Skip to navigation

Skip to main content


UN: 258 million international migrants in 2017

January 30, 2018

The UN reported 258 million international migrants in 2017, so that 3.4 percent of the world's people lived in another country at least a year. The number of international migrants rose 10 million from 248 million in 2015, and is up 50 percent from 173 million in 2000. Almost 75 percent of international migrants are of prime working age, 20-64 years old, compared with 54 percent of the world's people. Men were 52 percent of the migrant stock in 2017 and women 48 percent.

By continent, Asia had 80 million international migrants, Europe 78 million, North America 58 million, Africa 25 million, Latin America 9.5 million, and Oceania 8.4 million. Europe's population would have declined between 2000 and 2015 without migration.

Most international migrants, some 146 million or 57 percent, are in the more developed countries of Europe, Canada and US, Australia and New Zealand, and Japan. The share of international migrants among residents of the more developed countries rose from less than 10 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2017.

A separate category distinguishes migrants in high-, middle-, and low-income countries. There were 165 million migrants in high-income countries, 64 percent of the total, that include Europe, Canada and US, Australia and New Zealand, and Japan and the "less-developed" countries of Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Gulf oil exporters.

Middle-income countries such as Mexico, Morocco, and Turkey had 32 percent of the world's migrants, and low-income countries from Bangladesh to Zimbabwe had four percent.

Half of all international migrants were in 10 countries, and two-thirds were in 20 countries. The US had the most migrants, 50 million or almost 20 percent, followed by 12.2 million each in Saudi Arabia and Germany, 11.6 million in Russia, 8.6 million in the UK, and 8.3 million in the UAE. The 11 countries that each had at least six million had 53 percent of the total, including France, Canada, Australia, Spain, and Italy.

The UN considers persons born in Puerto Rico who move to the mainland US to be international migrants.

The number of migrants increased by 85 million or almost 50 percent since 2000. Three-fourths of this increase was in high-income countries, and half was in more-developed countries, highlighting the importance of distinguishing between high-income and more-developed countries. The US accounted for 18 percent of the increase in the migrant stock between 2000 and 2017 and Saudi Arabia accounted for eight percent.

The highest shares of migrants among residents were in Gulf oil exporters such as the UAE, 88 percent, Kuwait, 76 percent, and Qatar 65 percent. Switzerland had a 30 percent migrant share, Australia 29 percent, Canada 22 percent, and the US 15 percent. Countries with fewer than one percent migrants include Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, Vietnam, and China.

There were 26 million refugees (including Palestinians) in 2017, including 4.5 million in more developed countries and 21.4 million in less-developed countries. When countries are grouped by their per-capita incomes, there were 4.2 million refugees in high-income countries, 17.7 million in middle-income countries, and four million in low-income countries. Turkey hosted the most refugees, 3.1 million, followed by Jordan, 2.9 million, Lebanon, 1.6 million, Pakistan, 1.4 million, and Germany, 1.3 million.

International Migrants
  Millions Share
US 49.8 19%
Saudi Arabia 12.2 5%
Germany 12.2 5%
Russia 11.7 5%
UK 8.6 3%
UAE 8.3 3%
France 7.9 3%
Canada 7.9 3%
Australia 7.0 3%
Spain 5.9 2%
Italy 5.9 2%
Top 11 137.4 53%
World 257.7 100%
More developed 145.6 56%
Less developed 111.7 43%
High-income 164.8 64%
Middle Income 81.4 32%
Low income 10.9 4%
Source: UN DESA, UN Migrant Stock 2017