For thousands of years, humans have migrated in search of a better life. Reasons for emigration vary: many are attracted by the employment opportunities and highly developed health care and education systems found in affluent countries. Others wish to join friends and family who have already relocated abroad, or are enticed by the cultural freedom of the host nation. A large amount of migrants are forced to flee their homes in an effort to escape social, religious or political intolerance, natural disasters, war or poverty.
Migration is not a purely personal issue: it can have a huge effect on the economic development of both the country of origin and the host country. Remittances (money sent from foreign workers back to their homeland) constitute some of the largest financial inflows to developing countries, and can boost economic growth and GDP. Immigration is capable of placing a strain on the economy of the host nation, or spurring its economy by providing much-needed labour.
There are over 232 million international migrants in the world. In recent years, the number of migrants has grown rapidly: between 1990 and 2013, the figures rose by 50%. The trend looks set to continue, with powerful, wealthy nations like Russia, Germany, Canada and the United States attracting more and more people in pursuit of superior job opportunities. These are traditional destination countries, but there are also traditional origin countries for the migrants they receive. This is a result of several factors, including geographical location and linguistic and cultural links between nations. The following is a list of countries with the highest numbers of natives moving overseas per year, many of which have a long history of emigration. Data here is compiled from the World Bank’s Migration and Remittances Factbook.
5 Ukraine – 6.6 million
4 China – 8.3 million
3 Russia – 11.1 million
2 India – 11. 4 million
1 Mexico – 11.9 million
Over 11% of Mexico’s native population lives abroad, making it the country with the largest number of emigrants in the world. 97% of those emigrants live in the United States, where they are employed in generally unskilled jobs, particularly in construction, manufacturing, and service industries. Mexicans choose to move to the US to supply labour demand and enjoy a superior quality of life, while escaping the many problems affecting their home country which include violence, crime, drugs, malnutrition, and poor education. As a result of the recent economic crisis, however, there has been a reversal in migratory patterns, and 2012 was the first time in 60 years that more Mexicans actually left America than entered it. As the economic situation in Mexico has improved, there has been a decrease in work opportunities in the US, and a clampdown on illegal immigration has made it less profitable and more dangerous for Hispanics to cross the border. As the American economy is extremely dependent on Mexican labour, other immigrants will have to fill the gap left by returning migrants, or the consequences for the States could be serious.
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