Skip to navigation

Skip to main content


July 2018, Volume 24, Number 3

Population and Migration

The UN released a final Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in July 2018 whose goal is to protect the basic human rights of all migrants by "harnessing the benefits of regular migration while safeguarding against the dangers of irregular movements that place people at risk." The agreement is expected to be signed by most of the 193 UN member states in Morocco in December 2018. The US withdrew from the GCM process in December 2017, and Hungary withdrew in July 2018.

The GCM has 23 objectives, with "measurable goals" in each.

Biologist Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" was published in May 1968; its predictions of doom from exceeding the carrying capacity of the earth sold three million copies. Economist Julian Simon countered in "The Ultimate Resource" in 1981 that more people lead to more creativity to solve problems.

Ehrlich in 1980 bet that the prices of nickel, copper, chromium, tin and tungsten would be higher in 1990 as the world used up these finite resources; Simon bet these prices would be lower, and won the bet.

Ehrlich continues to argue that the optimal population of the world is less than two billion, and that the continued population growth and affluence that increase consumption are like growing cancer cells that will eventually destroy the world.

Migration. The UN estimated there were 258 million international migrants in 2017; the World Bank estimated 266 million, making 3.4 percent of the world's people migrants. Some 18 million or seven percent of these migrants were refugees. There were 172 million migrants in 2000, so the stock of migrants rose by almost six million a year.

The countries hosting the most migrants were the US with 48 million; Germany with 13 million; Saudi Arabia and Russia, 12 million each; UK nine million; and UAE, Canada, and France, eight million each. These eight countries include almost 45 percent of all international migrants.

The leading origin countries for migrants were India, 16 million; Mexico, 12 million; Russia, 11 million; China 10 million; Bangladesh and Syria, eight million each; and Pakistan, Ukraine, and the Philippines, six million each. These nine countries accounted for a third of international migrants.

Remittances to developing countries were $466 billion in 2017, when the average cost of sending remittances was seven percent. Progress in reducing remittance costs has been slowed by bank efforts to adhere to anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws and monopolies between post offices and a money transfer firm.

The leading receivers of remittances in 2017 were India, $69 billion; China, $64 billion; Philippines, $33 billion; Mexico, $31 billion; and Nigeria, Egypt, and Pakistan, about $20 billion each. These six countries received 55 percent of remittances to developing countries in 2017.

Argentinean Pope Francis, elected after the resignation of German Benedict XVI, aims to counter populism and nationalism in many countries. Within the Catholic Church, some conservatives empowered by Benedict XVI are resisting Francis's focus on migrants and social justice, while liberals want Francis to move faster to upgrade the status of women and liberalize the church's stance on abortion and divorce.

Francis said that helping migrants, whom he sees as the victims of globalization and unrest, is just as holy as opposing abortion, a position attacked by conservative cardinals.

New World Wealth estimates that there are 15 million people worldwide with net assets of $1 million or more (five million in the US) and that 100,000 changed countries in 2017. The largest exoduses were from Turkey and Venezuela, where over 10 percent of millionaires left, followed by India and the UK. Many of these millionaire migrants moved to Canada, Australia and the UAE.

France was the country with the most significant change in millionaire migration in 2017. The net outflow was 12,000 in 2016, but only 4,000 in 2017.

United Nations. 2017. International Migration Report 2017. DESA. December.

World Bank. 2018. Migration and Remittances Brief 29. April.