Optimus Law has recently been using these blog pages to take a deep look into the specific immigration issues affecting individual countries. This has been a useful exercise, enabling us to focus long and hard on those topics that regularly make their national news – and often end up on the international news pages too.
However, it is sometimes just as useful to present something short and snappy, by way of a bigger-picture overview and an overall briefing exercise.
This week, we are going to present a run-down of the top ten countries with the highest number of foreign-born residents, or immigrants. Just a brief bit of research reveals lists that often contradict each other when it comes to numbers – and even the order of the top 10 – so note that we are basing this article on data from the United Nations, 2020.
The USA beats other countries in the world hands-down when it comes to the number of immigrants living there. As of 2020, An estimated 50.6 million people in the United States—a bit more than 15% of the total population of 331.4 million—were born in an overseas country.
The number of immigrants in the U.S. has increased by at least 400% since 1965. The population of immigrants in the United States is incredibly diverse, with nearly every country in the world represented among U.S. immigrants. Mexico is the leading origin country for U.S. immigrants, accounting for more than 11 million, roughly 25%, of all immigrants in the United States.
Germany takes second spot on the list with a sizeable immigrant population – albeit one which is a long way behind that of the USA.
The number rose to 21.2 million last year, according to the Federal Statistical Office, representing roughly 26% of Germany’s population. The figure represented a 2.1% increase from the previous year, but it was the slowest rise in people with a migration background since 2011.
Some 65% of all people with a migrant background came from another European country. Of these, roughly, 7.5 million (35%) people with migrant background came from a fellow EU member state.
The Federal Statistical Office report is quoted as saying Asians accounted for 4.6 million people or 22% of all inhabitants with a migrant background. Some 3.2 million (15%) came from the Middle East and just under one million people (5%) had roots in Africa. A little over half a million people (3%) came from North, Central and South America and Australia.
The largest single group, forming some 13% of people with a migrant background, originated from Turkey. Those from Poland and Russia followed respectively.
- Saudi Arabia
In third place is Saudi Arabia, with some 13.5 million immigrants. The Kingdom has become increasingly dependent on foreign labour, and although foreign workers remain present in technical positions, most are now employed in the agriculture, cleaning, and domestic service industries.
The hierarchy of foreign workers is often dependent on their country of origin; workers from Arab nations and western nations generally hold the highest positions not held by Saudis, and the lower positions are occupied by persons from Africa, and Southeast Asia.
The Saudi government has faced criticism from legal bodies and employers over the treatment of foreign workers.
Russia has some 11.6 million immigrants, largely as a result of specific government policy. In 2019, it was reported that the Kremlin plans to attract up to 10 million Russian-speaking migrants over the following six years to reverse the country’s population decline, the business daily Kommersant reported.
Russia’s population declined to 146.8 million in 2018, official data released on Thursday estimates, its first decrease in 10 years. Migration has been unable to offset natural population losses for the first time since 2008.
- United Kingdom
The UK has an estimated 9.4 million immigrants. Economic and labour market factors are a major driver of international migration and work is currently the main reason for migration to the UK.
Language, study opportunities, and established networks are all factors that also encourage people to migrate to the UK.
The UK has relatively high numbers of migrants in comparison to other EU countries – but has neither the highest in absolute terms nor the biggest share of migrants in the population.
- United Arab Emirates
The UAE has 8.7 immigrants within its population, making up nearly 89% of the country’s total population. This gives the UAE one of the world’s highest proportions of immigrant residents in relation to the total national population.
There are many reasons for this high number, including the masses of manpower needed for the nation’s huge building programme, the expertise demanded by the positioning of many of the individual Emirates as a global business hub, and the rich nation needing a high-level domestic assistance in the home.
There are some 8.5 million immigrants residing in France.
The reasons for migration to France are in the vast majority of cases mainly due to family or university studies. Issuance of residence permits for economic reasons was very much in the minority in 2020.
Historically, Canada’s unusually high immigration rates can be traced to the nation’s unique economy. Another factor is that Canada has one of the world’s largest supplies of natural resources such as oil, metals, and lumber. It also has a sparse population spread over a vast landscape.
Australia has a history of European colonization, and throughout its past has relied on immigrants for population growth and workforce expansion. Immigration to Australia has previously consisted mostly of people of Western-European origin, which was largely due to exclusionary immigration policies under the “White Australia Policy”.
However, since these policies were dismantled in the 1970’s, Australia’s migrant population has become increasingly diverse and the country has seen significant growth in migration from neighboring countries in Asia, as well as the middle east and southern Europe.
Today, Australia is considered to be one of the world’s major “immigrant nations” and well over a quarter of the population is born overseas.
Just making it into the top-ten is Spain, with an immigrant population of 6.8 million.
More Romanians live in Spain than any other EU country, and Moroccan residents account for the largest community of African origin. However, the largest diaspora growth is occurring in the Colombian community, with an annual growth rate of 14.1 percent in 2020.
The Canary Islands has become a site of irregular immigration, as have the mainland’s coasts and other Spanish territories. This includes asylum seekers entering the country to seek refugee status in the European Union. However, the number of irregular arrivals peaked in 2018.