ILO Global Estimates onInternational Migrant WorkersResults and MethodologyXLabour Migration BranchConditions of Work andEquality DepartmentXDepartment of Statistics

X ILOGlobal Estimates onInternational Migrant WorkersResults and MethodologyThird edition

INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE GENEVACopyright International Labour Organization 2021First published 2021Publications of the International Labour Office enjoy copyright under Protocol 2 of the Universal CopyrightConvention. Nevertheless, short excerpts from them may be reproduced without authorization, on condition thatthe source is indicated. For rights of reproduction or translation, application should be made to ILO Publications(Rights and Licensing), International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland, or by email: [email protected] International Labour Office welcomes such applications.Libraries, institutions and other users registered with a reproduction rights organization may make copies inaccordance with the licences issued to them for this purpose. Visit to find the reproduction rightsorganization in your country.ILO Cataloguing in Publication DataILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers – Results and Methodology – Third editionInternational Labour Office – Geneva: ILO, 2021ISBN: 9789220346563 (Print)ISBN: 9789220346570 (Web PDF)International Labour Office, Conditions of Work and Equality Department, Labour Migration BranchInternational Labour Office, Department of Statisticsmigrant worker / international migration / labour force participation / gender / trend / data collecting / methodology14.09.2The designations employed in ILO publications, which are in conformity with United Nations practice, and thepresentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of theInternational Labour Office concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, orconcerning the delimitation of its frontiers.The responsibility for opinions expressed in signed articles, studies and other contributions rests solely with theirauthors, and publication does not constitute an endorsement by the International Labour Office of the opinionsexpressed in them.Reference to names of firms and commercial products and processes does not imply their endorsement by theInternational Labour Office, and any failure to mention a particular firm, commercial product or process is not asign of disapproval.ILO publications and digital products can be obtained through major booksellers and digital distribution platforms,or ordered directly from [email protected]. For more information, visit our website: contact [email protected] by the International Training Centre of the ILO, Turin – ItalyPrinting by the International Labour Organization, Geneva – Switzerland

5XPrefaceInternational migrant workers constitute nearly 5 per cent of the global labour force and are an integralpart of the world economy. Labour migration not only benefits the migrant worker, but also thecommunities they become part of, as well as their origin countries. Yet, the gains of labour migrationcan be diminished when migration policies are not informed by an evidence-base and insufficientlylinked to employment policies. Harnessing the potential of labour migration toward development gainsrequires well-informed and effective policymaking, based on up to date and sound data.The UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (UN 2015) recognizes migration as an important aspectof development policy, urging governments to “facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsiblemigration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and wellmanaged migration policies” (target 10.7) and to “protect labour rights and promote safe and secureworking environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, andthose in precarious employment” (target 8.8). The 2020 Sustainable Development Goals Report (UN 2020)provides a timely set of data as this year both SDGs 8 and 10, among others, will be reviewed at theHigh-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2021.Recognizing the importance of timely, reliable and comparable data and the need for internationalstandards on labour migration data, the ILO has developed Guidelines Concerning Statistics of InternationalLabour Migration that were adopted by the 20th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS)(ILO 2018a). With the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in 2018by the UN General Assembly (UN 2019), countries have committed to improved migration governance andcooperation to facilitate orderly migration. The ILO supports the capacity-building efforts of countriesin data collection and contributes to the regional and global knowledge building and dissemination oninternational labour migration statistics. To support this work, ILO has established and maintains theworld’s largest and most robust global labour migration database.This third edition of the ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers: Results and Methodologypresents the most recent estimates on the stock of international migrant workers, disaggregated byage, sex, country-income group and region, and the estimation methodology. The periodic publicationof this report provides information on recent trends on labour migration and therefore, contributesto achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as well as supporting policymaking at the country,regional and global levels.Manuela TomeiDirector,ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department(WORKQUALITY)Rafael Diez de MedinaDirector,ILO Department of Statistics

6X ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers – Results and Methodology – Third editionXAcknowledgementsThis report was prepared under the overall coordination of Natalia Popova of the Labour MigrationBranch, ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department, and Andonirina Rakotonarivo of theILO Department of Statistics, who are also co-authors. Mustafa Hakki Özel, Head of the StatisticalCoordination and Special Topics Unit of the ILO Department of Statistics was involved in the earlystages of organization of the report production. The methodology was formulated by Farhad Mehran,ILO consultant. The data analyses were prepared by Professor Meltem Dayioglu, Department ofEconomics, Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara. Iskandar Kholov provided researchassistance. Chantal Nahimana and Hélène Lombard provided precious assistance at all stages of thedocument preparation. Michelle Leighton, Chief of the ILO Labour Migration Branch, provided valuableguidance throughout the entire process. Very helpful comments on draft versions were received from(in alphabetical order): Lara Badre, Nilim Baruah, Elisa Benes, Peter Buwembo, Marcela Cabezas,Francesco Carella, Ryszard Cholewinski, Noor tje Denkers, Yacouba Diallo, Roger Gomis,Samia Kazi-Aoul Chaillou, Tite Habiyakare, Tariq Haq, Ji-Youn Lee, Fabiola Mieres, Maria Payet,Paul Tacon and one anonymous peer reviewer.This report would have not been possible without the strong support of Manuela Tomei, Director,ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department, and Rafael Diez de Medina, Director, ILO Departmentof Statistics.

7XContentsPreface5Acknowledgements6Acronyms and abbreviations10Executive summary111. Introduction16X PART I – MAIN RESULTS2. Global and regional estimates2.1 Global estimates2. pictureGender compositionAge compositionDistribution of migrant workers by broad category of economic activity2.2 Estimates by country income group2.2.1 Overall picture2.2.2 Gender composition2.3 Regional estimates2.3.1 Overall picture2.3.2 Gender composition202020212324252527303033X PART II – ESTIMATE METHODOLOGY3. Methodology3.1 General approach3.2 Benchmark data3.2.1 Benchmark population data3.2.2 Benchmark migrant data3.2.3 Benchmark labour force data3.3 National data3.3.1 ILOSTAT International Labour Migration Statistics3.3.2 Data from other national sources3.4 Country level estimation3.4.1 Cross-product ratio3.4.2 Harmonization of national data3.4.3 Imputation of missing data3.4.4 Smoothing to past data4040424242434444454545464749

8X ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers – Results and Methodology – Third edition3.5 Aggregation3.6 Disaggregation3.6.1 By sex and age group3.6.2 By sex and economic activity4. Data quality4.1 Coverage4.2 Consistency4.3 Robustness4.3.1 Type of national data4.3.2 Reference year of the national data points4.3.3 Representativeness of the national data pointsReferences515151515353555656575861X ANNEXESAnnex A. Geographical regions and income groupsAnnex B. List of countries and territories and data sources on international migrantworkersAnnex C. International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities Rev. 4646972X List of estimates of the stock of international migrants and migrant workers, 2019Global distribution of international migrant workers by sex, 2019Global labour force participation rates of migrants and non-migrants by sex, 2019Global age composition of international migrant workers, 2019Global distribution of international migrant workers by broad category of economicactivity, 2019International migrant workers by income level of countries, 2019Distribution of all workers and international migrant workers by income level ofcountries, 2019Labour force participation rates of migrants and non-migrants by income level ofcountries, 2019International migrant workers by income level of countries, 2013, 2017 and 2019International migrant workers by sex and income level of countries, 2019Labour force participation rates of migrants and non-migrants by sex and incomelevel of countries, 2019Distribution of international migrant workers by region, 2019Distribution of international migrant workers by broad subregion, 2019Labour force participation rates of migrants and non-migrants by broad subregion,2019Distribution of international migrant workers by sex and broad subregion, 2019Labour force participation rates of migrants and non-migrants by sex and broadsubregion, 2019Share of women among international migrant workers by broad subregion, 2017and 2019Benchmark and national dataNational data points by type of sourceNumber of countries with national data points by last reference yearNational cross-product ratio over time, 2016–2019: A numerical 5558

X ContentsX List of Tables2.1 Global estimates of international migrant workers, 2019 (millions)2.2 Sex composition of the international migrant worker population, 2019 (percentage)2.3 Population ratios and labour force participation rates of international migrantworkers by sex, 2019 (percentage)2.4 Global estimates of international migrant workers by age, 2019 (millions)2.5 International migrant workers by income level of countries, 2019 (millions)2.6 International migrant workers, ratios by income level of countries, 2013, 2017 and2019 (percentage)2.7 International migrant workers by sex and income level of countries, 20192.8 International migrant workers by region and sex, 2019 (millions)2.9 International migrant workers by broad subregion, 20192.10 International migrant workers, ratios by broad subregion, 2013, 2017 and 2019(percentage)2.11 International migrant workers by sex and broad subregion, 20193.1 International migrant workers, category a, in terms of the two central elementsof the international definition (20th ICLS, 2018)3.2 Cross-tabulation of the working age population by migrant status and labour forcestatus3.3 Regional raw estimates of cross-product ratio ( ) by sex, 20193.4 Smoothed estimates of regional cross-product ratio ( plus) by sex, 20194.1 Coverage of national data by ILO broad subregions4.2 Coverage of national data by income level of countries4.3 Internal consistency: Number of edit failures, 2017 versus 20194.4 External consistency: Cross-product ratio, ILO versus OECD4.5 Estimates of international migrant workers according to underlying types of thenational data by ILO broad subregions, 20194.6 How representative are the national data with respect to international migrationand labour force? (by sex and ILO broad subregion, 2019)Annex tablesA1 ILO Geographical groupings of countries and territoriesA2 List of countries and territories by ILO broad subregionA3 Grouping of countries and territories by income 4679

10X ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers – Results and Methodology – Third editionXAcronyms and abbreviationsGCMGlobal Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular MigrationICLSInternational Conference of Labour StatisticiansILMSInternational Labour Migration Statistics (database)ILOSTATILO data portal on labour statisticsIOMInternational Organization for MigrationISICInternational Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic ActivitiesLFPRLabour force participation rateLFSLabour force surveyOECDOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentSDGsSustainable Development GoalsUNDESAUnited Nations. Department of Economic and Social AffairsUNHCROffice of the United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesUNRWAUnited Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

11XExecutive summaryThe COVID-19 pandemic has been having anunparalleled impact on the global economyand the world of work. The ILO estimatesthat 93 per cent of the world’s workers wereresiding in countries with some form of COVID19-related workplace closure measures in earlyJanuary 2021, with many international migrantsremaining among the most vulnerable. In manyregions, international migrant workers accountfor an important share of the labour force,making vital contributions to their destinationcountries ’ societies and economies, anddelivering essential jobs in critical sectors likehealth care, transportation, services, agricultureand food processing. Yet many migrant workersare often to be found in temporary, informal orunprotected jobs, which has exposed them toan even greater risk of insecurity, layoffs andworsening working conditions. Moreover, theCOVID-19 impacts on women migrant workersappear to have intensified already existingvulnerabilities, as they are over-representedin low-paid and low-skilled jobs and havelimited access to and fewer options for supportservices.from the 2013 estimate of 150 million migrantworkers.International migrant workers are defined asmigrants of working age, who during a specifiedreference period, were in the labour force ofthe country of their usual residence, eitherin employment or in unemployment. For thepurposes of this report, the term “internationalmigrants” refers to usual residents in a givencountry who are foreign-born (or foreign citizenswhen place of birth information is not available).The term “migrants of working age” is a subsetof international migrants, comprising those aged15 years and over.X Global estimates of the stock ofinternational migrants and migrantworkers, 2019The COV ID-19 pandemic has af fected themagnitude and characteristics of internationallabour migration. This third edition of the GlobalEstimates on International Migrant Workers takes2019 as its reference year, predating the onsetof the COVID-19 crisis, and it offers a benchmarkagainst which the COVID-19 driven changes canbe analysed in future work.The ILO estimates that 169 million peopleare international migrant workersIn 2019, the UNDESA estimated the stockof international migrants worldwide to be272 million, 245 million of which are working age(aged 15 and over). The number of internationalmigrant workers totalled 169 million in the sameyear. The 2019 estimate indicates an increase of5 million migrant workers (3.0 per cent) from the2017 estimate of 164 million migrant workers,and an increase of 19 million (12.7 per cent)International migrant workers constitute4.9 per cent of the global labour forceWhile globally migrant workers constitute4.9 per cent of the labour force of destinationcountries, this figure is highest at 41.4 per centin the Arab States. The labour force participationrate of migrants at 69.0 per cent is higher thanthe labour force participation of non-migrants at60.4 per cent.

12X ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers – Results and Methodology – Third editionAmong international migrant workers,99 million are men and 70 million arewomenWomen constitute 41.5 per cent and men58.5 per cent of migrant workers. The smallershare of women migrant workers can beexplained by their lower representation amonginternational migrants (47.9 per cent) on onehand, and their relatively lower labour marketparticipation rate as compared to men (59.8 percent vs. 77.5 per cent) on the other. Women facemore economic and non-economic obstacles asmigrant workers, and there is a higher likelihoodthat women migrate as accompanying familymembers for reasons other than to find work.They can experience gender discrimination inthe labour market and lack of social networksthat make it difficult to reconcile work and familylife in a foreign country. All of these are possiblefactors reducing women’s representation amongmigrant workers.X Global distribution of international migrantworkers by sex, 2019Northern, Southern and Western Europe havingabove 50.0 per cent female share among migrantworkers as compared to below 20.0 per cent inthe Arab States.International migrants have higherlabour force participation than nonmigrants but rates are decreasing forboth groupsOver time, while migrants have tended to havehigher labour force participation rates, the ratesfor both migrants and non-migrants have fallen.In 2013, migrant workers constituted 72.7 percent of migrants of working age but 70.0 per centin 2017 and 69.0 per cent in 2019.The decline in the labour force participation ofinternational migrants is likely to be generatedby fac tors that also af fec t non-migrantpopulations. The ILO projects that the generaldecline in participation rates observed since1990 will continue until at least 2030. Likelydrivers include demographic changes (e.g. agingpopulations in most high-income countries),technological change, labour market andimmigration policies. In the case of internationalmigrants, added factors may include labourmarket discrimination and barriers to obtainingemployment, insufficient language proficiencyand challenges related to the limited access torecognition of their skills and qualifications indestination countries.X Global labour force participation rates ofmigrants and non-migrants by sex, 2019Women migrant’s contribution to the femalelabour force in destination countries is higher(5.2 per cent) compared to that of migrant men(4.6 per cent) in the male labour force. Thishas to do with the significantly larger labourforce participation gap between migrant andnon-migrant women (13.1 percentage points)as compared to migrant and non-migrantmen (3.4 percentage points). It should also benoted that the global share of women amongmigrant workers masks significant differencesacross geographic regions, with regions such as

X Executive summaryThe large majority of internationalmigrant workers consists of prime-ageadults but the share of youth isincreasingPrime-age adults (aged 25– 64) constitute86.5 per cent of migrant workers. The sharesof youth (aged 15–24) and older workers (aged65 and over) among migrant workers are lowerat 10.0 per cent and 3.6 per cent, respectively. Itshould be noted that youth constitute 12.9 percent, prime-age adults 74.7 per cent, and olderworkers 12.4 per cent of the working age migrantpopulation.The share of youth among international migrantworkers has increased over time, from 8.3 percent in 2017 to 10.0 per cent in 2019. In contrast,the share of older workers (aged 65 plus) reducedfrom 5.2 per cent to 3.6 per cent over the sametime period, leaving the share of prime-ageadults constant. The heavy representation ofprime-age adults can be explained by this agegroup’s better ability to migrate to a foreigncountry (in terms of financial means and socialnetworks) and their higher potential gains thanyounger migrants with less years of experience,or older migrant s w i th les s remainingeconomically active years. The increase inyouth migration is likely to be the result of highyouth unemployment rates in many developingcountries and the phenomenon of the “youthbulge”.Most international migrant workers areconcentrated in services sectorSector figures show that 66.2 per cent of migrantworkers are in services, 26.7 per cent are inindustry and 7.1 per cent are in agriculture.However, substantial gender differences existwithin the sectors. In the case of women, 79.9 percent are in services, 14.2 per cent are in industryand 5.9 per cent in agriculture. Compared towomen, the distribution of men migrant workersbetween industry and services is relatively morebalanced, with 35.6 per cent of men employedin industry and 56.4 per cent in services. Theremaining 7.9 per cent of men migrant workersare in agriculture. A higher representation ofwomen migrant workers in services may, in part,be explained by a growing labour demand in thecare economy, including health and domesticwork. These sub-sectors have a predominantlyfemale labour force and rely heavily on womenmigrant workers. Men migrant workers aremore present in industry, finding work in themanufacturing and construction sub-sectors.X Global distribution of international migrantworkers by broad category of economicactivity, 2019X Global age composition of internationalmigrant workers, 2019A comparison of 2013 estimates to 2019estimates suggests dif ferent pat terns ofchange for men and women migrant workersby category of economic activity. In the caseof women, there has been a sharp drop inagriculture (from 11.1 per cent to 5.9 per cent)and a nearly commensurate rise in services(from 73.7 per cent to 79.9 per cent). In thecase of men, a decline is detected in agriculture(from 11.2 per cent to 7.9 per cent) and services13

14X ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers – Results and Methodology – Third edition(from 69.1 per cent to 56.4 per cent), while theirengagement in industry rose from 19.8 per centin 2013 to 35.6 per cent in 2019.The changes observed in the sectoral distributionof women migrant workers parallel the generaltrends of women’s falling worldwide employmentin agriculture and industry and rising employmentin services. In the case of men, the global trendspoint to a declining employment in agriculture,stagnant employment in industry and risingemployment in services. A plausible explanationfor the rise in industrial employment for migrantmen could be that there is a growing labourdemand in this sector in lower-middle- andupper-middle-income countries. The increase inthe share of migrant workers in upper-middleincome countries and a drop in high-incomecountries gives support to this conjecture.cent in 2019, while the respective share inupper-middle-income countries increasedfrom 11.7 per cent in 2013 to 19.5 per centin 2019. This may have to do with the risingemployment opportunities in upper-middleincome countries, demographic changes, as wellas evolving migration policies.X International migrant workers by incomelevel of countries, 2019More than two-thirds of internationalmigrant workers are concentrated inhigh-income countriesOf the estimated 169 million internationalmigrant workers, 113.9 million (67.4 per cent) arein high-income countries and 33 million (19.5 percent) in upper-middle-income countries, so that86.9 per cent of international migrant workersare found in either of the two country incomegroups. The rest are in lower-middle-income(9.5 per cent) and low-income countries (3.6 percent).Migrant workers make up a subs t antialproportion of the labour force of high-incomecountries with migrant men constituting 18.7 percent of the male labour force, while women17.6 per cent of the female labour force. Incontrast, in low-income, lower-middle-incomeand upper-middle-income countries the share ofmigrant workers does not exceed 2.5 per cent.That the majorit y of migrant workers arefound in high-income and upper-middleincome countries is a regularity observed inprevious editions of this report, and, amongother reasons, can be explained by the greateremployment opportunities in these countries.However, it is interesting to note that the shareof migrant workers in high-income countrieshas fallen from 74.7 per cent in 2013 to 67.4 perThree subregions host the majority ofinternational migrant workers: Northern,Southern and Western Europe, NorthernAmerica and the Arab StatesThe world’s 169 million migrant workers aredistributed amongst the major regions asfollows: Europe and Central Asia, 37.7 per cent;Americas, 25.6 per cent; Arab States, 14.3 percent; Asia and the Pacific, 14.2 per cent; andAfrica, with only 8.1 per cent. As regards theorigin of international migrants, the Asia andPacific region ranks first (being the region oforigin for one-third of international migrants),followed by Europe and Central Asia, theAmericas, Africa and the Arab States.The majority of migrant workers are found inthree subregions: 24.2 per cent are in Northern,Southern and Western Europe, 22.1 per cent inNorthern America and 14.3 per cent in the Arab

X Executive summaryStates. Collectively, these three regions host60.6 per cent of migrant workers in 2019.In Northern, Southern and Western Europe,migrant workers make up 18.4 per cent of thelabour force. In North America, their shareincreases to 20.0 per cent. The highest shareis observed in the Arab States at 41.4 per cent,which is due to the relatively small populationsize of this subregion and the substantiallyhigher labour force participation of migrants ascompared to non-migrants.Within these three subregions, men migrantworkers are evenly distributed, but womenmigrant workers are more heavily concentratedin Nor thern America (24.9 per cent) andNor thern, Southern and Western Europe(29.4 per cent). Only 6.0 per cent of womenmigrant workers are in the Arab States, whichcould be partially attributed to the limitedemployment opportunities this region offersto them outside of the care economy (includingdomestic work).The importance of the top three regions interms of the number of international migrantworkers they host has not diminished over time.In 2013 and 2017, they were home to 60.2 percent and 60.8 per cent of migrant workers,respectively.X Distribution of international migrant workers by broad subregion, 201915

16X ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers – Results and Methodology – Third editionX1. IntroductionLabour migration has the potential to benefitboth origin and destination countries. Migrationmakes it possible for workers to take upproductive work in destination countries andcontribute to their overall economic outputand growth when migration systems are fairand well-managed. Quite often, migrants areengaged in jobs in labour-intensive agriculture,manufacturing, construction and the careeconomy. In destination countries with agingpopulations, their contribution can be importantin meeting labour shortages, rejuvenating thelabour force and supporting the social securitysystem. For origin countries, remittancesreceived increase national savings, promotinginvestment and general economic well-being.On an individual level, migration allows workersto achieve a higher standard of living andincrease the well-being of their families leftbehind through income transfers. Through thediaspora and return migrants, knowledge andskills are shared among countries, leading tohigher global productivity and output.The UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agendarecognizes migration as an important aspectof development policy, urging governments to“facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsiblemigration and mobility of people, includingthrough the implementation of planned andwell-managed migration policies” (target 10.7)and to “protect labour rights and promotesafe and secure working environments forall workers, including migrant workers, inpar ticular women migrants, and those inprecarious employment” (target 8.8). The GlobalCompact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration(GCM), formally endorsed by the UN GeneralAssembly in 2018 and expressly rooted in the2030 Agenda (para. 6), is an important step inthis direction (UN 2019). A major obstacle inthe formulation and implementation of labourmigration policies is the lack of comprehensiveofficial statistical data on international migrantworkers at the national, regional and globallevels. Having up-to-date statistical informationfor the design, implementation and monitoringof evidence-based labour migration policies isa prerequisite for improved governance, bettermigrant workers’ protection, stronger migrationand development linkages, and more effectiveinternational cooperation. The GCM recognizesthe data gaps and the need for harmonizedmethodologies to produce internationallycomparable data on international migration andcalls on countries to “Collect and utilize accurateand disaggregated data as a basis for evidencebased policies” (Objective 1).In order to address the above challenges, theILO Global Estimates on International MigrantWorkers (ILO 2015) were intended to advancethe knowledge base on international labourmigration and thereby, help promote effectiveand efficient policy making. This current thirdedition is part of the periodic publication ofglobal and regional estimates of internationalmigrant workers, their regional distribution andcharacteristics, providing important insightsinto changing labour migration patterns andde

by the UN General Assembly (UN 2019), countries have committed to improved migration governance and cooperation to facilitate orderly migration. The ILO supports the capacity-building efforts of countries in data collection and contributes to the regional and global knowledge building and di