Migration is a key feature of our increasingly interconnected world. It has also become a flashpoint for debate in many countries, which underscores the importance of understanding the patterns of global migration and the economic impact that is created when people move across the world’s borders. A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), People on the move: Global migration’s impact and opportunity, aims to fill this need.
Refugees might be the face of migration in the media, but 90 percent of the world’s 247 million migrants have moved across borders voluntarily, usually for economic reasons. Voluntary migration flows are typically gradual, placing less stress on logistics and on the social fabric of destination countries than refugee flows. Most voluntary migrants are working-age adults, a characteristic that helps raise the share of the population that is economically active in destination countries.
By contrast, the remaining 10 percent are refugees and asylum seekers who have fled to another country to escape conflict and persecution. Roughly half of the world’s 24 million refugees are in the Middle East and North Africa, reflecting the dominant pattern of flight to a neighboring country. But the recent surge of arrivals in Europe has focused the developed world’s attention on this issue. A companion report, Europe’s new refugees: A road map for better integration outcomes, examines the challenges and opportunities confronting individual countries.
While some migrants travel long distances from their origin countries, most migration still involves people moving to neighboring countries or to countries in the same part of the world (exhibit). About half of all migrants globally have moved from developing to developed countries—indeed, this is the fastest-growing type of movement. Almost two-thirds of the world’s migrants reside in developed countries, where they often fill key occupational shortages. From 2000 to 2014, immigrants contributed 40 to 80 percent of labor-force growth in major destination countries.