Tip: Activate javascript to be able to use all functions of our website

International migration in a long-term perspective: KfW Research presents migration report

Press Release from 2018-12-17 / Group, KfW Research

  • International migration is relatively rare
  • Migration and development are inextricably linked
  • Demographic change determines migration potential, structural change influences migration incentives

The causes and motives for people to leave their home country are complex and diverse. In Germany the public debate over migration is being conducted with great intensity and characterised primarily by the refugee movements. But displacement and migration are not new phenomena, nor are they limited to Europe. Structural transformations are taking place at country level and occurring simultaneously with migration movements. In the lead-up to the International Day of the Migrant on 18 December, KfW Research conducted a comprehensive analysis of international migration in this long-term perspective and now presents its findings in a new migration report.

The study found that only 3.4% of the world’s population live outside their home country. But the causes that motivate people to leave their country are still poorly understood. At aggregate level, however, a correlation can be established between a national economy’s level of development and its population’s migratory movements. When a country is on a low level of development, migration usually increases as the country develops further before stagnating and then decreasing. Behind this development are long-term structural transformations such as demographic change and evolving economic structures. The more young people live in a country, the higher the migration potential. When the country’s economic structure changes as well, that potential can be realised due to changes in the structure of labour demand and opportunities for earning an income. “A substantial portion of the world’s population lives in developing countries where industrialisation is on a low level or stagnant”, said Dr Jörg Zeuner, Chief Economist of KfW. “Incentives to migrate will not change until these economies find ways to jumpstart their industrialisation or identify a different successful growth model.”

Among other aspects, the migration report also sheds light on the difficult data situation and explores forced migration as a response to conflicts, climate change and environmental disasters. This is highlighted by examples of African countries which illustrate the complexity of migratory patterns.

The current migration report is available (in German only) at:


Portrait Christine Volk


Christine Volk


+49 69 74 31 38 67


+49 69 74 31 32 66