International migration is defined as crossing by people of state boundaries and staying in the host countries for a minimum length of time. Even though it has always existed, such a migration gained momentum in the last few decades. Increased globalisation and better and cheaper modes of transportation have triggered international migration. In 2013, 232 million people (3.2 per cent of the world’s population) are living outside their countries of birth. This indicates the importance of international migration to all countries and their respective economies.
International immigration can be categorised into two broad groups, temporary and permanent. Temporary migrants go to the host countries for a limited period of time to study or work and return to their homes after completion of their studies or work. Permanent migrants go to the host countries to permanently settle and work there.
The reasons for international migration can be grouped into push and pull factors. The push factors are lack of employment opportunities, overpopulation, poor health care, etc. in their home countries. Again, the pull factors are more employment opportunities, higher living standards, better health care, etc. in the destination countries. Source: Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat(2013). World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision. New York: United Nations.
Figure 1 shows world migration from 1950 to 2050. From 1950-1955, world migration steadily increased to more than 17 million people in 2005-2010. Again, it is expected to be around 13.2 million people during the period 2010 to 2015. After that, it is predicted to slightly decrease during the forecast period. World migration is projected to reach 11.6 million people during the period 2045-2050. As Figure 1 indicates, most of the migration has occurred from less developed regions excluding the least developed countries. This trend is expected to continue in the future.
International migration has increased over time, and the source regions and the destinations have changed over time. In 1950-1955, of all the regions, Europe experienced the highest level of emigration, followed by Africa and Asia. On the other hand, North America had the highest level of immigration, of more than 1.6 million. It was followed by Oceania, and Latin American and Caribbean countries. However, by 2005-2010, Europe has transformed itself as a region with the highest level of immigration, followed by North America and Oceania. Again, the region with the most population, Asia, also became a region with the highest level of emigration. It was followed by Latin America and the Caribbean countries. It is forecast that by 2045-2050, North America will regain its position as the region experiencing the highest level of immigration. It will be followed by Europe and Oceania. Asia will retain its position as the region with the highest level of emigration, even though its level is expected to decrease, possibly because of an ageing population which is less willing to emigrate and increased affluence in Asia.
Bangladesh topped the list of the major countries with net emigration during the period 2005-2010. Almost 3.6 million people migrated from the country during this period. The second-most populous country in the world, India, experienced net emigration of almost 3 million people. Countries like China and Mexico are also present in the list as shown in Figure 5.
During the same period, the United States was the largest recipient of international migrants as shown in Figure 6. More than five million people moved to the United States during 2005-2010.Source: Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat(2013). World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision. New York: United Nations.
It was followed by the United Arab Emirates and the Russian Federation. South Africa and Canada also featured in this group of top immigrant recipients for the period 2005-2010.
Figure 7 shows emigration from Bangladesh from the period 1950-1955 to 2045-2050. Emigration has increased over the years so as to reach almost 3.6 million in 2005-2010. It is expected to be more than two million people during the period 2010-2015. As the graph shows, Bangladesh is expected to have healthy emigration till 2050. The projected level of high emigration from Bangladesh makes it the top country for net emigration during the period 2010 to 2050. More than three hundred thousand people are expected to emigrate each year from Bangladesh during this forecast horizon as Figure 8 shows. Bangladesh is followed by China and India respectively as the top emigrant countries.
On the other hand, it is predicted that the United States would be the top recipient of international migrants during the period 2010 to 2050 as shown in Figure 9. The United States is forecast to receive a million immigrants each year. It is expected to be followed by Canada (205,000), the United Kingdom (172,500) and others.
The countries from where migration is taking place are all overpopulated developing ones. They are also characterised by a relatively young population and an excess supply of labour. On the other hand, the immigrant-receiving countries have high levels of per capita income and are mostly the advanced economies. Some of these countries are faced with an ageing population and a low birth rate which makes immigration the method to sustain their economies. International migration is expected to continue to play important roles in the emigrant countries and the immigrant-receiving countries.