Asia and the Pacific

The regional migration context

The Asia-Pacific region hosts more than half of the world’s population of 3.7 billion persons. The region generated 56 per cent of the world’s Gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 and is characterized by dynamic and diverse forms of migration. The number of international migrants in Asia in 2010 was estimated at 27.5 million, which represented just under 13 per cent of the total global figure. This total includes 4.3 million international migrants from South and South-west Asia. The Asia-Pacific region comprises not only major migrant countries of origin, but also traditional and emerging destination countries. Countries like India and China have become countries of origin, transit and destination simultaneously. Widening North-South economic disparity, coupled with demographic challenges, continues to promote intraregional migration. It is estimated that 43 per cent of Asian migrants move within the region.

Increasing labour migration activity improves the region’s labour markets and facilitates the flow of remittances, trade and investment between countries. This brings positive impacts on consumption and economic growth. In the Philippines, the region’s largest labour-sending country, remittance inflows accounted for 12.2 per cent of GDP in 2009, while they reached 22 per cent in Nepal. Notably, despite the global economic slowdown, remittance flows to South and East Asia have remained relatively robust. In 2010 alone, 4 of the top 10 remittance-receiving countries were in Asia, and two, specifically, in South Asia (namely, Bangladesh and India). The flows of labour migration in the Asia-Pacific are often from lower-income countries, such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam, to countries/areas which have labour shortages and offer higher wage opportunities, such as Japan; the Republic of Korea; Hong Kong, China; and Singapore. Besides labour migration, the region experiences other voluntary flows for permanent migration and study. Increasing mobility of students and retirees, as well as increasing international marriages (particularly those involving North-East Asian men), are notable trends in the region.