Migration, Remittances and Diaspora Data: Need for International Cooperation


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In observance of the International Migrants Day, Dec 18

Despite that several countries have made a call of action for enhancing data collection and capacity building of the national statistical systems to improve migration data, there has not been much progress. The High Level on International Migration in 2013 “emphasized the need for reliable statistical data on international migration, including when possible on the contributions of migrants to development in both origin and destination countries.” The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda also called for the use of data disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status among others. The New York Declaration stated: “We recognize the importance of improved data collection, particularly by national authorities, and will enhance international cooperation to this end, including through capacity-building, financial support and technical assistance. Such data should be disaggregated by sex and age and include information on regular and irregular flows, the economic impacts of migration and refugee movements, human trafficking, the needs of refugees, migrants and host communities and other issues.” Several States underscored the importance of migration data at the Stocktaking meeting in Puerto Vallarta for the Global Compact on Migration.

Improving existing data sources: Census (foreign born, diaspora, race and ethnicity)

The census is an important tool to capture characteristics of the population. However, 19 countries do not include the question of country of birth to be able to identify international migrants. Some countries collect information on race and ethnicity. Since migration inflows have changed the profile of the population in a country, there is need to adapt to these changes. For example, in the USA, certain populations would like to see their own specific group reflected in the census questionnaire.

In addition, several countries do not ask the question on the countries of birth of both parents. This makes difficult to identify second generation diaspora.

  • Include some detailed questions on migration into the 2020 Round Census for countries that have not started the Census yet.
  • Improve data collection to have disaggregated data at the national and sub-national level
Developing new data sources and linkage of data sources

There is scope for including questions on migration and remittances on household surveys, poverty surveys and high frequency data specific surveys. For example, Bangladesh started including questions on migration and remittances in its Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2010. Subsequent surveys collected additional information to analyze the impact of migration and remittances on poverty alleviation.

  • Improve availability and comparability of migration and remittances data. For example, applied IMF Balance of Payments 6 for collecting remittance data
  • Provide capacity building on how to measure migration and remittances. The World Bank has provided technical assistance to countries in the Caribbean, Ethiopia, Somalia, Comoros, Uganda and Kenya.
More disaggregated data will be important for monitoring the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Global Compact on Migration. Improving data on internal migration, Internal Displace Population (IDPs), refugees, migration and climate change, diaspora, is needed. For example, few countries know the number of their skilled migrants living abroad or where they have gotten their degree. It is time to develop an approach to collect, analyze and use migration data to devise policies based on facts.

Two useful tools for improving the production and dissemination of migration and remittances data are:
  • The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016. The factbook presents the numbers and facts behind the stories of international migration and remittances. It provides a comprehensive picture of emigration, skilled migration, immigration, and remittances flows for 214 countries and 15 country groups.
  • The ‘Handbook for Improving the Production and Use of Migration Data for Development’ was produced by the Global Migration Group (GMG) co leaded by IOM and UNDESA to provide guidance to producers and users of international migration data. Given the importance of migration data for the Global Compact on Migration, this Handbook will become an important tool for policy makers.


Sonia Plaza

Senior Economist, Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, World Bank

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