World’s migrant population hits 175 million, UN reports

World’s migrant population hits 175 million, UN reports

Joseph Chamie at press briefing in New York
With some 175 million people currently residing in a country that they were not born in, the number of migrants in the world has more than doubled since 1975, the United Nations reported today.

International Migration 2002, a new wall chart produced by the UN Population Division, shows that 56 million migrants live Europe, 50 million in Asia, and 41 million in Northern America. Some 40 per cent of all migrants live in the less developed regions.

Almost one of every 10 persons living in the developed countries is a migrant, while nearly one of every 70 persons in developing countries is a migrant.

Despite this disparity, developed and developing countries are strikingly similar in their views and policies concerning levels of emigration, according to the chart. About three quarters of both developed and developing countries view their level of emigration as satisfactory. In contrast, one in five countries have policies in place to lower levels of emigration.

Joseph Chamie, the Director of the Population Division, said governments are putting out two fundamental and often conflicting messages. “The first is ‘Help Wanted,’ asking for migrants to come in… from computer programmers and nurses to janitors and fruit pickers,” he said. “The second message that comes across is ‘Keep Out.’ Societies are increasingly concerned about the number and proportion of migrants – who’s coming in, what are they doing, how are they affecting my job, what languages are they speaking, what faiths are they professing?”

Three decades ago, 6 or 7 per cent of all governments had policies to restrict emigration. “That per cent today is 40 per cent,” he noted.

The growing concern about terrorist attacks has fuelled worries about “who is coming in, who is staying, and what are they doing,” Mr. Chamie added.

Stressing the financial component of international migration, he said through the movement of workers across borders, “enormous amounts of money are being transferred.” The annual amount of remittances to developing countries from foreign workers is estimated at $50 billion.