The G20 and migration
The G20 countries are at the centre of not only global economic governance, but also global migration governance. They play a leading role as their policy responses to migration challenges and opportunities affect migrants, countries of origin, transit and destination, and the world economy.
Data on G20 countries show the extent to which migration affects the G20’s demographic and socioeconomic spheres, but data limitations hamper more robust research that could allow policymakers to fully harness the economic potential of migration and formulate policies to promote safe, orderly and regular migration. In light of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, G20 leadership on more comprehensive, timely, and comparable migration data is essential.
As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses globally, the G20 has started addressing part of the needs of the migrant groups most affected by the pandemic by i) extending work and residency permits; ii) implementing policies to address migrant worker shortages; iii) addressing vulnerability by ensuring access to COVID-19 treatment; and iv) facilitating return migration.
In addition, three G20 countries, namely India, China and Mexico, are among the top 5 remittance-receiving countries (World Bank, 2020a). Also noteworthy is that two G20 countries, the US and Mexico, comprise the largest bilateral migration corridor in the world.
While G20 leaders have mentioned migration since the 2004 G20 Summit in Berlin, Germany, leaders have only consistently and explicitly included migration in its formal declarations and action plans since 2015. The inclusion of migration in the G20 has evolved from a narrow focus on specific topics such as remittances and labour migration to a broader focus on migration governance and other migration topics.
Any mentions of migration data are fewer, more recent and not specific. In 2017, leaders referred to the importance of collecting migration data when they called for monitoring displacement and migration and asked the OECD, in cooperation with ILO, IOM and UNHCR, to provide annual updates on migration trends and policy challenges (G20 Declaration, 2017). In 2018, OECD presented a report on migration trends and policy challenges, which referred to the need to have better, up-to-date international comparable data. In 2018 and 2019, G20 leaders committed to continuing the dialogue on issues presented in the report (especially concerning displacement and humanitarian needs), but did not specifically mention migration data (G20 Declaration, 2018; G20 Declaration, 2019).
While the G20 has recognized certain policies to harness migration’s potential, such as policy practices to integrate regular migrants and refugees into the labour market, it has yet to formally recognise policies and practices related to migration data.
The population of the G20 is estimated at 4.6 billion in 2019, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population (UN DESA, 2019a). The countries with the highest, positive net migration between 2015 and 2020 were the United States (4.7 million) and Germany (2.7 million) whilst the one with the lowest, negative net migration was the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (- 3.2 million) (UN DESA, 2019b).
While the number of international migrants worldwide grew by 77.5 per cent, the number in G20 countries grew by 89 per cent or 73.5 million from 1990 to 2019 (UN DESA, 2019).
In 2019, there were an estimated 271 million international migrants worldwide and two-thirds of these resided in G20 countries (UN DESA, 2019c). Nearly half of them (88.5 million) resided in four countries alone: the United States, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and the Russian Federation (ibid.). On a country basis, the share of migrants in the total population varies: It was 0.1 and 0.4 per cent in China and India, while in the European Union and the United States, the share was 11 and 15.4 per cent respectively (ibid.).
Migrant flows (inflows)
In 2019, the latest available data indicate a considerable increase in overall migration flows to G20 countries. More than 12.5 million new temporary and permanent immigrants entered the G20 nations in 2019, a 10 per cent increase compared to the previous year (OECD et al., 2020a). The United States and Saudi Arabia have each received around 2 million new migrants in 2019, ranking as the two main destination countries in the Group. Countries such as Brazil, the Russian Federation and Turkey also witnessed a sharp increase in migration flows: +50 percent, +33 per cent and +23 per cent, respectively (ibid.).
Increased migration inflows to Spain (+18 per cent) and the United Kingdom (+14 per cent) propelled total migration to the EU in 2019, excluding intra EU movements, to a new record – 3.4 million (+9%) (ibid.). Contrary to trends in other EU countries, new permanent and temporary migration inflows to Germany decreased in 2019 (-3%) for the second year in a row, totalling 1.3 million (ibid).
With regard to the first six months of 2020, the figures show a drastic drop in migration flows to G20 countries due to travel restrictions and the temporarily closed borders in the period of March-June 2020 (ibid.). As a result, the number of new permits declined on average by 45 per cent in G20 OECD countries and by over 50 per cent in Japan, Republic of Korea, the United States and Australia (ibid.).
In April 2020, Ratha et al. projected a decline in remittance flows to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) by about 20 per cent, given the unprecedented disruption of the economic activity and global mobility due to the outbreak of COVID-19 (2020a). A couple of months into the pandemic, however, its impact on remittances appears to be both milder than previously forecast and to have different impacts on certain countries and regions. This prompted Ratha et al. to adjust their projected decline to 7.2 per cent in 2020 and to 7.5 per cent in 2021 (2020b).
Although a general drop in remittances has been observed in many countries, a few of them defied the negative forecasts – with some even registering increases in remittance inflows. For example, Mexico recorded 1.5 times more inflows in March (the month in which the pandemic was declared) than in February 2020 (Mexico Central Bank, 2020). Pakistan and Bangladesh are also part of the selective group of countries that stood out as exceptions to the decline in remittances. Whilst the depreciation of Mexico’s peso against US dollar was the main driver of the “surge” in remittances to Mexico, in Bangladesh and Pakistan, the rise can be partly attributed to the “Haj effect” – migrants sending home the money they would have used for pilgrimage to Mecca had it not been for the reduction of Haj visas issued due to COVID-19 (World Bank, 2020b).
For more information on the situation of remittances amid COVID-19, access our Remittances page.
Refugees and asylum seekers
By mid-2020, 7.6 million refugees of the total 26.3 million worldwide resided in G20 countries (OECD et al., 2020a). This represented approximately 37 per cent of all refugees under UNHCR’s mandate; about half of these refugees were in Turkey (ibid.). Turkey continued to host the world’s largest population in need of international protection, reaching a total of 4 million refugees and asylum-seekers, including 3.6 million Syrian refugees (ibid.). In terms of proportion relative to nationals, Turkey also ranked first in the G20 countries, with 1 in 23 individuals being refugees. Sweden also has a relatively high proportion of refugees with 1 per 40, followed by Malta (1 in 49), Austria (1 in 65) and Germany (1 in 75) (ibid.).
During the first half of 2020, there were an estimated 586,100 new claims for asylum lodged globally – 32 per cent less than in the same period in 2019 (OECD et al., 2020a). The United States received the highest number (155,100 ) of new asylum applications by mid-2020, representing a 48.5 per cent decrease from 2019 (UNHCR, 2019). Of all claims in the United States, nearly 3 out of 7 came from the North of Central America (OECD et al.,2020). Germany, which was the third largest recipient of individual applications in 2019 (142,500 claims), saw a 65.6% decrease in mid-2020 (49,000 claims) (ibid.).
Migrant workers are amongst the most vulnerable workers and have experienced the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic more than their native-born counterparts (OECD et al. 2020b). Available data show that even though unemployment rates have increased for both native-born and foreign-born workers, the rates are higher for the latter( ibid.). The sharpest increases in unemployment for immigrants were in Canada, Spain and the United States (ibid.). In Spain, for instance, unemployment increased by almost 9 percentage points for immigrants, whereas it declined by about 3 percentage points for the native-born (ibid.).
In 2018, about 3.9 million international students were enrolled in tertiary education in the G20 countries (OECD et al., 2020). Forty-four per cent of students were enrolled in the European Union and 25 per cent in the United States. Overall, the top five G20 destination countries host nearly 62 per cent of international students (ibid.). Main European destinations are the United Kingdom (452,000), France (230,000) and Germany (312,000). Australia (445,000), Canada (225,000), the Russian Federation (262,000) and Japan (183,000) are other important destination countries for international students (ibid.).
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created even more obstacles for international students regarding their enrolment in higher education institutions abroad and their travels to begin studies (OECD et al., 2020a). Although international students benefit from exceptions to travel bans, many universities had to either postpone the beginning of their semesters or close for certain periods. The academic year of 2020/2021 will likely be the first to experience a drop in the number of international students after years of constant increase.(ibid.). G20 countries are nonetheless putting exceptional measures in place so as to alleviate such effects and give more time for students to finish their studies and sort out their visa statuses (ibid.).
Comprehensive datasets covering all aspects of migration in every G20 member do not exist. What exists instead are disparate datasets covering selected migration topics for some or most of the G20, and in few cases, all of the G20:
1. International migrant stocks and flows, and net migration: UN DESA, OECD and Eurostat
The United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) compiles data on international migrant stocks in its UN Global Migration Database (UNGMD). The database provides datasets on the most recent estimates of international migrant stocks at the global, regional and national levels and covers more than 200 countries and territories, including all G20 countries.
In its 2019 World Population Prospects, UN DESA also provides datasets on two migration indicators: the net number of migrants and net migration rate. The datasets contain estimates for 233 countries, including for all G20 countries, and are available biennially covering 1950 to 2015.
OECD’s International Migration Database contains data on international migrant stocks and flows for the 34 OECD Member States, which include at least half of the G20 countries. The datasets on stocks and flows cover 2000-2020
In terms of international migrant flow data, UN DESA’s 2015 International Migration Flows compiles the most current flow data available from 45 countries of destination, including some G20 countries.
Eurostat also provides flow data on half of the G20 because its datasets cover the EU. Data have been compiled annually from 2005 to 2018.
Regional datasets which include information on migrant stocks and other key migration information from G20 countries also exist. For example, in Latin America, the Continuous Reporting System on International Migration in the Americas (SICREMI, its acronym in Spanish) collects data from diverse sources, such as censuses, surveys, and administrative records. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) also collects migration stock data and other migration data in its International Migration in Latin America (IMILA) database.
2. Labour migrants: ILO, UN SD, OECD and Eurostat
The International Labour Organization (ILO) maintains the ILOSTAT – ILO database of labour statistics (ILOSTAT), a collection of datasets on key indicators of the labour market, such as labour migration. The datasets on labour migration cover more than 200 countries, including all G20 countries; data are from 2004 to 2018 Datasets are organised into three subtopics: international migrant stocks, nationals abroad, and international migrant flow. ILO also publishes the Labour Force Surveys (LFSs) of approximately 200 countries and territories, including for most G20 countries. The UN Statistics Division collects, compiles and disseminates official demographic and social statistics on a number of topics, including employment.
OECD’s Databases on Immigrants in OECD Countries (DIOC) and Immigrants in OECD and non OECD countries (DIOC-E) together provide labour migration-related data for all G20 countries as they cover 100 countries of destination and more than 200 countries of origin. The datasets are based on population censuses, include data on labour market status, occupations and sectors of activity, and cover the years 2000-2001, 2005-2006, 2010-2011 and 2015-2016.
The Eurostat database covers labour migration-related information for at least half of the G20 countries as it provides comprehensive, harmonised labour force data on the EU28 member states and five other countries. For example, one dataset (migr_emp) provides data on population by sex, age, citizenship, country of birth and labour status.
Other datasets with a regional or national scope exist. Read more on the labour migration page.
3. Remittances and remittance prices: The World Bank
On an annual basis, the World Bank publishes datasets on global remittance inflows and outflows, as well as a matrix on bilateral remittances. Its annual remittances datasets cover over 200 countries and territories, including all G20 countries, and are based on the IMF Balance of Payments Statistics database and data releases from central banks, national statistical agencies, and World Bank country desks.
The World Bank also releases Remittance Prices Worldwide (RPW), a dataset on the cost of sending and receiving small amounts of money from one country to another. Data cover 365 country corridors worldwide, from 48 remittance sending countries to 105 receiving countries, including all G20 countries.
Key publications on remittance statistics for most or all of the G20 are on the remittances page.
4. Integration: OECD, Eurostat and IOM
As OECD’s DIOC and DIOC-E databases include data on labour market status, occupation, and educational attainment, they are also sources for data on migrant integration.
OECD, Eurostat and IOM provide statistics on integration for most of the G20 in key reports:
- Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2018- The European Commission’s Eurostat and OECD analysed data on key integration indicators across the EU and OECD countries, with a focus on gender, youth with a migrant background and third-country nationals.
- Indicators of Immigrant Integration: Eurostat examined survey data on migrants’ employment, education, social inclusion and civic participation to compare integration across EU countries.
- IOM’s 2013 World Migration Report presents Gallup World Poll data on migrants’ well-being in over 150 countries, and provides information on migrant integration in low-income countries, an understudied area.
The Migration Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) measures migrant integration policies in more than half of the G20 as it covers EU Member States and other G20 countries.
5. Forced migration (forced displacement): UNHCR, IDMC and UNICEF
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)’s Statistics Database provides data on forcibly displaced persons from 1951 to 2019. Data cover approximately 200 countries and territories, including all G20 members.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) compiles and disseminates data on worldwide internal displacement due to conflict, violence and disasters in its Global Internal Displacement Database. Data cover approximately 200 countries and territories, including all G20 countries if data are relevant and available. Internal displacement data associated with conflict and generalised violence cover 2003 to 2019, while data on displacement associated with sudden-onset natural hazard-related disasters cover 2008 to 2019.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides datasets on child migrants and refugees per country and region in its UNICEF Global Databases. The datasets cover approximately 200 countries and territories, including all G20 countries.
Other sources can be found on the forced displacement page, but cover few G20 countries.
6. International students: UNESCO and OECD
The Institute for Statistics (UIS) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation (UNESCO) provides the most comprehensive datasets to date. UNESCO datasets on international students cover approximately 240 countries, including all G20 countries; data are from 1999 to 2019.
OECD provides various Education at a Glance datasets on international students that cover some, but not all, G20 countries. The datasets are generally from 2013 to 2018 older datasets are archived.
More datasets are available on the international students page but cover selected G20 countries.
7. Gallup: Public opinion on migration
The World Values Survey (WVS) is a nationally representative survey conducted in almost 100 countries, including the majority of the G20 countries. Among the survey questions are questions on whether people would like or not like to have immigrants/foreign workers as neighbours, or whether when jobs are scarce, employers should give priority to native-born people over immigrants. The most current WVS Wave 6 (2010-2014) data are available. The WVS-7 survey will end in December 2019.
The Gallup World Poll is a global comparable survey implemented annually in more than 160 countries, including all G20 countries, and covering public opinion on many topics, including migration. The dataset on migration is not publicly available, but IOM GMDAC’s How the World Views Migration report presents, among other results, G20 poll results on two migration questions : (1) How they feel about migration levels and (2) what their perceptions on job competition between immigrants and native workers are. Gallup also publishes the migrant acceptance index, which provides information on people's acceptance of migrants in 139 countries, including all G20 countries.
Other sources are available but cover only some G20 countries—mostly EU ones. See the public opinion page.
Data strength & limitations