skilled migrants.[4] These migrants can also be divided into two large groups, permanent and temporary. Permanent migrants intend to establish their permanent residence in a new country and possibly obtain that country’s citizenship. Temporary migrants intend only to stay for a limited periods of time; perhaps until the end of a particular program of study or for the duration of a their work contract or a certain work season.[5] Both types of migrants have a significant effect on the economies and societies of the chosen destination country and the country of origin.[6]

Similarly, the countries which receive these migrants are often grouped into four categories: traditional settlement countries, European countries which encouraged labour migration after World War II, European countries which receive a significant portion of their immigrant populations from their former colonies, and countries which formerly were points of emigration but have recently emerged as immigrant destinations.[7]


Drivers of international migration[edit]

The main drivers of international migration include:

1. Inequality and uneven development globally Inequality is driving migration, as poorer populations become better connected. 165 million of the world’s international migrants, or nearly two thirds of the total as of 2017, were being hosted in high-income countries, according to United Nations statistics, while just 11 million were living in low-income countries. [8] The most popular migration corridors clearly lead from poorer to wealthier countries, as most of the people migrating are doing so in order to seek a better life. [9]They are in search of better incomes and means of securing food and shelter, and they are motivated by factors that are fundamental to the operation of any healthy civil society: the rule of law; safeguards to help prevent or limit corruption; access to health and education services; and protections from human rights abuses. The effects of economic inequality are far reaching; a person’s ability to earn a decent living is overwhelmingly determined simply by the country where he or she lives.

2. Demographic change Demographic trends are posing migration challenges for some countries. Some countries and regions in the world have high birth rates and young populations, posing increasing challenges for some countries in feeding, educating, housing and providing employment opportunities for expanding numbers of people. [10]The incentive to migrate due to demographic pressure is likely to increase in many parts of the world, at least until improved education for girls and greater gender parity improve development outcomes and reduce both fertility rates and entrenched poverty. Meanwhile other countries and regions faced with rapidly ageing populations have a need to replace retiring members of their workforces and active contributors to their economies. This issue is most acute in Europe, where countries including Germany and the United Kingdom are among those where fertility was actually below the population replacement level between 2010 and 2015, according to the UN. [11] Japan also faces a significant related challenge. International migration could provide a strategic benefit to such countries in need of replenishing their populations for economic, social, and political reasons.

3. Conflict and security Conflict and a lack of security are increasingly displacing populations. Armed conflict is becoming increasingly complex, and involves an increasing number of actors, while the number of countries becoming embroiled in extreme conflict is rising. More people had been uprooted by war, violence and persecution than at any time in the last 70 years. The number of people seeking safety across international borders as refugees topped 25.9 million. [12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ World Migration Report 2018, International Organization for Migration, Geneva.
  2. ^ IOM World Migration Report 2018, IOM, Geneva.
  3. ^ IOM World Migration Report 2018, IOM, Geneva.
  4. ^ Where Immigrant Students Succeed (17-19).
  5. ^ OECD International Migration Outlook, 2007.
  6. ^ “Trends in International Migration and Migration Policies: About,” OECD Directorate for Labour, Employment and Social Affairs,, 18 July 2007,3347,en_2649_33931_1_1_1_1_1,00.html .
  7. ^ Where Immigrant Students Succeed (17-19).
  8. ^ UN Migration Report 2017, United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs, NY.
  9. ^ IOM World Migration Report 2018, IOM, Geneva; see Chapter 3 with main migration corridors globally.
  10. ^ World Economic Forum Transformation Map on Migration, 2019, World Economic Forum, Geneva.
  11. ^ UN Population Projection 2017, United Nations, NY.
  12. ^ UNHCR media release, 2017.

External links[edit]