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Countries with the Highest (and Lowest) Proportion of Immigrants

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Chart showing which countries have the highest proportion of immigrants

Countries with the Highest Proportion of Immigrants

For people living in cosmopolitan urban centers, it’s easy to overestimate the prevalence of immigrants around the world.

The median proportion of foreign-born people in all countries is just over 5%. In countries with a population greater than one million, only four are majority foreign-born, and only eight surpass the one-third mark.

Here are the top 20 countries with the highest proportion of immigrants in their populations:

CountryImmigrants as a percentage of population
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates88%
🇶🇦 Qatar77%
🇰🇼 Kuwait73%
🇧🇭 Bahrain55%
🇴🇲 Oman46%
🇸🇬 Singapore43%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia39%
🇯🇴 Jordan34%
🇦🇺 Australia30%
🇨🇭 Switzerland29%
🇳🇿 New Zealand29%
🇱🇧 Lebanon25%
🇮🇱 Israel23%
🇨🇦 Canada21%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan20%
🇸🇪 Sweden20%
🇦🇹 Austria19%
🇩🇪 Germany19%
🇬🇦 Gabon19%
🇮🇪 Ireland18%

Source: UN via World Population Review. Note: Only countries with a population of greater than one million are included.

The United Arab Emirates comes out on top for the highest proportion of immigrants in its population. Impressively, the small Middle Eastern nation ranks sixth in the world for total immigrant population (8.7 million people).

Other countries on the Arabian Peninsula also rank at the top of this list. In Qatar, current host of the 2022 World Cup, 3-in-4 people are immigrants. The high proportion of foreign workers in the country also results in an extreme demographic skew—approximately 75% of the population of Qatar is male.

The one extreme outlier in the region is war-torn Yemen, where only 1.3% of the population are immigrants.

Outside the Middle East, Singapore (43%) takes top spot, followed by Australia (30%).

Spotlight on U.S. Immigration

Although the United States is outside the top 20, it still has by far the most immigrants of any other country (50 million vs. 16 million in second-place Germany).

About 15% of people in the U.S. are immigrants—numbers which are comparable to the historic high in the late 19th century. The proportion of foreign-born people in the country has been on the rise since the 1970s, and is projected to continue rising in coming decades. Around 2030, immigration is expected to surpass natural increases as a driver of population growth.

Countries with the Lowest Proportion of Immigrants

A few countries are magnets for immigration, while a great many more receive very little immigration. This can simply be due to lack of demand, or because of more extreme circumstances such as war or a failing economy. In other cases, immigration policies may limit the number of people who can migrate to a country.

Here are the top 20 countries with the lowest proportion of immigrants in their populations:

CountryImmigrants as a percentage of population
🇨🇺 Cuba0.03%
🇨🇳 China0.07%
🇻🇳 Vietnam0.08%
🇮🇩 Indonesia0.13%
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.13%
🇲🇲 Myanmar0.14%
🇭🇹 Haiti0.17%
🇰🇵 North Korea0.19%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.19%
🇵🇭 Philippines0.21%
🇲🇦 Morocco0.28%
🇮🇳 India0.35%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea0.35%
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.37%
🇸🇴 Somalia0.37%
🇪🇷 Eritrea0.39%
🇭🇳 Honduras0.40%
🇬🇹 Guatemala0.47%
🇰🇭 Cambodia0.47%
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.51%

Cuba has the lowest level of foreign-born people in its population. The Caribbean nation makes it very difficult for foreign nationals obtain permanent residency.

China comes in second last. In absolute terms, the million or so immigrants living in China may sound like a lot, but pales in comparison to the overall population of 1.4 billion.

Interestingly, Japan–which is the poster child for low immigration–isn’t on the list above. The country’s foreign-born population sits at just over 2%.

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Maps

Visualized: Which Coastal Cities are Sinking the Fastest?

Many major coastal cities are experiencing local land subsidence where underground soil and rock collapse, causing the surface above to sink.

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A cropped map and ranking of the fastest sinking coastal cities in the world by local land subsidence.

Which Coastal Cities Are Sinking the Fastest?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

With sea levels rising, there is cause for concern about the livability of major coastal cities—often huge centers of trade and commerce, and homes to millions of people.

But an overlooked area is how coastal cities are themselves sinking—a phenomenon called relative local land subsidence (RLLS)—which occurs when underground materials, such as soil, rock, or even man-made structures, compact or collapse, causing the surface above to sink.

This can exacerbate the effects of rising sea levels (currently averaged at 3.7 mm/year), and is a useful metric to track for coastal communities.

Creator Planet Anomaly, looks at the top 10 cities ranked by the peak subsidence velocity. This graphic is based on a paper published by Nature Sustainability, which used satellite data to track land subsidence changes in 48 high-population coastal cities located within 50 kilometers of the coastline. Their data collection spanned six years from 2014 to 2020.

ℹ️ Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) utilizes two images taken at different times, which are then compared to create an interferogram. This interferogram illustrates changes in land motion relative to a reference point in the satellite’s line-of-sight over time. By analyzing a series of these interferograms, researchers can estimate the long-term velocity of the ground’s surface for each city.

In that time period, they found that 44 of the cities they studied—many of them massively populated, developed megacities, built on flat, low-lying river deltas—had areas sinking faster than sea levels were rising.

The 10 Fastest Sinking Coastal Cities

One of the top cities on the list is Tianjin, China with a population of more than 14 million people, which has areas of the city experiencing peak RLLS velocities of 43 mm a year between 2014–2020. The median velocity is much lower, at 6 mm/year, which means some areas are sinking much faster than the overall metropolitan area.

Tianjin is bordered by Beijing municipality to the northwest and the Bohai Gulf to the east. In June 2023, large cracks appeared on Tianjin’s streets, caused by underground land collapses, a byproduct of extensive geothermal drilling, according to the local government.

RankCityCountryPeak Velocity
(mm/year)
Median Velocity
(mm/year)
1Tianjin🇨🇳 China436
2Ho Chi Minh City🇻🇳 Vietnam4316
3Chittagong🇧🇩 Bangladesh3712
4Yangon🇲🇲 Myanmar314
5Jakarta🇮🇩 Indonesia265
6Ahmedabad🇮🇳 India235
7Istanbul🇹🇷 Turkey196
8Houston🇺🇸 U.S.173
9Lagos🇳🇬 Nigeria172
10Manila🇵🇭 Philippines172

Ho Chi Minh City (population 9 million) in Vietnam also faces similar RLLS rates as Tianjin though its median velocity is much higher at 16 mm/year.

Chittagong, Bangladesh, Yangon, Myanmar, and Jakarta, Indonesia, round out the top five fastest sinking coastal cities by relative land subsidence. They all face a similar web of contributing factors as the authors of the paper note below:

“Many of these fast-subsiding coastal cities are rapidly expanding megacities, where anthropogenic factors, such as high demands for groundwater extraction and loading from densely constructed building structures, contribute to local land subsidence.” — Tay, C., Lindsey, E.O., Chin, S.T. et al.

In fact, Indonesia has ambitious plans to relocate its sinking capital, Jakarta, to another island, a move that could cost the Indonesian government more than $120 billion. This comes after the forecast that one-third of Jakarta could be submerged as early as 2050. Aside from the regular flooding, Jakarta is also extremely prone to earthquakes.

Why Measure Local Land Subsidence?

The researchers of this report argue that local land subsidence is largely underestimated in relative sea level rise assessments and is crucial for the sustainable development of coastal areas.

The data they’ve collected—peak velocity versus median velocity—also allows them to identify specific areas and neighborhoods in cities that are undergoing rapid subsidence and thus facing a greater exposure to coastal hazards.

In New York, for example, their results suggested that subsidence is only localized west of Breezy Point and “should not be extrapolated eastward along the coast” of Long Island.

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