top of page

The number of people living outside of their country of birth has been growing continuously, from 153 million in 1990, to an estimated 281 million in 2020. These figures reflect both that the global population has increased, and that while the share of people who migrate remains a small minority of the overall population, it too is increasing slightly - from 2.8% in 1990 to 3.6% in 2020. This increase also reflects a decline in return migration and increasing life expectancy of all, migrants included. Most international migrants are young and economically active and move to higher-income countries. Many migrants remain within their region of origin, for example, over 60% of international migrants in sub-Saharan Africa move to countries within that region. Involuntary migration, for example as a result of war, crisis or climate change, has grown much faster than voluntary migration in the past years. People migrate for a number of reasons, and there may be many factors behind a persons’ decision to migrate, including subjective perceptions and aspiration. Disparities in income and economic opportunities are among the most important drivers of international migration. Other drivers include social and human security, as well as existing ethnic and diaspora networks (i.e. other migrants from the same origin country). Climate change is much debated as a driver of future migrations, but the link between the two is often indirect and complex. These factors will remain relevant in the future, and so will migration.

Diverse drivers of migration


Increasing significance of migration