The UN estimates that there were 232 million people living outside their country of birth in 2013, roughly 3.2% of the world’s population. To put this in perspective, if migrants formed one country, it would be the world’s 5th most populous.
The map above uses the UN’s Trends in International migrant stock: By destination and origin report to look at the most popular destination for migrants FROM each country.
Since immigration is such a politically sensitive topic around the world, it’s worth mentioning that the map above does not distinguish between the different categories of migrants or their respective statuses. Just keep in mind that the definition of a migrant can vary from country to country. In some countries, a person could be born in that country but still be considered a migrant if their parents were born abroad. In other countries, the census might not capture immigrants who later became citizens.
Also, for obvious reasons, the above likely does not include irregular migrants. As for refugees, some countries count them and others don’t. You can learn about the data from the UN’s explanatory notes. For similar dataset you can also look at the World Bank Global Bilateral Migration Database.
And, if you’re opposed to international migration, ask yourself where the human race would be today if our distant ancestors had not decided to leave Africa 60,000 years ago?
Here are a few of the more interesting findings:
- Don’t tell UKIP or the Daily Mail, but the UK is not the most popular destination for any Eastern European country except Lithuania.
- The top destination for Brits is Australia, and the UK is the most attractive country for Australians.
- While it’s no surprise that the US is the top destination for Mexicans, Mexico also happens to be the top destination for Americans.
- Germany is the most popular destination for most Eastern and Southern Europeans.
- Russia and Ukraine are each other’s favourite destination country.
- North Korea’s most popular destination is listed as Kazakhstan, however this is in fact an error. The actual destination should China.
- The most popular destination for Iranians is the United States, which is likely due to the large number who left following the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
- Libyans moving to Bangladesh are the result of migrant workers being displaced by the ongoing civil unrest.
- Sweden is the heart of the Nordic world since it’s the most popular destination for Norwegians, Danes and Finns. However, Swedes would rather go to the US than any other fellow Nordic nation.
- France’s former colonial empire is on show along with some countries a little closer to home.
- Similarly, former Soviet countries also seem to favour Russia as a destination.
- Yet surprisingly, people from many former British colonies and dominions such as India, Pakistan, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, etc. have other prefered destinations over the UK.
- South Africa is the overwhelming choice for those living in the southern part of Africa.
- Saudi Arabia is the top choice for most of the Middle East, yet Saudis would rather go to the United States.
- Argentina dominates the southern portion of South America, but Argentines prefer Spain over other closer destinations.
- Finally, due to it’s size, wealth and relative openness to outsiders, the United States is the top choice from a huge range of countries from Brazil to Canada to Japan to Venezuela and many others. Interestingly, despite its recent economic boom, the same can’t be said about China.
Finally, reddit user Carcharodon_literati has found an interesting migration chain: “Bhutan migrates to Nepal to India to UAE to Kuwait to Saudi Arabia to USA to Mexico to USA.” While not as long user thisisnotdavid points out another interesting one: “Eritrea -> Sudan -> South Sudan -> Chad -> Cameroon -> France -> Spain -> France.” While out favourite is China -> Hong Kong -> Canada -> USA -> Mexico -> USA.
To learn more about migration, you might want to read:
- The Age of Migration, Fifth Edition: International Population Movements in the Modern World
- Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World
- Atlas of Human Migration
Notice any other interesting patterns in the map above or have any other comments? Then please share them below: