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IOM: 272 million international migrants in 2019

January 16, 2020

The UN estimated that there were 272 million international migrants in 2019, including two thirds who are migrant workers. The number of international migrants has tripled since 1970. The migrant share of the world’s population rose from 2.3 percent to 3.5 percent over the past half century.

Asia (84 million migrants) and Europe (82 million) have over 60 percent of the world’s international migrants. However, migrants are a much larger share of Europe’s 740 million people, 11 percent, than they are of Asia’s 4.6 billion people, 1.8 percent. Migrant shares of the population were highest in Oceania, with eight million or 21 percent migrants among 38 million people, and North America (Canada and US), with 59 million migrants among 370 million people, making migrants 16 percent of residents.

Migrants move to opportunity. Two-thirds of international migrants are in the high income countries, 176 million, and another third are in middle-income developing countries such as Costa Rica, Turkey, or South Africa. There were 13 million migrants in low-income countries.

The ILO estimated 164 million migrant workers in 2017, meaning that two-thirds of all migrants were workers. Most migrant workers are in high-income countries, where the 111 million migrant workers were 18 percent of the 600 million strong workforce. There was rapid growth in the number of migrant workers in upper middle income developing countries between 2013 and 2017.

Mexico was the largest emigration country in the Americas, sending almost 12 million migrants abroad, meaning that 10 percent of the people born in Mexico are abroad. Colombia and Venezuela sent the next largest number of people abroad, about three million each, but Jamaica sent the highest share of citizens abroad, over 40 percent, followed by El Salvador, 25 percent.

IOM. 2019. IOM’s World Migration Report 2020.

The number of international migrants tripled between 1970 and 2019

International Migrants, 1970-2019
Year Number of Migrants Migrants as % of the World's Population
1970 84,460,125 2.3%
1975 90,368,010 2.2%
1980 101,983,149 2.3%
1985 113,206,691 2.3%
1990 153,011,473 2.9%
1995 161,316,895 2.8%
2000 173,588,441 2.8%
2005 191,615,574 2.9%
2010 220,781,909 3.2%
2015 248,861,296 3.4%
2019 271,642,105 3.5%

The number and share of people living outside their country of birth a year or more rose by over 3 million a year recently

Asia had the most migrants in 2020, 84 million. Migrants were the highest share of residents in Oceania, 21 percent

The US had 20 percent of the world’s migrants, followed by five percent each in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Russia. The three major sending countries were India, Mexico, and China

Two-thirds of migrant workers were in high-income countries in 2017. Migrants were a sixth of workers in high-income countries

Mexico has 12 million or 10 percent of its citizens abroad; Jamaica has 40 percent of its citizens abroad, followed by El Salvador with 25 percent