In Africa, most migrants, like these seeking work in South Africa, remain in the region | Photo: Picture-alliance/N. Bothma
In Africa, most migrants, like these seeking work in South Africa, remain in the region | Photo: Picture-alliance/N. Bothma

A very small percentage of the world‘s population resides outside the country in which they were born. According to the UN migration agency's latest figures, most of them migrate to find work, sending home more than half a trillion dollars.

Of the total global population of 7.7 billion, about 3.5% – or 272 million people – are international migrants, the latest report on migration from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says. Nearly two-thirds are labor migrants.

Here are some other significant facts and figures from the IOM's World Migration Report 2020:

Most of the world's migrants come from India. This year, there were 18 million Indians living abroad. After India, the countries that produced the most migrants were Mexico (12 million), China (11 million), Russia (10 million), and Syria (8 million).

In Africa, Asia and Europe, most people who migrate stay within their regions of birth, the IOM says. Most African migrants do not leave the continent.

Top destination countries

The United States remained the biggest destination country for migrants, with 51 million immigrants in 2019 (up from 12 million in 1970). The US was followed by Germany and Saudi Arabia, each with 13 million immigrants. The UK was not far away with 10 million international migrants residing in the country.

The Gulf countries are host to some of the highest numbers of temporary labor migrants. In the United Arab Emirates they make up nearly 90 percent of the population.

Remittances reach US$689 billion

International migrants sent home an estimated $689 billion in 2018: About $78 billion went to India, $67 billion to China, $35 billion to Mexico and $34 billion to the Philippines.

The highest remittances were earned in the United States ($68 billion), followed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

20 years ago, international remittances were valued at $126 billion. The number of international migrants at that time was estimated at 150 million, of whom 35 million were refugees or internally displaced persons.

Internally displaced

Conflicts and violence in countries such as Syria, Yemen and South Sudan have caused major internal displacement during the past two years, the IOM says. At the end of 2018, the number of internally displaced people had reached 41.3 million people.

Syria has more IDPs (6.1 million) than any other country, as well as being the top country of origin of refugees (over 6 million).

Migration has become 'weaponized'

International migration is being used by some as a political tool, according to the IOM. Leaders have tried to divide communities on the issue of migration and have downplayed the benefits and enrichment migration brings.

Social media technology is also having an impact on the politics of migration, with a "surge" of activism on social media by far-right groups and individuals trying to influence political debates and decisions.

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