Review of Global Evidence John Page and Sonia Plaza The World Bank



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Migration to OECD Countries

The OECD (2005) has recently published revised time series data on the stock of migrants in OECD countries by region of origin (Table 2.3). These data are the most comprehensive available for migration into two significant labor receiving areas, North America and Europe, but they suffer from both definitional problems and lack of coverage. These data do not count the unknown number of international migrants working in other labor-receiving regions like the Arab Gulf and South Africa. Nor, do they capture south-south migration in such important regions as Asia and Africa.


Migration data by country of destination depend on census data and on the definition of “foreign born” residents. Most European OECD countries use an ethnicity-based definition of immigration status. This method classifies a person on the basis of the ethnicity of the parent, rather than on place of birth. Thus, a child of Turkish parents born in Germany is typically classified as an immigrant. This way of classifying immigrants has the net effect of increasing the stock of immigrants in any particular OECD country. On the other hand, use of census data means that undocumented immigrants may fail to report their immigration status, providing an offsetting downward bias to the estimates. In the case of the United States, migration estimates are constructed using the “place of birth for the foreign-born population.” It is not clear how many of those who enter the United States illegally are included in the “foreign-born” population figures. Some observers have suggested, that U.S. Census data may grossly undercount the actual migrant population that is living – legally or illegally – in the United States.
According to the OECD (2005), international migrants from Africa totaled 7 million (8% of total foreign-born in OECD countries) in 2000 and migrants from North African countries accounted for half of this population. (Table 2.3) These proportions are relatively small when compared to other regions, such as Asia, which has the largest stock of total foreign born living in OECD countries. A number of nationalities now dominate immigrant inflows to the OECD countries, namely Russians and Ukrainians as well as Chinese and Indians (OECD 2005). The stock of Latin American immigrants amounts to more than 15 million persons, among whom Argentines, Venezuelans and, more recently, Bolivian and Ecuadorians, comprise the largest groups. A higher proportion of Latin Americans can be found in Spain, Italy and Portugal than in other European countries. A high degree of mobility can also be observed between OECD member countries, particularly with regard to US, German and UK nationals (OECD 2005). Forty seven percent of immigrants to OECD countries are from other OECD countries.

Migration among developing countries.

The Middle East and North Africa offers one of the most complex migration patterns of any part of the developing world. It is both a labor sending and receiving region, characterized by outflows to Europe and North America and inflows into the oil exporting economies of the Arab Gulf. Intraregional migration primarily takes place to the Gulf States. Emigrants in these areas mainly immigrate to work as contract workers or in skilled professional and managerial positions. Initially, most migrant workers in the Gulf were from Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Recently, however, the Gulf States have limited Arab immigration and new immigrants are arriving from South and East Asia. The region is also second to Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of intraregional refugees, and many immigrants enter other countries without documentation.


There has been a slow down in migration within Latin America, following a doubling of intraregional migration in the 1970s. Migration flows stagnated in the 1980s, because of the economic crisis (Villa and Martinez, 2001). Throughout the period 1970 -1990, almost two-thirds of Latin American immigrants were concentrated in Argentina and Venezuela. Currently, however, due to the worsening economic situation, there has been an increase of emigration from both countries. Intra-Asian migration is mainly of a temporary nature. As a consequence of the perceived temporary nature of migration flows, few Asian countries allow for permanent residence of foreign nationals. Hong Kong is the only economy that has a special settlement program for foreigners. African migration is still primarily intra-regional. Estimates of the magnitude of these flows are difficult to construct, however. Large numbers of immigrants from Burundi and Congo continue moving to Tanzania. Somalis are still living in Kenya, and Zimbabweans in South Africa. Lesotho and Mozambique have large stocks of migrants in South Africa. Traditional migration configurations in West Africa have changed in recent years, as West African countries have become both source and destination countries for migrants. Ghana has been one of the major host countries in the sub-region. Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria were also traditionally key destinations. However, the disruption in Cote d’Ivoire and the economic crisis in Nigeria have diminished the number of migrants into these countries. Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Togo are the main sender countries. Senegal has been both a receiving and sending country.
What do we know about undocumented migration?
Undocumented and often illegal migration appears to have increased significantly in major countries of destination, although the estimates are unreliable. (Jandl, 2004).2 For example, undocumented migration may have doubled in the United States between 1990 and 2000 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security), and now accounts for some 11 million workers, or about 6 percent of the labor force (Passel and others, 2005). Mexicans are the largest group of undocumented migrants in the US at 5.9 million, representing 57% of total undocumented population. This share has not changed for the past decade, despite the fact that the size of the undocumented population has grown very rapidly. Other undocumented migrants are largely from Latin America (24%). Of the remainder about 9 percent are from Asia, 6 percent from Europe and Canada, and four percent from Africa and the rest of the world (Figure 2.2).
Undocumented migration in Europe is also of growing significance. (Figure 2.3). Lower approval rates for asylum-seekers in the European Union, where about 400,000 sought asylum in 2000, have prompted more migrants to enter the EU as undocumented. Illegal immigration has grown ten fold in less than a decade – to 500,000 in 1999, compared to less than 50,000 in 1993, according to one estimate by the International Center for Migration Policy Development.3 Almost one million undocumented migrants (just under 6 percent of the labor force) are expected to be targeted by the recent amnesty drive in Spain (OECD 2005).
How significant is migration to the labor sending countries?
During the last decade outward migration has had a significant impact on the labor force in a growing number of developing countries. Once again, our ability to estimate with any precision the proportion of a developing country’s population that works outside its borders is severely limited by lack of data. Few of the major labor-exporting countries publish accurate records on the number or characteristics of the international migrants that they produce. It is therefore necessary to estimate migration stocks and flows by using data collected by the main labor-receiving countries. These data suffer from a host of definitional and coverage problems, but perhaps their greatest limitation is uncertainty concerning the extent to which they account for undocumented migrants.
Based on the new OECD database on international migrants, Table 2.4 presents estimates of the share of migrants in the population of 134 developing countries,4 and the average for each region. These ratios can be seen as indicative of the extent to which a country or region is an exporter of labor. For East Asia, Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of migrants in the population lies between about 2 and 4 percent. Latin American and the Caribbean have an average migration intensity of 15.56. Among the highest migration intensity countries are islands in the Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda (35.13), Barbados (34.07), Belize (17.91), Dominica (38.75), Grenada (48.24), Guyana (42.54), Jamaica (32.55), St Kitts and Nevis (46.36), Grenadines (32.73), Suriname (45.75), and Trinidad and Tobago (22.65). South Asia in contrast has an average migration intensity of less than one percent, perhaps indicating that the majority of the migrants from South Asia remained within Asia, or migrated to destinations, such as the Arab Gulf, that are not represented in the OECD data.
Countries that are not islands but have a large proportion of their population abroad are concentrated in Eastern Europe and Latin America: Albania (19.97), Bosnia and Herzegovina (14.32), El Salvador (14.12), Croatia (10.15), Serbia and Montenegro (10.10), and Mexico (9.62). In Sub-Saharan Africa excluding the islands, the two countries with the highest share of migrants in their populations are Congo Republic (2.24) and Somalia (2.01). Both countries have suffered civil conflicts that generated sudden and large-scale migration flows into the United States and other OECD countries.
Using data compiled by Adams and Page (2005), it is possible to compare 1990 and 2000 migration intensity estimates for 71 developing countries. Globally migration intensity has grown on average by 1.38 percentage points. Turkey is the only country that shows a reduction in its migration intensity from 4.27 in the 1990s to 3.17 in 2000. On the other hand, countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, El Salvador, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic have experienced increments of more than four percentage points.
Patterns of migration by labor skills

Historically, patterns of migration by skills have been determined by the human capital endowments of migrants and the immigration policies of the major destination countries. Until recently immigration policies have tended to be “skill blind” in the majority of OECD countries. The major destination countries have admitted the largest share of permanent immigrants for family reunification, or in the case of the EU countries, for humanitarian or refugee resettlement. But this is changing, as countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and some in Europe, increasingly re-direct their migration policy towards economic (largely skilled) immigration. The share of labor-related migration is increasing in all of the major labor receiving regions. 5


Trends in unskilled labor migration from developing countries
The stock of low-skill emigration averaged about 0.8 percent of developing countries’ working-age residents in 2000, about the same as in 1990. The regions with countries close to the major destination countries (Europe and Central Asia—3.8 percent, Latin America and the Caribbean—2.9 percent, and Middle East and North Africa—2.1 percent) had relatively high rates of low-skilled emigration, while regions where most countries were at considerable distance to major destination countries (East Asia and the Pacific—0.2 percent, South Asia—0.2 percent, and Sub-Saharan Africa—0.4 percent) had relatively low rates.6 While low-skilled emigration is small from countries on average, it exceeds 10 percent of the working age population from Mexico, from several Central American and Caribbean countries, and from a few of the Central European countries.


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