The number and proportion of immigrants in the population:
International comparisons

Press release Published on 11 February 2019

Population and Societies 563, February 2019

Author: Gilles PISON

The proportion of immigrants varies considerably from one country to another. In some, it exceeds half the population, while in others it is below 0.1%. Which countries have the most immigrants? Where do they come from? How are they distributed across the world? Gilles Pison provides an overview of the number and share of immigrants in selected countries of the world.

The United States has the highest number of immigrants (foreign-born individuals), with 48 million in 2015, five times more than in Saudi Arabia (11 million) and six times more than in Canada (7.6 million). However, in proportion to their population size, these two countries have significantly more immigrants: 34% and 21%, respectively, versus 15% in the United States. Small countries have higher proportions of immigrants. With 29% of immigrants, Switzerland is ahead of the United States and France, while the proportion in Luxembourg is even higher (46%). In long-standing immigration countries, such as the United States and France, the immigrant population was formed gradually over the years. Although moderate during certain periods, as is currently the case in France, inflows have remained almost uninterrupted for more than a century.  In new immigration countries, like Spain, the immigrant population became established in a very short period of time with considerable inflows of migrants. Despite their large scale especially in Europe, migrant flows generated since 2015 by conflicts in the Middle East have not significantly changed the global picture of international migration.

Published on: 13/02/2019