Migration Today
Migration Today

Migration patterns today reflect world economic trends. For example, during the past thirty years Chinese workers have moved from inland regions to coastal cities within China in search of jobs and new economic opportunities unavailable in rural areas.  Domestic Chinese migrants now account for approximately one-third of all domestic migrants worldwide, numbering almost 230 million people (The Economist 2012). These migratory trends have arisen largely in response to the surge of international capital investment and manufacturing business being funneled into China, a known hotspot for cheap land and labor.  Concurrently, Chinese emigration has steadily increased since the 1970s, oftentimes resulting in the departure of the wealthy and of skilled laborers seeking professional employment in North America and Europe. Of those Chinese considered “affluent,” an astonishing 74.9 percent surveyed would consider sending their children to school abroad. Chinese emigration also includes lower skill labor groups, who may utilize unauthorized means of migration (Song, 2013). 

Similarly, during the last several decades, labor migration from Latin America (particularly Mexico) to the U.S. has surged.  A sizeable portion of this growing migration stream has been undocumented, a fact often called upon by immigration opponents in their quest to limit immigration rates. The backlash against immigrants from Latin America in the U.S. has resulted in the fortification of the U.S.-Mexico border, including the construction of physical walls at popular entry points.  However, these efforts don’t appear to have seriously limited the number of immigrants arriving in the U.S. without authorization each year; in fact, undocumented immigrants now number close to 11 million U.S. residents (Andreas 2009).  Additionally, many individual states have recently passed legislation making it difficult for undocumented immigrants to receive social services and find work in the U.S, causing extensive backlash from immigrants and supporters. 

Migratory patterns from Latin America have seemingly shifted in the years following the economic recession, perhaps in response to fewer employment opportunities in the U.S.  In 2011, arrests made at the U.S.-Mexico border fell to lowest level since 1972. Additionally, the post-recession period has seen more migration within Latin America, not necessarily directed towards the U.S.  Mexicans are now migrating within Mexico, rather than crossing the border into the U.S. and emigration streams from other Latin American countries, such as Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, are increasingly moving towards Argentina, Brazil and Chile (Cave, 2012).

Areas in Europe have also experienced influxes of immigrants in recent years.  Spain provides an interesting example; the foreign born population of the country increased by nearly 5 million people between 2000 and 2009, growing from less than four percent to nearly fourteen percent of the total population (Arango, 2013).  Like immigration to the U.S, Spain’s immigration is largely labor-driven, coming from areas in North Africa, Latin American and Europe.  Unlike the U.S, however, increased immigration in Spain has not been the cause of extensive backlash (Arango, 2013).  Alternatively, France has experience widespread resistance to immigration flows in recent years.  Former President Nicolas Sarkozy pursued highly restrictive immigration policy during his term (which ended in 2012). During 2011 alone, France deported nearly 33,000 undocumented immigrants, a 17 percent increase from the previous year, and right-wing government members pushed for additional limits on legal migration as well (The Guardian, 2012)

According to the International Organization for Migration, the total number of migrants across the world has increased over the past ten years from 150 million in 2000 to 214 million in 2010. This means that 3.1 percent of the world’s population is composed of migrants; this percentage has remained relatively stable over the past decade. The proportion of immigrants to total population changes vastly depending on the country being examined. Qatar and United Arab Emirates have high levels of international migrants living in their counties: 87 percent and 70 percent respectively. Conversely, Indonesia and India have very small populations of international migrants, composing just .1 percent and .4 percent of their total respective populations.

 The 2009 Human Development Report notes that the vast majority of migrants move within, rather than between nations.  Of those who do cross national borders, 37 percent of international migrants move from developing countries to developed countries. Far more international migrants, (60 percent) move within countries of the same category of development. Only three percent of international migrants moved from developed countries to developing countries. These numbers suggest that discussion about migration between the developed and developing world may be overstated, ignoring the more prominent phenomena of domestic migration and migration between countries of similar development.  

Figure 1: Status of Ratification of International Legal Instruments Related to International Migration


Parties to United Nations Instruments


Year Enforced 

No. of Countries ratifying

No. of Country signatories

Migrant Workers 

1949 ILO Convention Migration for Employment (Revised) (No. 97) (as of June 2012) (Taran, 2012)




1975 ILO Convention concerning Migration in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and the Treatment of Migrant Workers (No. 143) (as of June 2012) (Taran, 2012)




1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (as of June 2012) (Taran, 2012)





Smuggling and Trafficking  

2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (as of 2012) (Wikipedia, n.d.)




2000 Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (as of 2012) (Wikipedia, n.d.)






1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees  (as of 2011) (UNHCR, 2011)




1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (as of 2011) (UNHCR, 2011)






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