Understanding Global Trends in South-South Migration

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The Global Trends in South-South Migration chapter of “The Palgrave Handbook of South–South Migration and Inequality” examines the phenomenon of migration between Global South countries and its relationship to inequality in the Global South.

As of 2020, South-South migration is slightly greater than South-North migration with countries in the Global South hosting 40% of all international migrants. While most migration occurs within the same region as a migrant’s home country, there has been a marked increase in extra-regional migration. One notable trend is the rise of Middle Eastern countries as migration destinations. Movement between Southeast Asia and the Middle East is now the top migration corridor in the Global South with over 21.5 million migrants of South Asian origin living in the Middle East.

In the chapter, the authors dive into the trends in each region of the Global South, providing data that captures shifting patterns in how people are moving within and between regions of the world. Most international migrants leaving the Global South move regionally, particularly in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South America. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 63% of migrants move to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Exceptions to this trend are regions of the Global South that neighbour wealthier countries of the Global North, like Central America, North Africa, Central Asia, or small island states in Oceania and the Caribbean. In these places, extra-regional, South–North migration is more common than intra-regional, South–South migration.

The authors argue that these new migration corridors require policymakers to focus their efforts on strengthening regional governance, establishing regional economic communities, and building complementary international frameworks. More census data is needed to better understand migration patterns, as Kerilyn Schewel discusses in her paper on how to better predict climate migration using models

Methods and Results

For the review of global trends, the authors used the list of 138 “Countries in the Global South” provided by the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) to establish the baseline for the categories of “South” and “North,” though these definitions are fluid and often debated. To map global trends and identify key South–South migration corridors, the authors used origin and destination international migrant stock data for 1990-2020 from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). The data likely underestimates migration flows and accuracy is contingent upon how well funded and supported a country’s statistical bureau is. 



Kerilyn Schewel (Duke University), Alix DeBray (United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies and Ghent University)

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Human Development, Migration, Global Immigration, Global South