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The number of global transnational and internal migrants approaches 1 billion, or one-seventh of the world population. If the global migrant population constituted a nation-state, it would be the fifth largest country in the world.


The migration of human populations has been a constant over the course of human history. The industrialization of Europe and North America in the nineteenth and early twentieth century led to high levels of international labor migration. Over the past 50 years, the number of transnational migrants has become more than double. Since 1990, the number of migrants moving from one country to another increased by over 37% from an estimated 156 million in 1990 to over 214 million today. Currently, 3.1% of the world's population, or one out of every 33 people, are transnational migrants. Fully half of international migrants are women.

In 2010, Europe hosted the largest number of transnational migrants, followed by Asia and North America. With 6 million international migrants, Oceania had the highest percentage of transnational migrants relative to total population, followed by North America and Europe. Some countries such as Qatar and United Arab Emirates have over 50% of their population composed of immigrants (Table 3–1).

Table 3–1.Distribution of international migrants by world region, 2010.

Ten countries hosted over 50% of all transnational migrants, with the United States hosting the largest foreign-born population of any country in the world. Six of the other top 10 countries were in Europe (Table 3–2).

Table 3–2.Countries with the highest number of international migrants, 2010.


The number of internal migrants, individuals who move within a country, far exceeds the global total of transnational migrants. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that there are 740 million internal migrants in the world. The number of internal migrants in China alone is nearly ...

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