Why do people migrate?

Why do people migrate?

The majority of people who migrate internationally do so for reasons related to work, family and study – involving migration processes that largely occur without fundamentally challenging migrants themselves or the countries they enter. In contrast, other people leave their homes and countries for a range of compelling and sometimes tragic reasons, such as conflict, persecution and disaster. While those who have been displaced, such as refugees, comprise a relatively small percentage of all migrants, they are often the most in need of assistance and support. This is also the case of those displaced within their own countries– internally displaced persons– who are sometimes considered as internal migrants.

Migrant worker statistics

Labour migration is a driving force in international and internal migration. In the case of international migration, the move can be regional (across countries in a specific region) or inter-regional (to different regions). The latest available estimates indicate that there were roughly 169 million migrant workers around the world in 2019.

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Geographic distribution of migrant workers by sex

As evident from the data, the international migrant worker population is currently gendered as well as geographically concentrated. Notably, there is a striking gender imbalance of migrant workers in two regions: Southern Asia and the Arab States.

Key Terms

  • Drivers of migration
  • Environmental migration
  • Displacement
  • Mixed motivations
  • Migration aspirations

Research and Analysis on the Topic

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Displaced persons

Displacement from around the world

As shown in Figure 20, in previous years, annual new disaster displacements outnumbered new displacements associated with conflict and violence. A significant portion of the global total of new displacements by disasters is usually associated with short-term evacuations in a relatively safe and orderly manner. As in previous years, weather-related disasters triggered the vast majority (30 million) of all new displacements, with storms accounting for 14.6 million displacements and floods for 14.1 million.

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New internal displacements due to conflict and disasters

Reflection questions

  1. In 2019, what percentage of international migrants were migrant workers? In which 3 regions were the distribution of male and female migrant workers the most equal?

  2. What are two the two weather-related events causing displacements?

  3. What does the chart on this page show about conflict and disasters as reasons for the displacement of people between 2010 and 2020? Explain your answer.

  4. Examine the infographic on displaced persons and describe the trends in your own words.