International migrant stock (% of population)

Definition: International migrant stock is the number of people born in a country other than that in which they live. It also includes refugees. The data used to estimate the international migrant stock at a particular time are obtained mainly from population censuses. The estimates are derived from the data on foreign-born population--people who have residence in one country but were born in another country. When data on the foreign-born population are not available, data on foreign population--that is, people who are citizens of a country other than the country in which they reside--are used as estimates. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 people living in one of the newly independent countries who were born in another were classified as international migrants. Estimates of migrant stock in the newly independent states from 1990 on are based on the 1989 census of the Soviet Union. For countries with information on the international migrant stock for at least two points in time, interpolation or extrapolation was used to estimate the international migrant stock on July 1 of the reference years. For countries with only one observation, estimates for the reference years were derived using rates of change in the migrant stock in the years preceding or following the single observation available. A model was used to estimate migrants for countries that had no data.

Description: The map below shows how International migrant stock (% of population) varies by country. The shade of the country corresponds to the magnitude of the indicator. The darker the shade, the higher the value. The country with the highest value in the world is United Arab Emirates, with a value of 88.40. The country with the lowest value in the world is Sudan, with a value of 0.00.

Source: United Nations Population Division, Trends in Total Migrant Stock: 2008 Revision.

See also: Country ranking, Time series comparison

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Development Relevance: Movement of people, most often through migration, is a significant part of global integration. Migrants contribute to the economies of both their host country and their country of origin. Yet reliable statistics on migration are difficult to collect and are often incomplete, making international comparisons a challenge. Global migration patterns have become increasingly complex in modern times, involving not just refugees, but also millions of economic migrants. In most developed countries, refugees are admitted for resettlement and are routinely included in population counts by censuses or population registers. But refugees and migrants, even if they often travel in the same way, are fundamentally different, and for that reason are treated very differently under modern international law. Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families. Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom.

Limitations and Exceptions: In deriving the estimates, an international migrant was equated to a person living in a country other than that in which he or she was born. That is, the number of international migrants, also called the international migrant stock, would represent the number of foreign-born persons enumerated in the countries or areas constituting the world. However, because several countries lack data on the foreign-born, data on the number of foreigners, if available, were used instead as the basis of estimation. Consequently, the overall number of migrants in world regions or at the global level do not quite represent the overall number of foreign-born persons. The disintegration and reunification of countries causes discontinuities in the change of the international migrant stock. Because an international migrant is equated with a person who was born outside the country in which he or she resides, when a country disintegrates, persons who had been internal migrants because they had moved from one part of the country to another may become, overnight, international migrants without having moved at that time. Such changes introduce artificial but unavoidable discontinuities in the trend of the international migrant stock. The reunification of States also introduces discontinuities, but in the opposite direction.

Statistical Concept and Methodology: The basic data to estimate the international migrant stock were obtained mostly from population censuses held during the decennial rounds of censuses. Some of the data used were obtained from population registers and nationally representative surveys. In the majority of cases, the sources available had gathered information on the place of birth of the enumerated population, thus allowing for the identification of the foreign-born population. In estimating the international migrant stock, international migrants have been equated with the foreign-born whenever possible. In most countries lacking data on place of birth, information on the country of citizenship of those enumerated was available and was used as the basis for the identification of international migrants, thus effectively equating international migrants with foreign citizens. Among the 230 countries or areas that constituted the world in 2008, 91 percent had at least one data source on the international migrant stock, and of those 78 percent used the number of foreign-born persons as the basis for estimation. For about 18 percent of the countries, the number of international migrants was based on data regarding foreign citizens. There were nine countries with no information including China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Somalia. For countries having information on the international migrant stock for at least two points in time, interpolation or extrapolation using an exponential growth rate was used to estimate the international migrant stock on 1 July of the reference years. In some instances, the estimates were adjusted on the basis of other relevant information, including the size of the total population in the country, to ensure that the proportion of migrants in small populations did not increase to unacceptable levels. For all other countries with only one data source, estimates for the reference years were derived by assuming growth rates of the migrant stock in the years preceding or following the only data source available. For the nine countries or areas for which no information was available on the international migrant stock, a model, based on the general observation that the proportion of international migrants tends to be inversely related to the size of the total population, was used. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 people living in one of the newly independent countries who were born in another were classified as international migrants. Estimates of migrant stock in the newly independent states from 1990 on are based on the 1989 census of the Soviet Union.

Aggregation method: Weighted average

Periodicity: Annual