Emigration in Asia

Where do Asian people migrate to and how many of them live abroad?


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Map of the emigration from Asia.

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There are plenty of maps and resources about immigration out there. I even did a map about it too. But one thing we hear and see about less, is emigration. How many Asian people live abroad and where do they move to?

The first thing we can see on this map, is the ratio of nationals living abroad. This ratio is highest in Macau (252), Armenia (326), Syria (482) and Palestine (830). Yes, that means that for Palestine, which had a population of 4.6 million in 2019, 3.9 million nationals live abroad.

The emigration rate is lowest in Japan (6.6), Maldives (5.8), Oman (5.0) and North Korea (4.4). The latter probably isn’t very surprising. What is surprising, is that South Korea doesn’t make it into the top 3 countries to move abroad to for North Koreans. Even though many North Korean defectors live in South Korea. The top 3 consists of Kazakhstan, the UK and Russia. The reason for this, is that South Korea sees North Koreans as citizens of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). So technically North Koreans fleeing to South Korea are not foreigners, which means they are not emigrating.

So what’s the popular destination for Asian people moving abroad? The US seems to be the clear favourite. Even for countries like Iran and China, where the governments clearly state that they see the US as their enemy. In a lot of cases, we see that a neighbouring country is the most popular destination.

Furthermore, we can see that for the former Soviet states, Russia is the most popular destination. These could be Russian people with dual citizenship that moved (back) to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. But most likely (especially in the case of Central Asia), these are people moving to Russia for better job opportunities.

There is one other interesting case: Bahrain. Most of the people with the Bahrain nationality that live abroad, live in Bangladesh. I’m suspecting these are mostly migrant workers from Bangladesh that have worked long enough in Bahrain to gain the Bahrain nationality. Eventually they still decided to move back to Bangladesh.

For most countries on this map, less than 10% of all nationals living abroad live in the most popular emigration destination. For six countries more than 10% of the nationals living abroad, live in the most popular destination. 11% of Laotians living abroad live in Thailand, For Kazakhstan 11.4% in Russia, for Macau, 11.5% in Hong Kong, for Armenia 13.4% in Russia, for Syria 14.8% in Turkey and for Palestine 24.7% in Jordan.

The rate of nationals living abroad is based of the total number of nationals living abroad. This includes people that have migrated many years ago, not just in 2019. In short, the emigrant population consists of all people with the nationality of that country, that don’t live in that country (e.g., all Vietnamese nationals that don’t live in Vietnam). This does however mean that someone without the Vietnamese nationality who has lived in Vietnam for many years that then emigrates from Vietnam, is not considered an emigrant. This is mainly due to a lack of data.

Obviously, countries with a larger population also tend to have a larger number of nationals living abroad. For that reason, I decided to count the number of people living abroad per 1,000 inhabitants of the country of origin. So, for every 1,000 people living in Vietnam (regardless of nationality), 28 people with the Vietnamese nationality live abroad. The UN sadly doesn’t have any data on the number of people living in Ireland with the Irish nationality. Which means that those 1,000 people includes people with residency in Vietnam, but not having the Vietnamese nationality.

The data for this map comes from the United Nations International Migrant Stock.

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