2.3.13 International Migration

Facts/messages: International migration (immigration and emigration) involves movement of people across national borders. It is often distinguished by purpose and duration. People move for different reasons, such as seeking employment, reunifying families, taking up study, seeking asylum from persecution, etc. The condition of being a migrant, particularly an international migrant, has historically had implications for social participation and the distribution of power. While for migrants, especially in conditions of global asymmetries, getting established at their place of destination frequently comes with deprivations, vulnerability and loss of connections with the place of origin. For the host societies, immigration fosters diversity, bringing about challanges of adaptation that sometimes receive the highest political priority.

Short-term migrants are those who change their country of residence for less than one year; long-term migration involves changes of one’s country of residence for one year or more. A third key distinction is between migration flows and migrant stocks. Flows refer to the number of people that cross an international border during a period, normally a year. Migrant stocks refer to the number of foreign-born of foreign citizens at a particular moment in time. International migration flow data are often generated by administrative sources (the number of visa issued, population registers), while the population census is the most common data source for the migrant stock.

The analysis should include international migration data (levels, trends, characteristics), but also give due attention to key variables that affect the integration of migrants, including their legal status, country of origin, reasons for migrating, duration of stay, period of arrival, etc. International migrants, in particular those in transit and those in an irregular situation, may have trouble accessing medical care, including SRH services. The analysis should highlight the limitations migrants and refugees have in accessing such care and how such access compares to that of citizens. In preparing national migration profiles, the native-born or national population living abroad should also be included, highlighting the linkages of the expatriate population to their home countries through remittances, trade, foreign direct investment, etc. International migration is a major component of population dynamics that affect health status. Highlight the limitations to access to health services in general, and access to reproductive health services by migrants and/or refugees.

Methodology: Data on international migration is relatively scarce. For many countries the population census is the only suitable data source that can yield information on the volume and characteristics of international migrants, i.e. persons who were born a country different from where they were enumerated (the foreign-born) or those who are citizens of a country different from the one in which they were enumerated (foreign citizens). In some countries, the census provides information on the number of immigrants who arrived during the last one, five or ten years, which allows for analysis of recent immigration. Data on the number of emigrants are notoriously unreliable, due to the inherent difficulties in enumerating absent people (stock) and deregistering people who leave (outflows). To estimate emigration, it is therefore recommended to peruse data sources in countries of destination, which provide information on the country of origin of international migrants. In Latin America, the IMILA data base was set up in this manner. Besides the census, migration data can sometimes be obtained from administrative sources and, increasingly, household surveys.

Analyze the relative distribution of origin (immigrants) and destination (emigrants) and identify the five most common origins and destinations and the rest. Use information on country of citizenship, country of birth, and country of previous residence. Make use of cross-tabulations of this information by age and sex. If possible, exploit administrative data sources, data from Labour Force Surveys and specialized surveys.

Analyze the reasons for migration by determining the push and pull factors of migration in the country. Push factors at origin may include political, social or environmental factors, conflict, lack of employment, etc. Pull factors at destination include better education, differentials in salaries, career opportunities etc. Use OECD data to analyze emigration by level of education (skills). Consider indicators such as: average age and education, distribution by sex (compared with non-migrants), average number of years of education by age and sex (compared with non-migrants).

Primary Sources:

  • Population censuses and population registers, national administrative sources, data from Labour Force Surveys and specialized surveys. Various household surveys of the LSMS type (poverty and social indicator monitoring) contain information about remittances at the level of the households, by characteristics of the recipients (sex, age, etc.);
  • IOM. Special migration surveys. These surveys are very rare, but some do exist (for example, Guatemala, 2003; Colombia 2005);
  • Censuses and surveys for disaggregated figures.

Secondary Sources: