Millions Leave Native Lands, With Broad Repercussions
UNITED NATIONS — Humanity is on the move, but we are traipsing across the globe a bit less than you might think.
According to the latest United Nations estimates, 244 million people, or 3.3 percent of the world’s population, live in a country other than the one where they were born. Their ranks are growing at a faster pace than the world population as a whole, with enormous economic, social and demographic repercussions for their native and adopted countries.
However, they are concentrated in just 20 countries. By far, the most popular destination in 2015 was the United States, followed by Germany, Russia and Saudi Arabia. But the ranking should not be viewed as a popularity contest. Saudi Arabia shows up because it hosts an enormous number of migrant workers, not immigrants who resettle, as in the United States.
The United Nations report does not distinguish between who migrates with legal papers and who does not. Among the migrants worldwide are 20 million refugees — those who have fled war or persecution in their home countries.
Indians make up the largest diaspora: 16 million Indians are scattered across the world, which partly reflects the country’s demographic size (1.2 billion) and youth (median age is around 26).
The effect can be enormous. Many migrants send home remittances, and in some countries that far exceeds what their governments take in traditional donor aid.
Migrants tend to be mostly young, working-age people, which can be a boon to countries like those in Europe where the native population is swiftly aging. Africans and Asians tend to be the youngest of migrants.
Migration can also roil domestic politics in the receiving countries, as the presidential campaign in the United States has already demonstrated, especially when it comes to the issue of Mexican migrants.
After India, Mexico has the second largest diaspora, with 12 million living abroad, the majority of them in the United States.