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Demographic trends are posing migration challenges for some countries. Africa’s population is the fastest growing in the world, and also one of the youngest - while Europe and North America share the distinction of having the highest proportion of people aged 65 or over, according to a report published in 2022 by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Demographic disparities between more economically developed and developing parts of the world promise to exert an increasingly-powerful influence on global migration and mobility patterns in the very near future. Geographically proximate parts of the world, such as Africa and Europe, which at the same time feature widening demographic and economic disparities, are likely to be most acutely affected by this trend during the second half of the 21st century. Even when accounting for reductions in fertility rates in both developed and the least-developed countries, global population growth remains on track to present challenges for many countries and regions, which are in turn likely to struggle with the tasks of adequately feeding, educating, housing, and providing employment opportunities for quickly-expanding numbers of people. The incentive to migrate due to demographic pressure is likely to increase in many parts of the world, at least until improved access to education for girls there and greater gender parity bolsters development outcomes and reduces both fertility rates and entrenched poverty. Meanwhile in other countries and regions with rapidly-ageing populations, there is a pressing need to replace retirees who as members of the workforce were active contributors to local economies. This issue is most acute in Europe, where countries like Germany and the UK are among those where fertility rates were actually below population replacement levels between 2015 and 2020, according to the UN. Japan, where more than one quarter of the population (30%) was aged 65 and above by 2020, according to the World Bank, also faces a significant related challenge. International migration could provide a strategic benefit to countries in need of replenishing their populations for economic, social, and political reasons. However, the ability to match labour market needs to migrant skills is likely to remain limited in many countries, at least for the foreseeable future.

Demographic Push


Increasing significance of migration