Immigration by Country, as a Percentage of the Population
Many people move countries for work, study, or family. However, they may also be displaced by climate change, conflict, or economic instability.
There were 272 million immigrants in 2020, amounting to 3.5% of the global population. Where do they end up?
This interactive map from Our World in Data highlights immigration by country, as a percentage of the total population, using data from the United Nations (UN) Populations Division.
What Is an Immigrant?
The UN defines an immigrant as someone who has been living in a country other than their country of birth for one year or longer. In addition to new citizens or residents, a variety of people fit under this definition:
- Foreign workers
- International students
The UN also includes estimates of unauthorized immigrants living in various countries. On the flip side, tourists, temporary workers, and overseas military personnel are typically not included.
Immigration by Country Over Time
With this definition in mind, here’s a breakdown of immigration by country as a percentage of the nation’s population.
|Country||1990||2020||Absolute Change||Relative Change|
|American Samoa||45.18%||30.35%²||-14.83 p.p.||-33%|
|Antigua and Barbuda||19.24%||30.01%||10.77 p.p.||56%|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1.25%||1.10%||-0.16 p.p.||-12%|
|Burkina Faso||3.97%||3.46%||-0.50 p.p.||-13%|
|Cape Verde||2.64%||2.84%||0.20 p.p.||7%|
|Central African Republic||2.40%||1.83%||-0.56 p.p.||-23%|
|Costa Rica||13.39%||10.22%||-3.17 p.p.||-24%|
|Cote d'Ivoire||15.23%||9.72%||-5.51 p.p.||-36%|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||2.18%||1.06%||-1.11 p.p.||-51%|
|Dominican Republic||4.08%||5.57%||1.48 p.p.||36%|
|El Salvador||0.90%||0.66%||-0.24 p.p.||-27%|
|Equatorial Guinea||0.65%||16.44%||15.78 p.p.||2413%|
|Faeroe Islands||9.01%||10.96%²||1.95 p.p.||22%|
|Falkland Islands||42.69%||50.53%²||7.84 p.p.||18%|
|French Guiana||54.35%||41.09%²||-13.26 p.p.||-24%|
|Hong Kong||38.73%||39.52%||0.78 p.p.||2%|
|Marshall Islands||2.45%||5.57%||3.12 p.p.||127%|
|New Caledonia||22.20%||25.45%²||3.25 p.p.||15%|
|New Zealand||15.24%||28.65%||13.41 p.p.||88%|
|North Korea||0.17%||0.19%||0.02 p.p.||14%|
|North Macedonia||4.77%||6.30%||1.54 p.p.||32%|
|Papua New Guinea||0.73%||0.35%||-0.38 p.p.||-52%|
|Puerto Rico||9.12%||7.59%²||-1.53 p.p.||-17%|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||7.97%||14.52%||6.55 p.p.||82%|
|Saint Lucia||3.84%||4.54%||0.70 p.p.||18%|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||19.69%||19.14%²||-0.55 p.p.||-3%|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||3.69%||4.27%||0.58 p.p.||16%|
|San Marino||13.72%||16.33%||2.61 p.p.||19%|
|Sao Tome and Principe||4.68%||0.98%||-3.71 p.p.||-79%|
|Saudi Arabia||30.79%||38.65%||7.86 p.p.||26%|
|Sierra Leone||5.14%||0.67%||-4.47 p.p.||-87%|
|Solomon Islands||1.35%||0.37%||-0.99 p.p.||-73%|
|South Africa||3.16%||4.82%||1.66 p.p.||52%|
|South Korea||0.10%||3.37%||3.27 p.p.||3238%|
|South Sudan||2.43%¹||7.88%||5.46 p.p.||225%|
|Sri Lanka||0.24%||0.19%||-0.05 p.p.||-22%|
|Trinidad and Tobago||4.15%||5.63%||1.49 p.p.||36%|
|United Arab Emirates||71.46%||88.13%||16.67 p.p.||23%|
|United Kingdom||6.39%||13.79%||7.40 p.p.||116%|
|United States||9.22%||15.30%||6.08 p.p.||66%|
|Western Sahara||0.97%||0.83%²||-0.14 p.p.||-15%|
¹Data as of 2010 due to data availability
²Data as of 2015 due to data availability
Higher immigration levels are generally correlated with higher standards of living and advanced economies. For instance, North America, Europe, and Oceania all have a relatively high proportion of immigrants.
The United States is home to the largest number of immigrants—over 50 million—which now make up 15% of the country’s population. Since 1990, the proportion of immigrants in the country has continued to rise. As with most advanced economies, immigration has helped to counter a decline in fertility rates.
Over the last 30 years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has had the highest immigration by country, with 88% of its population being defined as immigrants in 2020. The country has the highest GDP per capita of any of its neighboring countries, and draws many migrant workers.
Meanwhile, South Korea has seen the largest relative increase in immigrants over the last three decades. Faced with the lowest fertility rate in the world and an aging population, the country has enacted policy reforms to encourage immigration, including a formal guest worker program and local voting rights for permanent foreign residents.
Integration or Separation?
Immigrants can help fill labor gaps and drive economic innovation in their new country of residence. Depending on their destination, they may benefit from things like higher pay, access to better education, and a more stable political climate.
Notably, countries respond to immigration in different ways. In one study measuring what governments are doing to integrate migrants, Sweden ranked at the top. The country offers non-EU citizens equal access to education, labor market rights and its social safety net, and it also has strong anti-discrimination laws.
On the flip side, immigrants may face challenges integrating into other countries. For instance, the UAE’s kafala (sponsorship) system is structured so that employment visas are granted by local individuals or companies rather than the state. This gives employers enhanced power over their workers, and in the past it has resulted in alleged human rights abuses.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022
We map the state of global democracy, as the Democracy Index hits its lowest point since the inception of the index in 2006.
Mapped: The State of Democracy Around the World
The world’s (almost) eight billion people live under a wide variety of political and cultural circumstances. In broad terms, those circumstances can be measured and presented on a sliding scale between “free” and “not free”—the subtext being that democracy lies on one end, and authoritarianism on the other.
This year’s Democracy Index report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), is one such attempt to apply a score to countries based on how closely they measure up to democratic ideals.
According to EIU, the state of democracy is at its lowest point since the index began in 2006, blamed in part on the pandemic restrictions that saw many countries struggling to balance public health with personal freedom.
In this year’s report, the EIU reported a drop of the average global score from 5.37 to 5.28, the biggest drop since 2010 after the global financial crisis. This translates into a sobering fact: only 46% of the population is living in a democracy “of some sort.”
Let’s dive a bit deeper into what this means.
Percentage of Population by Regime Type
In 2021, 37% of the world’s population still lived under an authoritarian regime. Afghanistan tops this list, followed by Myanmar, North Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Syria. Of course, China has a big share of the population living under this style of regime.
On the other side of the spectrum we have full democracies, which only account for 6.4% of the population. Norway tops this list, followed by New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland.
|Regime Type||No. of Countries||Share of countries||Share of World Population|
Let’s explore the characteristics of each of the four types of regime according to the EIU:
Full democracies are nations where:
- Civil liberties and fundamental political freedoms are respected
- Valid systems of governmental checks and balances exist
- There are limited problems in democratic functioning
- Media is diverse and independent
Flawed democracies are nations where:
- Elections are fair and free
- Basic liberties are honored but may have issues
- There are issues in the functioning of governance
Hybrid regimes are nations where:
- Electoral fraud or irregularities occur regularly
- Pressure is applied to political opposition
- Corruption is widespread and rule of law tends to be weak
- Media is pressured and harassed
- There are issues in the functioning of governance
Authoritarian regimes are nations where:
- Political pluralism is nonexistent or limited
- The population is ruled by absolute monarchies or dictatorships
- Infringements and abuses of civil liberties are common
- Elections are not fair or free (if they occur at all)
- Media is state-owned or controlled directly or indirectly by the ruling regime
- The judiciary system is not independent
- Criticism of the government is censored
Global Democracy Index by Region
As mentioned earlier, in 2021, the global democracy score declined from 5.37 to 5.28. This was driven by a decline in the average regional score, but every region has a different reality. Let’s take a look at the democratic state of each region in the world.
North America (Canada and U.S.) is the top-ranked region in the Democracy Index with an average score of 8.36, but this dropped significantly from 8.58 in 2020.
Both countries have dropped their positions in the global ranking, however, Canada still maintains the status as a full democracy.
The U.S. is still classified by EIU as a flawed democracy, and has been since 2016. The report points to extreme polarization and “gerrymandering” as key issues facing the country. On the bright side, political participation in the U.S. is still very robust compared with the rest of the world.
Latin America and the Caribbean experienced the largest decline in regional scores in the world. This region dropped from 6.09 in 2020 to 5.83 in 2021. This decline shows the general discontent of the population about how their governments have handled the pandemic.
In this region, the only country that falls under a full democracy is Costa Rica. On the other side of the spectrum, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba fall under the authoritarian regime classification.
In 2021, Western Europe is the region with the most full democracies in the world.
In fact, four out of the top five full democracies are in this region: Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland. A notable downgrade in this region happened in Spain; the country is now considered a flawed democracy.
Eastern Europe paints a different picture, where there is not a single full democracy. Three countries (Moldova, Montenegro, and North Macedonia) were upgraded from being considered hybrid regimes to flawed democracies.
Ukraine’s score declined to 5.57, becoming a hybrid region. Russia’s score also declined to 3.24 keeping the authoritarian regime status. It’s important to note that this report by the EIU was published before the invasion of Ukraine began, and the conflict will almost certainly impact scores in next year’s report.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the most countries at the bottom of the Democracy Index rankings.
The fact is that 23 countries are considered “authoritarian regimes”. Meanwhile, there are 14 countries that are hybrid regimes, six countries under flawed democracy, and only one country, Mauritius, is considered a full democracy.
In North Africa, four countries are considered authoritarian regimes: Sudan, Egypt, Libya, and Algeria. Only Morocco and Tunisia fall into the hybrid regime classification.
Middle East and Central Asia
This region concentrates a substantial number of countries classified as authoritarian regimes. In fact, the region’s overall democracy score is now lower than what it was before the start of the Arab Spring in 2010.
There are no countries falling under the category of full democracy in this region. Only Israel (7.97) and Cyprus (7.43) are considered flawed democracies. Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Pakistan fall under the category of hybrid regimes, and the rest of the countries in the region are considered authoritarian regimes.
East Asia and Oceania
This is broad region is full of contrasts. Aside from Western Europe, East Asia and Oceania contains the most full democracies: New Zealand, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, and Japan. There are also a high number of countries that fall under the category of flawed democracies.
It’s worth noting that some of the most contentious geopolitical relationships are between neighbors with big differences in their scores: China and Taiwan, or North and South Korea are examples of this juxtaposition.
Decline in Global Democracy Levels
Two years after the world got hit by the pandemic, we can see that global democracy is in a downward trend.
Every region’s global score experienced a drop, with the exception of Western Europe, which remained flat. Out of the 167 countries, 74 (44%) experienced a decline in their democracy score.
As pandemic restrictions continue to be lifted, will democracy make a comeback in 2022?
Mapped: Solar and Wind Power by Country
Wind and solar make up 10% of the world’s electricity. Combined, they are the fourth-largest source of electricity after coal, gas, and hydro.
Mapped: Solar and Wind Power by Country
Wind and solar generate over a tenth of the world’s electricity. Taken together, they are the fourth-largest source of electricity, behind coal, gas, and hydro.
This infographic based on data from Ember shows the rise of electricity from these two clean sources over the last decade.
Europe Leads in Wind and Solar
Wind and solar generated 10.3% of global electricity for the first time in 2021, rising from 9.3% in 2020, and doubling their share compared to 2015 when the Paris Climate Agreement was signed.
In fact, 50 countries (26%) generated over a tenth of their electricity from wind and solar in 2021, with seven countries hitting this landmark for the first time: China, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Argentina, Hungary, and El Salvador.
Denmark and Uruguay achieved 52% and 47% respectively, leading the way in technology for high renewable grid integration.
|Rank||Top Countries||Solar/Wind Power Share|
|#10||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||25.2%|
From a regional perspective, Europe leads with nine of the top 10 countries. On the flipside, the Middle East and Africa have the fewest countries reaching the 10% threshold.
Further Renewables Growth Needed to meet Global Climate Goals
The electricity sector was the highest greenhouse gas emitting sector in 2020.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the sector needs to hit net zero globally by 2040 to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees. And to hit that goal, wind and solar power need to grow at nearly a 20% clip each year to 2030.
Despite the record rise in renewables, solar and wind electricity generation growth currently doesn’t meet the required marks to reach the Paris Agreement’s goals.
In fact, when the world faced an unprecedented surge in electricity demand in 2021, only 29% of the global rise in electricity demand was met with solar and wind.
Even as emissions from the electricity sector are at an all-time high, there are signs that the global electricity transition is underway.
Governments like the U.S., Germany, UK, and Canada are planning to increase their share of clean electricity within the next decade and a half. Investments are also coming from the private sector, with companies like Amazon and Apple extending their positions on renewable energy to become some of the biggest buyers overall.
More wind and solar are being added to grids than ever, with renewables expected to provide the majority of clean electricity needed to phase out fossil fuels.
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