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.
The Group of 20, also known as the G20, comprises the world's 20 leading industrialized nations and emerging economies. As shown in the infographic above, G20 members include the European Union (EU) and 19 other countries.
In terms of economies, the G20 group accounts for approximately more than 80 per cent of the gross world product . In terms of of other economic factors and population, the G20 accounts for 75 per cent of international trade, 80 per cent of global investment, and roughly 60 per cent of the world's population (G20, 2021).
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; 2019). Similarly, in the G20 Declarations from 2020 and 2021, G20 leaders did not specifically mentioned migration data.
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 was estimated at 4.9 billion as of mid-year 2020, accounting for nearly 63 per cent of the world’s population (UN DESA, 2020). Globally, five G20 countries – the United States of America, Germany, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Canada – were projected to have the highest, positive net migration between 2015 and 2020. During the same time period, India and China were projected to have the lowest, negative net migration among all G20 countries (UN DESA, 2019).
While the number of international migrants worldwide grew by 83.4 per cent, the number in G20 countries grew by 99 per cent or 89.6 million from mid-1990 to mid-2020 (UN DESA, 2020). As of mid-2020, there were an estimated 281 million international migrants worldwide and 64 per cent of these resided in G20 countries (UN DESA, 2020). More than half of them (100.8 million) resided in five countries alone: the United States, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom (ibid.). On a country basis, the share of migrants in the total population varieD: it was 0.1 per cent in China and Indonesia and 0.4 per cent in India, while in Saudi Arabia and Australia, the share was 38.6 and 30.1 per cent respectively (ibid.).
Migrant flows (inflows)
After several years of continuous growth, the latest available data indicate a significant decrease in overall migration flows to G20 countries in 2020 (OECD et al). (In 2020, a total of 7 to 7.5 million new temporary and permanent immigrants entered the G20 nations in , a 40 per cent decrease compared to the previous year (ibid.) The United States remains the main G20 destination country in 2020, with more than 1 million new regular permanent migrants in Fiscal Year 2020. For the first time, Germany places second, with almost one million new migrants, mostly temporary and from other EU Member States. Saudi Arabia ranks third with almost 800 thousand migrant workers in 2020 following a steep decline of inflows in 2020 (-50%). Considerable declines were also registered notably in Brazil (-75%), Japan (-63%) and Korea (-44%) (ibid.).
Despite pandemic-related declines, other G20 countries also reported a large number of new migrants in 2020, including China (530 000, -41%), the Russian Federation (350 000, -30%), France (221 000, -21%) and the United Kingdom (492 000, -30%). In the latter two countries the figures reflect a mitigating effect of an increase in country status change and a high number of incoming international students (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 appeared to be both milder than previously forecasted 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). The latest data, released in November 2021, show that remittance flows fell by only 1.7 per cent to USD 589 billion, defying projected declines (World Bank, 2021). In 2021, three out of the top five recipient countries for remittances inflows in current USD were G20 countries: India (87 billion), China (53 billion) and Mexico (53 billion). India has been the largest recipient of remittances since 2008 (ibid.).
In the first quarter of 2021, the average costs of sending USD 200 to LMICs remained high at 6.3 per cent, well above the target of 3 per cent of the Sustainable Development Goal 10.c.1 (ibid.).
Refugees and asylum seekers
By end 2020, G20 countries hosted 7.7 million refugees, representing some 37 per cent of all refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. About half of them were in Turkey. During 2020, 870 800 new claims for asylum were lodged in G20 countries in ‘first instance’ procedures, 23 per cent less than in 2019. In the same year, refugee resettlement plummeted to its lowest level in almost two decades. Only 34 400 people were resettled to 21 countries. This is just one-third of the number resettled in 2019 (OECD et al., 2021)(OECD et al., 2021).
By end-2020, the global refugee population exceeded 26 million,3 including 5.7 million Palestine refugees under UNRWA’s mandate. (OECD et al., 2021).
Migrant workers make up a considerable share of the labour force in many countries , including G20 countries. They are key in several essential economic sectors, like agriculture, and have contributed immensely to addressing the challenges and consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and mobility restrictions caused global working hours in G20 countries to decline by 8.5 per cent in 2020 (relative to the fourth quarter of 2019), equivalent to 195 million full-time jobs (assuming a 40-hour working week) (ibid.). This loss equates with a labour income loss of 8.1 per cent (US$3.2 trillion). The estimates for 2021 also show the decline in working hours and labour income, though not at the same rate (ibid.) In this context, the demand for labour has remained strong or increased in essential sectors (ibid.)
Migrant workers are also important is key sectors in G20 countries. For example, Italy relies on about 370 000 foreign seasonal workers, while 80 per cent of the seasonal workforce force in French agriculture is foreign (ibid.). Migrants accounted for 12 per cent of the labour force in retail trade in the European Union, 15 per cent in the US and 28 per cent in Canada, while in health sector 11, 15 and 27 per cent respectively (ibid.). Reportedly, 50 to 80 per cent of Germany’s meat processing workforce is migrant labour. (ibid.). The pandemic has somehow revealed this situation as countries could not afford to do without the foreign workforce despite travel bans and border closures. Exemptions have been applied in most countries to enable notably seasonal agricultural workers to enter like in the United States (ibid.)
International students flows to and from G20 countries have increased considerably in recent years to reach almost 4.2 million in 2019. Top receiving countries were the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom . Canada and Turkey both saw sharp annual increases. In Europe, most international students are at master level or higher, while in Asia, Mexico or the Russian Federation a large share of international students are in undergraduate programmes (OECD et al.,2021).
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created more obstacles for international students regarding their enrolment in higher education institutions abroad and their travels to begin studies (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 and provides estimates on international migrant stocks from 1990 to 2020. These estimates are available by age, sex, country of origin and destination and cover 232 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 the net migration rate. The datasets contain estimates for 235 countries or areas, including for all G20 countries, and are available biennially with estimates and projections for the years 1950 to 2100.
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 the years 2000 to 2019.
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 the EU, which is part of the G20. Data have been compiled annually from 2005 to 2019.
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. . Datasets are organised into three subtopics: international migrant worker 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 100 countries of destination and more than 200 countries of origin and cover most G20 countries. 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 provides comprehensive, harmonised labour force data on the EU member states and five other countries. For example, two datasets provide data on population by sex, age, citizenship and labour status and sex, age, 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.
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 mid-2020. 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 as well as disasters cover 2003 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 2018.
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 and 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 7 (2017-2020) data are available.
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
Existing migration data sources that cover most — if not, all — G20 countries show that migration significantly affects different policy areas. These data sources, however, have limitations that hinder more robust research and are also applicable to migration data sources more generally:
Migration data are found across disparate sources: Comprehensive migration research on G20 countries requires finding and searching among many databases for given migration topics and harmonizing and reconciling data, definitions and/or methodologies. In addition, depending on the migration topic, only a few databases contain data on all G20 countries.
Different concepts, definitions and methodologies make comparisons and aggregations difficult: For example, statistical data sources such as censuses define the term "migrant" differently; some countries define "migrant" by country of birth; others by nationality.
Outdated data: Some migration data are more recent than others. Censuses — while a traditional and universal source of migration data — are conducted infrequently, only every 10 years or so.
Data are not always disaggregated by certain variables such as sex or migratory status: Although some migration data on G20 countries, such as data on the stock of international migrants, are disaggregated by sex, other key migration data are not.
Incomplete, duplicated, or unreliable data: For example, data on smuggling, trafficking, and irregular migration are often incomplete because the clandestine nature of these activities makes these data hard to count. Data on migrant deaths are at risk of duplication if different interviewees report the same death(s) and these are recorded separately.