Skip to main content

Supporting policy with scientific evidence

We mobilise people and resources to create, curate, make sense of and use knowledge to inform policymaking across Europe.


Increasing significance of migration

The social and political significance of migration has increased. Migration flows and dynamics have become more mixed in an interconnected world.

timeline and images smallmigration
(© Photo by John Robert Marasigan on Unsplash)


A Megatrend is a long-term driving force that is observable now and will continue to have a global impact in years to come

In 2020, an estimated 281 million people were living outside their country of birth. This number – defined as the global stock of international migrants – is higher than ever before. This figure not only includes regular migrants (who move voluntarily), but also 20.7 million refugees and 4.2 million asylum-seekers (waiting to be recognised as refugees) who are forced to move. As a result of the considerable growth in the number of people living outside of their country of birth, the significance of migration as a global phenomenon has grown. This is not just in demographic terms, but also as a social and political issue that is discussed in ‘sending’ and ‘receiving’ countries. At the same time, the data shows that the likelihood that a person moves to another country during their life has barely changed over time.


This Megatrend is part of the Megatrends Hub



The driving forces of the Megatrend change over time. This timeline indicates more established and newer trends that are influencing the future direction of the Megatrend

timeline and images small HEALTH4

They indicate a direction of change in values and needs which is driven by forces and manifests itself already in various ways within certain groups in society. 

International migration still rising 

The number of international migrants is rising globally. However, the likelihood that someone will migrate in their lifetime has remained relatively stable.

Differences in opportunities

The most important reasons for international migration are differences in income and economic opportunities between countries, varying levels of social and human security as well as existing ethnic and diaspora networks (i.e. other migrants from the same origin country). These factors will remain relevant in the future and so will migration.

Prime destination

Once the world’s most important migrant sending region, Europe, has, since the 1960s, become a prime migration destination.

EU’s attractiveness

Migration from outside the EU can be expected to continue for the foreseeable future. However, there are numerous possible scenarios in terms of its volume and composition. 

COVID reactions

Economic recession coupled with high unemployment could reduce the demand for additional migrant labour in Europe. This would mean less labour migration to the EU in the years to come. At the same time, it is unlikely that migrant workers in certain sectors such as agriculture or healthcare could be replaced by native workers easily. 


Previously Covered Trends

These are trends that were spotted in the past, and might have grown or faded away in time.

-    Social, economic & fiscal effects
-    Public perceptions of migration & integration
-    Children in migration

Future Snapshots

A future snapshot shows a plausible image of what might happen in the future in relation to this Megatrend. It is a creation built using knowledge and imagination. These snapshots presented here are excerpts of inspiring future-oriented reports written by other colleagues and organisations.

Slow growth and fragmentation

“Governance is fragmented with countries pursuing their own interests and exclusive policies to the point of abandoning some hard-won global agreements. Global economic divergence and stagnation in parts of the world heighten pressures on welfare systems in advanced economies and unemployment is high. Pressures linked to social inequalities are on the rise leading to unrest globally, especially in countries with youth bulges. Lack of coordination leads to significant loss of life due to famines and pandemics. There are more conflicts and extremism around the world driving large-scale forced migrations. Cyber-terrorism grows prominent in heavily tech-dependent countries. Increase in anti-immigration sentiments influences the political stance in sending and receiving countries.”

Other sketched scenarios are: Crisis with collaboration, Inclusive Growth, Shocks inequality and control

The Future of Migration in the European Union: Future scenarios and tools to stimulate forward looking discussions.  JRC (2018)


Climate migrants: Ethiopia                                                             

“Internal climate migrants are rapidly becoming the human face of climate change. According to the World Bank, without urgent global and national climate action, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America could see more than 140 million people move within their countries’ borders by 2050.
The scale of climate migration is projected to increase in all scenarios by 2050, set against a backdrop of rapid population growth. Ethiopia’s population is projected to grow 60–85 percent by 2050, from about 100 million in 2016 to 159 million (in SSP2) or 184 million (in SSP4). This growth is driven mainly by a youth bulge that will drive continued population growth for several decades.”

Other case studies: Bangladesh, Mexico

Groundswell: Preparing for internal climate migration. The World Bank (2018)


Further Reading

Want to explore more? Some interesting readings below:

●   Atlas of Migration 2020 - JRC
●   Dynamic Data Hub - Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography
●    Towards 2035: Making migration and integration policies future ready – OECD
●   The future of migration to Europe – IOM and the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute


This Megatrends hub is a repository of foresight related information. It highlights long-term driving forces and its underlying shorter-term trends. This repository can help you understand the changing society in a broad and more systemic way. 

Disclaimer: this repository is by no means comprehensive and apart from established scientific knowledge contains also issues which are subject to scientific debate and where research is ongoing or only starting to give the reader some insights and ways to further explore the topics in more depth.