IOM Migration Profile for Jamaica Provides a Comprehensive Overview


The latest installment of the IOM Migration Profiles, which focuses on Jamaica, confirms that immigrants in the labour force do not stay for an extended period in the country, and a high emigration rate continues, although much less than in the previous decades of the 1970s to 1990s as emigration opportunities have been reduced.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the number of Jamaicans moving to the United States (US) accounted for 80.33 per cent of all Jamaicans living abroad.  Over the same period, migration from Jamaica to Canada accounted for 16.96 per cent and 2.71 per cent to the United Kingdom (UK).

The vast majority of Jamaican migrants are able-bodied and skilled persons, aged between 15 and 64.

Between 2001 and 2010 an estimated 216,200 Jamaicans were living abroad.  More Jamaicans were estimated to have left the country between 2000 and 2003 compared with the 2007–2010 periods.

Related Links
Migration in Jamaica : A Country Profile 2010
Jamaica International Migration Profile (Presentation)

The IOM Migration Profile reports that the loss of professionals migrating to the US and Canada has been partly compensated through immigration, mainly of Commonwealth citizens, especially from the Indian subcontinent and CARICOM states to Jamaica.  In the year 2000, there were 5,727 non-Jamaican Caribbean persons in the country, which accounted for 22.7 per cent of the total non-national stock in the country.

By the 1990s the number of Jamaicans migrating to the US had fallen to approximately one third of the average for the 1970s.  Migration to Canada also declined significantly in the 1980s, with a slight increase in the 1990s.  Movement to the UK, which had already declined dramatically by 1970, continued to decline through the 1980s and 1990s.

Official data compiled for the Profile confirms that in addition to the overall decline in numbers of Jamaican emigrants going to the US and Canada, there was also a decline in the percentage of those in the professional, executive, administrative and managerial category.  In the case of the US, the professional, administrative and managerial category of migrants decreased from around 23 per cent in the 1970s to less than 15 per cent in the 1990s.

Migration to Canada also declined amongst Jamaican professionals, from around 13 per cent of the total in the 1970s, to under 10 per cent in the 1990s.

But the large number of nurses and teachers migrating to the US, Canada and the UK has had a negative impact on the health and education sectors.  

A new trend is the return of a considerable number of Jamaicans returning home.  Migrants retuning home voluntarily enter the labour force or start business ventures; those returning for retirement contribute to the economy through investment in housing and also engage in voluntary activities in local communities, assisting both materially and socially.

Deportees, mainly from the US and the UK, also make up a large numbers of those returning home.  The Profile emphasizes that this group requires considerable assistance for their reintegration into Jamaican society and especially into the labour force.

The global economic downturn has significantly affected the labour market in Jamaica.  Domestic economic activities have contracted, resulting in a reduction of the employed labour force. 

In reference to the amounts of money remitted by migrants abroad, the Profile explains that although individual sums received are typically very small, overall, remittances contributed 14 per cent of GDP in 2010.  Remittances are mostly used for household and living expenses, alleviating poverty, with very small amounts directed into saving and investment.
The Profile suggests that attractive financial instruments and other inducements are needed to encourage significant savings and investment in national programmes.  Policies to link the diaspora to promote international trade in goods and services, including tourism, and for the potential transfer of expertise in required fields, are also recommended.

IOM’s migration profiles (MP) provide a descriptive analysis of the main migration characteristics and trends in the country based on the available data and information.  The Profiles are intended to become a tool for the governments to enhance knowledge on migration issues; identify gaps in data; and provide the basis for coherence in the development of migration policies to effectively manage migration in the interest of national development.

This Migration Profile is part of the EU-funded project “Strengthening the Dialogue and Cooperation Between the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean to Establish Management Models on Migration and Development Policy”.

The complete IOM Migration Profile for Jamaica can be found at

For more information please contact 

Keisha Livermore
IOM Kingston
Tel: +1 876 968 0569