More people than ever live in a different country to the one in which they were born. Accompanying the increasing number of migrants are new migration patterns: modern communication technologies and the increased convenience of travel have made temporary and circular migration easier than ever; free movements within a region raise new challenge of measurement even for countries with relatively developed statistical system; from the perspective of origin countries, optimizing the impact of emigration is of paramount importance; in addition to better integrating immigrants in the countries of destination, large number of returned migrants also raised the questions on how they could be re-integrated in the countries of origin.
Increases in migration and the changing pattern of migration have raised demand to capture such phenomenon properly with accurate and timely data. Call for better data was also made by global initiatives such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/70/1), the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (A/71/1) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, pointing to the need to strengthen national capacities to collect and use migration statistics and data to develop evidence-based migration policies and to integrate migration into national development planning.
Despite of the unprecedented need, statistics on international migration remains sparse. Basic statistics on migrant stocks and flows are lacking in many countries – despite of the fact that population censuses are being conducted in most of the countries and information on migration is being collected (1). Data on the size and characteristics of emigrants, which is of particular relevance to countries or origin, are almost non-existent. Data on migration flows are even scarcer (2). Additional statistics that captured the complexity of migration rarely exist – there is no international standard on how circular migration is defined and internationally comparable statistics are not available. Measuring movements within a region that implements free-movement policies is of particular challenge. Moreover, other than the overall estimate of remittances flow, other dimensions of economic and social impact and contribution of migrants are not consistently measured in countries.
Additional measurement challenge also rises under the leaving no-one behind pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Producing disaggregated data, including by sex, age and other key characteristics of migrants raises methodological challenges in not only capturing smaller population groups but also in adopting methods that reflect issues pertaining to those subpopulation groups properly.
The challenges in producing statistics that reflect the complexity of migration and that inform national policies are multifaceted. They range from insufficient international standards and methodologies, lack of compilation and dissemination of statistics that are already collected, a lack of coordination and integration of migration statistics generated from multiple sources within the country, as well as lack of systematic research that help understand the impact of migration. New data sources such as mobile phones, earth observations and social media represent potential “big data” sources of migration data, yet no concrete case study is available to shed light on how they can be used to improve the availability of migration statistics. Lastly, better communication about migration statistics on the nature of migration, integration outcomes and on the costs and benefits of migration remains a challenge.
As migration is a multidimensional phenomenon, a comprehensive approach is necessary to produce migration statistics to inform migration policy. The High-Level Panel offers an opportunity for stakeholders from national statistical offices, line ministries, the private sector, the research community and international organizations to (a) review and discuss the unprecedented demand for migration data; (b) discuss challenges and strategies to strengthen national statistical systems for the production of international migration statistics and for communicating such statistics with users; (c) discuss how private sector and the research community can assist in developing innovative approaches in collecting and analyzing data for effective migration policies; and (d) identify areas for capacity building in producing better migration data for policy and assess how the international community can address such challenges.
(1)-Between 2005 and 2014, data on immigrant stock, i.e., the number of foreign-born or foreign population in a country, are available only in about half of the countries that conducted population censuses.
(2)-less than 30 per cent of countries or areas provided some information on inflows and outflows to the United Nations Statistics Division since 2010.