Migration flows


Driver description
Interactions within the Social Domain
Interactions with the Economy Domain

Interactions with the Environment Domain
Interactions with the Technology Domain
Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Driver Description

  • “Migration has become an increasingly important phenomenon for European societies.” (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “During 2009, about 3.0 million people immigrated into one of the EU Member States while at least 1.9 million emigrants were reported to have left an EU Member State. The latest figures available reveal a substantial decline in immigration in 2009 as compared with 2008. However, it is difficult to quantify exactly the magnitude of this decline as some countries (including Germany, Austria and the Netherlands) have modified the underlying definitions of migration (...).”
    (Ref: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained)
  • “It should be noted that these figures do not represent the migration flows to/from the EU as a whole, since they also include flows between different EU Member States. However, more than half of the immigrants into the EU Member States, an estimated 1.6 million people in 2009, were previously residing outside the EU.”
    (Ref: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained)
  • “Immigrants to EU Member States have a wide variety of origins.” (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “A particular distinction must be made between intra-EU migration and migration from outside of the EU. Subject to some transitory restrictions on citizens of new Member States, EU citizens have the right to live and work in other EU Member States. (Similar arrangements are in place for citizens of the other EEA countries and Switzerland.) EU citizens are not subject to limits on the numbers that may be admitted, and are exempt from restrictions as to duration of residence and access to the labour market that may be applied to third country nationals (persons who are no citizens of an EU Member State).” (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “The number of EU-27 citizens migrating to a Member State other than their own country of citizenship increased on average by 12 % per year during the period 2002–08, and peaked in 2007.” (Ref: CO_0066)
Figure 1‑8 Relative change in migration inflows to EU Member States by citizenship groups, EU-27, 2002–08 (%)

Source: Migrants in Europe. A statistical portrait of the first and second generation (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “Intra-European migration flows are (...) very diverse. They comprise retirees from northern European regions moving south to the Mediterranean regions as well as East-European workers in search of jobs moving to West-European countries. In the context of European integration and of the development of corporate enterprises, intra-European mobility in the service sector is also growing. The same is also true in the case of students. East-west migration flows related to the recent EU enlargements have largely been underestimated, causing in some cases scarcity problems for qualified manpower in the immigrants’ countries of origin. The intensification of intra-European migration flows in the decades to come is highly probable in a context where national borders will become weaker while regional disparities remain significant and the number of retirees increases.” (Ref: CO_1023)
  • “In 2010, a breakdown of the population by citizenship in the EU-27 showed that 20.1 million were citizens of a non-EU27 country (4% of the total population).” (Ref: CO_0086)
  • “Looking at the distribution by continent of origin of third country nationals living in the EU, the largest proportion (36.5 %) were citizens of a European country outside the EU-27 (see Figure below), a total of 7.2 million people; among these more than half were citizens of Turkey, Albania or Ukraine. The second biggest group was from Africa (25.2 %), followed by Asia (20.9 %), the Americas (16.4 %) and Oceania (0.9 %). More than half of the citizens of African countries that were living in the EU were from North Africa, often from Morocco or Algeria. Many Asian non-nationals living in the EU came from southern or eastern Asia, in particular from India or China. Citizens of Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia made up the largest share of non-nationals from the Americas living in the EU.”
    (Ref: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained)
Figure 1‑9 Citizens of non-member countries resident in the EU-27 by continent of origin, 2010

Source: Migration and migrant population statistics: tables and figures YB2012 (Ref: CO_0085)

  • “The citizenship structure of the population of non-nationals living in the EU varies greatly between Member States; it is influenced by factors such as labour migration, historical links between origin and destination countries, and established networks in destination countries. Turkish citizens made up the biggest group of non-nationals (see Figure below) living in the EU in 2010, comprising 2.4 million people, or 7.2 % of all non-nationals. The second largest group was Romanians living in another EU Member State (6.6 % of the non-national population), followed by Moroccans (5.7 %). The group of non-nationals living in the EU with the most significant increase over the period from 2001 to 2010 was Romanians, their numbers increasing seven-fold from 0.3 million in 2001 to 2.1 million by 2010. The number of Polish and Chinese citizens also increased significantly during this period, and citizens from both of these countries figured among the ten largest non-national groups in 2010.”
    (Ref: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained)
Figure 1‑10 Main countries of origin of non-nationals, EU-27, 2010 (million)

Source: Migration and migrant population statistics: tables and figures YB2012 (Ref: CO_0085)

  • “In 2008, there were more men than women in migration flows to and from EU Member States in general. Around 48 % of immigrants were women. By contrast, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, France and Ireland reported that women outnumbered men among immigrants (Figure below). In Cyprus, this was mainly due to women with Filipino, Sri Lankan and Vietnamese citizenship, whereas in Italy and Spain women outnumbered men in the biggest group of immigrants (with Romanian citizenship in the case of Italy, and Moroccan citizenship in the case of Spain).” (Ref: CO_0066)
Figure 1 11 Immigrants by gender, EU-27 and EFTA, 2008 (%)

Source: Migrants in Europe. A statistical portrait of the first and second generation (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “Patterns of migration flows can change greatly over time, with the size and composition of migrant populations reflecting both current and historical patterns of migration flows.” (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “Migrants’ choice of destination may be influenced by a variety of interrelated factors including the presence of established communities from a particular country of origin living in a destination country (for example, Iraqi-born people seeking international protection in Sweden), and historical links between countries, related sometimes to the dissolution of previous states (such as between Russia and Latvia, or between the Czech Republic and Slovakia). Patterns of migration may also reflect past colonial and linguistic links, as seen in the long history of migration from the Indian subcontinent to the United Kingdom, in migration between Ireland and the United Kingdom, between Brazil and Portugal and between Ecuador and Spain and in migration from Suriname to the Netherlands.” (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “Whereas migration used to be seen predominantly as a one-off movement leading to permanent resettlement, recent migration is more fluid, thanks to improved transport and communication networks. Migrants today may make consecutive stays in different countries, or alternate residence between countries.” (Ref: CO_5027)
  • “Future trends in migration are perhaps the hardest to anticipate, as they depend from future events across the world ranging from economic and social factors to political developments and family ties.” (Ref: CO_2050)
  • “The global economic crisis has slowed emigration in many parts of the world, although it does not appear to have stimulated substantial return migration. With economic recovery and job growth, most experts expect this slowdown to be temporary.” (Ref: CO_5029)
  • “For the EU as a whole, annual net inflows are projected to increase from about 1,018,000 people in 2010 (equivalent to 0.2% of the natural EU population) to 1,217,000 by 2020 and thereafter declining to 878,000 people by 2060.” (Ref: CO_0050)
  • “The cumulated net migration to the EU over the entire projection period is 55 millions, of which the bulk is in the euro area (42 millions).” (Ref: CO_0050)
  • “Net migration flows are projected to be concentrated to a few destination countries: Italy (15.4 millions cumulated up to 2060), Spain (10.9 millions) and the UK (8.6 millions). For countries that are currently experiencing a net outflow (BG, EE, LV, LT, MT and RO), this is projected to taper off or reverse in the coming decades.” (Ref: CO_0050)
  • “In a trend perspective and in a context where the Union’s competence in immigration matters remains limited, the evolution will be characterised by continuing, although rather contained, illegal immigration.” (Ref: CO_1023)

Interactions within the Social Domain

Population ageing

  • An analysis of the age structure of the resident population shows that, for the EU-27 as a whole, the non-national population was younger than the national population. The distribution by age of non-nationals shows, with respect to nationals, a greater representation of adults aged between 20 and 47; this feature is evident when looking at the corresponding population pyramids (see Figure below). In 2010, the median age of the EU-27 total population was 40.9 years, while the median age of non-nationals living in the EU was 34.4 years)”
    (Ref: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained)
Figure 1‑12 Age structure of the national and non-national populations by sex, EU, 2010 (%)

Source: Migration and migrant population statistics: tables and figures YB2012 (Ref: CO_0085)

Given the lower median age of migrants, and their higher fertility rates, migration flows can mitigate the speed of European population aging. However, international migration alone will almost certainly not reverse the ongoing trend of population ageing experienced in many parts of the EU.

  • “Most experts assume that immigrants will only partly compensate for the declining native population and work force.” (Ref: CO_6000)
  • “Studies reveal that in order to offset the population decline, immigration to Europe should double in the coming years, i.e. 1.8 million per year to 2050, rather than the 950,000 per year recorded from 1995 to 2000.” (Ref: CO_5027)

Household structure and distribution

Migration could have a twofold impact on household structure and distribution if measured from the perspective of the origin country or from the one of the hosting country. If considering the origin country, in several cases migrants, especially at the beginning of their experience, left households in the origin country that they usually support via remittances. Furthermore in case of women migrants, they usually left their children home with grandparents taking care of them. This implies a change in the structure and size of the household of the origin country. If looking at the hosting country, migrants generally live in urban areas and, in order to mitigate the cost of living in such expensive areas, tend to form new populated households.

Income structure and distribution

  • “The differences in the labour market situation of foreign-born and native-born persons are almost certain to be reflected in median income levels. (...) In 2008, for almost all Member States, the median annual equivalised disposable income for the foreign-born population was considerably lower than that for native born persons.” (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “Lower income levels also go hand in hand with less favourable housing conditions, in particular with regard to overcrowding.” (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “Remittances sent by migrants are a remarkably high component of international capital flows. Through remittances, migration can thus directly and indirectly increase income and consumption in the home area and, if the poor receive at least some remittances, decrease poverty in the home area. If the poor receive most remittances, not only poverty but also inequality will decrease. Yet, migration does not necessarily lead to a significant increase in income or reduction in poverty and inequality in home areas. Remittances may not be sufficient to compensate for the loss of local income previously earned by the migrant.” (Ref: CO_0095)

Car ownership

  • In general immigrants have lower economic standards than the domestically born in the same country, and consequently the access to cars is generally lower. The purchase of a car and getting a driver’s license are costly, and consequently it takes time for immigrants to accumulate the resources needed to get car access. Car access is lower among female than among male immigrants, and this difference is greater than the difference in car access among domestically born women and men.” (Ref: CO_4033)
  • “Many of the immigrants had access to a car and a driver license in the country of origin, and many would like to have a car and a driver license in the future. If they could drive or be driven as a passenger, many thought that they would be less likely to use energy efficient transport modes in the future. In sum, the immigrants interviewed have an energy efficient way of travelling today, but the challenge seems to be to maintain this travel behaviour in case they attain a driver license and a car.” (Ref: CO_4033)


  • “New immigrants in recent decades have tended to flock to urban areas, altering the composition of large cities. These cities have become the visible face of globalisation. In the Netherlands, for example, more than 60 % of all immigrants and their children live in the Western conurbation of the Randstad (which comprises Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hagueand Utrecht); in Amsterdam nearly half the population is of immigrant origin. The situation is similar in other large European cities. At the same time, the newcomers are distributed unevenly over the city’s districts and wards, concentrated more in some areas than others.” (Ref: CO_5027)
  • “Many socially deprived areas – often with a high share of immigrants – are located in the urban fringe.” (Ref: CO_5027)

Tourist flows

  • “(...) prosperous places like London and Paris attract vast numbers of tourists, while some of these tourists become subsequently temporary or permanent migrants in the host country. So, tourism encourages migration. Conversely, migrants travel back to their home countries for short visits and their friends and relatives visit them in the host country. Therefore, migration boosts tourism. Thus, migration and tourism tend to become mutually interacting geographic phenomena whose importance is rapidly growing. Migration – related tourism seems to become an important segment of global tourism.” (Ref: CO_0092)
  • “The empirical result (...) shows that as the stock of immigrants increase from a certain country ceteris paribus the number of VFR[1] visits from that particular country rises. The regression also points out that GDP per capita, which determines the ability to travel, has a positive impact on VFR visits. Next, the distance is, as expected, negatively related to VFR visits and the total number of visits. There is no significant impact of distance on the total duration of VFR visits, since long distance VFR trips are made less frequently, but when they are made the duration per trip is longer.” (Ref: CO_0092)

[1] Visiting Friends and Relatives


  • “Migration inside and between countries is likewise increasing (...). These migrations increase the opportunity for diseases to spread rapidly between populations and may result in the re-introduction of infectious diseases to areas where they had been eradicated (or significantly reduced).” (Ref: CO_0275)

Interactions with the Economy Domain

GDP trends

  • “The contribution of immigrants to the EU economies has been substantial. In the period 2000– 2005, third country immigrants to the EU accounted for more than a quarter of the overall rise in employment and for 21% of the average GDP growth in the EU-15. This growing migrant labour share consisted of both highly qualified jobs in the expanding sectors of the economy but also of many jobs requiring a mix of lower skills.” (Ref: CO_0086)


  • “Migration could play an important role in mitigating the effect of ageing on the labour market.” (Ref: CO_0015)
  • “By 2030, it is estimated that some 200 million immigrants will be needed to fulfil the needs of the economic system, or else Europe’s economy will not survive.” (Ref: CO_5048)
  • “(...) it is estimated that in order to compensate for the reduction of the population of working age, the current flow of immigrants will need to be tripled within the next four decades” (Ref: CO_5027)
  • “Better recognition at EU level of skills and qualifications from third countries would mean that people can fully use their potential in their jobs. More geographically flexible labour markets would allow migrants to change employers, possibly located in different Member States, more easily. Such mobility should preserve their residence rights and lead to a better matching of labour market supply and demand.” (Ref: CO_0086)
  • “There is the possibility that jobs will be filled by “invited workers”, who come to Europe to work for a period of time and then return to their origin countries. The dynamics of this phenomenon are related on border permeability policies, as weak borders allow people to enter and leave easily, whilst strong borders encourage people to stay due to the difficulty in re-entering later on.” (Ref: CO_5048)
  • “More recently, certain migrant worker policies have focused on attracting highly skilled or educated migrants. Although the definitions of the target group of migrants have differed between countries, this approach has been seen in several national programmes (such as in Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom), and now forms the basis of the EU Blue Card Scheme.” (Ref: CO_0066)
  • “With regard to the health sector, for example, as already announced in the "Agenda for New Skills and Jobs", the Commission intends to put forward by 2012 an action plan in order to address the shortage of health professionals in the EU.” (Ref: CO_0086)
  • “Immigration flows from outside Europe are expected to continue to grow (United Nations, 2005), as they will contribute to fill employment gaps, especially in lowskilled jobs.” (Ref: CO_5048)

Regional differences in economics

Migration is not spatially uniform and therefore a high concentration of migrants in certain regions can contribute more to the local economies, thus increasing the regional differences. This phenomenon is further intensified if considering working migration that is usually polarised towards prosperous regions.

Interactions with the Environment Domain

No particularly relevant interrelationships have been found.

Interactions with the Technology Domain

No particularly relevant interrelationships have been found.

Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Poor information available on travel behaviour of immigrants

  • “The travel behaviour of immigrants and the attitudes of immigrants toward different travel modes are scarcely researched in Europe. Analysis of this topic is difficult since the country of birth or questions concerning nationality are not included in the national travels surveys in European countries.” (Ref: CO_4033)

Lower travelled distances

  • “In general immigrants have fewer cars than the domestically born populations, and they travel less in general. Trips are fewer and travel distances by car are shorter among immigrants than among the domestically born populations. The differences between the immigrants and the domestically born seem to be greater for women than for men and greater for newly arrived immigrants than for immigrants who have stayed longer in their new country.” (Ref: CO_4033)
  • “Different mobility patterns and lower car availability lead to different distances travelled. For instance the average German man travels four times further per day than the average Italian woman living in Germany. This is an indication of the relative importance of local neighbourhoods for migrants.” (Ref: CO_0079)

Increasing demand for public transport services

  • “The poorer car access among immigrants leads to more walking and more use of public transport among immigrants than among the domestically born. However, bicycle riding appears to be more popular among the domestically born than among the immigrants especially than among immigrant women.” (Ref: CO_4033)
  • “It is much less common for non-EEA[1] migrants to travel to work by car than UK nationals (46 percent of non-EEA migrants compared with 74 percent of UK nationals). Instead, more of them take the bus to work (19 percent of non-EEA migrants compared with 6 percent of UK nationals). More of them use underground (11 percent of non-EEA migrants compared with 2 percent of UK nationals). More of them also walk or cycle (18 percent non-EEA compared with 13 percent of UK nationals). Also, it is slightly more common for non-EEA migrants to take the train to work; however, the difference (6 percent of non-EEA migrants compared with 4 percent of UK nationals) is not statistically significant. The chart also suggests that EEA and non-EEA migrants have a similar pattern in mode choice.” (Ref: CO_0094)

[1] EEA European Economic Area

Figure 1‑13 Mode choice in UK by nationality. Annual Population Survey, Oct 2009–Sep 2010

Source: The impact of migration on transport and congestion (Ref: CO_0094)

  • “With regard to migrants’ impacts on public transport, an area that is important but difficult to quantify is crowding. (...) Crowding issues are specific to the mode of public transport. Notably, it is more difficult for rail and underground to address crowding issues by expanding capacity because additional infrastructure is costly and takes a long time to build. For buses, crowding may be less of an issue as bus operators can respond by providing more buses relatively easily and quickly. In fact, the increased patronage on buses is generally seen as a positive outcome.” (Ref: CO_0094)

Increasing travel demand towards extra European countries (China; Asia etc)

  • “Migrants, generally young and mainly living in urban areas, will further intensify Europe’s ties with neighbouring regions, by creating cultural and economic links with their country of origin. These links will entail more movement of people and goods.” (Ref: CO_0015)