The number of people who migrated to foreign countries surged by 41 per cent in the last 15 years to reach 244 million in 2015, according to a United Nations study.
Of those people, 20 million are refugees. The UN is planning a series of meetings in 2016 to address migration, including a March 30 gathering in Geneva where countries can pledge to take in Syrians fleeing civil war.
But while the Syrian refugee crisis has gripped the world’s attention, it is but a drop in the sea of international migration.
By far, the US is the country with the largest portion of the world’s migrants: 47 million, or a fifth of the total. Germany and Russia shared the No 2 spot with about 12 million each, followed by Saudi Arabia (10 million), Britain (9 million) and the UAE (8 million), according to the study released yesterday.
The vast majority of international migrants two-thirds of the total are in Europe or Asia. Europe is home to 76 million international migrants, while Asia has 75 million.
While Asia and Europe host the largest portions of international migrants, they also contribute the most. Asia is the biggest regional source of international migrants, with 104 million, or 43 per cent.
Europe contributed 25 per cent, or 62 million. The UN report explained that migration occurs mostly between countries located in the same region.
Latin America and the Caribbean was the third-largest regional source of international migration, with 37 million, or 15 per cent. Only 2 per cent (4 million) are from North America.
India had the world’s biggest diaspora, with 16 million people, followed by Mexico (12 million), Russia (11 million), China (10 million) and Bangladesh (7 million) and Pakistan and Ukraine (6 million each).
They are almost equally divided by gender: 48 per cent are women. Not surprisingly, most are working-age. The median age of migrants in 2015 was 39. A significant portion 15 per cent were under 20 years old. But country populations will not get any younger as a result.
The UN said migrants can help ease old-age dependency ratios in some countries but will not halt the long-term trend toward population aging. All major areas of the world are still projected to have significantly higher old-age dependency ratios in 2050.
The vast majority of the world’s people stay put. Migrants made up just 3.3 per cent of the global population in 2015, up from 2.8 per cent 15 years ago. Still, international migration is growing faster than the world’s population, with significant consequences for many regions.