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Who in the world has been going where in the world

I love David Thompson’s ephemera postings, which he does every Friday. Buried in among the fun and games are often things with a bit of a message, in favour of Thompsonism and against horribleness.

So, today, for instance, there is a link to three lists, of top migrant destinations, top emigration countries, and top “migration corridors”, migration corridors being country pairs, from and to. List one says how many people in each country were not born there, and the second list says how many people who were born there have now gone.

I have always believed that how people have been voting with their feet is one of the most potent judgements there can be at any particular moment in history, on the varying merits and demerits of different countries and different political and economic systems. The USSR bombarded the world with high decibel claims about the wonderfulness of itself and of its various national possessions, but could not explain why so many people wanted out, and so desperately, and so few in. How come the Berlin Wall only pointed in one particular direction? How come they were the ones who built it?

Contrariwise, the world’s anti-Thompsonists of an earlier time cursed the hideous exploitation of the emerging sweatshop (then) economies of South East Asia, but could not explain why people would swim through shark-infested waters, in order to be hideously exploited.

Such numbers also register how welcoming or unwelcoming different countries are towards being “flooded” with incomers. The USA, of course, is the country that positively defines itself as the country of migrants. That the USA, now as always, is by far the top migrant destination, leaving the rest in a clump far behind, says it all about the continuing vitality of the USA as the go-to superpower of the world, still, despite all the blunders its rulers are now making and which the USA itself is so good at drawing everyone’s attention to.

Russia and Saudi Arabia must also be doing something right, despite the stories you hear, and at least compared to the alternatives for those flooding in. Money plus labour shortages would be my guesses, in both cases.

The UK features in the top ten both for migration in and emigration out. That is a telling fact, is it not? India and Russia are also on both lists.

The biggest upheavals are surely the big numbers that pertain to countries with small populations. When you talk percentages, Australia looks to me positively USA-like in its eagerness to attract newcomers. That China, despite its colossal size and formidable recent economic vitality, is not on the top destination list is also quite telling, is it not?

These numbers are more than just ephemeral curiosities, I would say.

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27 comments to Who in the world has been going where in the world

  • Well, it is not just “three lists”. It is interactive, and if you click on the country codes at the sides, you will see immigration and emigration stats by country for every country in the world. So there is lots to look at.

    However, if I look at the top ten emigration destinations for Australia, I see Malaysia in tenth place with 6,903 Australians living there. I see China (or Hong Kong) nowhere on the list. New Zealand is in third place with 68,629 and Canada fourth with 21,140.

    On the other hand, I know there are tens of thousands of Australians in Hong Kong, and tens of thousands more in China proper. Certainly, to suggest that there are more Australians in Malaysia than China is ludicrous.

    So there is something wrong with some of the stats. My guess is that these are compiled mostly from national census figures of host countries, or at least from statistics offices in host countries. The figure for Australians in China is wrong because China’s stats are wrong. As all stats compiled by the Chinese about everything are wrong, this is not a surprise, but it implies that we actually have no idea how many foreigners are in China from anywhere. (The emigration stats for the Chinese are probably much more accurate, as most of them have emigrated to places with good statistics). Undoubtedly, the number of Chinese emigrants is larger by far than the number of Chinese immigrants, but not to this extent.

    Actually, further examination of the data shows no immigration data for China whatsoever. And apparently, the only sources of immigrants to Hong Kong are China and Macau, which is ridiculous if you are familiar with what a cosmopolitan city it is. So the data is incomplete rather than wrong, although it is being assumed to be complete and so used to draw some not entirely right conclusions, including understating the total amount of emigration from many other countries. So it should be taken with a grain of salt.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I recall how a certain – now banned – commenter got very upset, in his usual irascible way, when I spoke of how the ability people to “exit” a country, such as the UK, was in fact a good thing because it forces governments to behave better. A “brain drain” of emigrants should encourage countries to stem the outflow not by building walls, but by not buggering up their countries in the first place. Alas, the lessons often take years to sink in.

    In Malta, during the 1970s and 80s when that island became independent, the Mintoff government persecuted private doctors and nurses, as part of its socialist dogma. Result: lots of smart Maltese medical folk now work in the UK and other parts of the world. Or another example: the exodus of Hong Kongers after 1997 to places such as Vancouver.

    In discussing migration, a lot of the usual worriers focus on the supposed problems of immigration. Some of these issues are indeed genuine; however, the fact that many people are very keen to get out of places like Britain seldom gets so much attention. Of course, the left likes to argue that such wannabe migrants are just the filthy rich, ignoring the many young professionals getting out of the country.

  • I think that a sign of a country that is healthily immersed in the world economy, and is open to trade, ideas etc is having both a large number of foreign citizens living in that country *and* a large number of its citizens living abroad. Having a situation where it is all in one direction indicates something wrong, as for that matter does having none at all (which usually indicates that the government won’t let people leave, and nobody wants to come there).

    One interesting thing I have noticed in visiting countries that people left to go to Australia to in past decades is just how many Australians there are in these countries now. Often what has happened is that the children or grandchildren of the original emigrants have gone back to the old country, often quite easily due to having citizenship or emigration rights and also speaking the language. Often they open Australian style businesses to the home country, which can be highly productive in places that are rather set in their ways. I’ve seen this in Croatia, Turkey, Vietnam, lots of places.

    Emigration often turns out to be good for both the places people leave as well as the places they go to, because people never really entirely leave. They retain ties, and families, and links, and these are mostly very valuable. The often American demand that you break these ties is deeply foolish, I think.

  • ManikMonkee

    “ignoring the many young professionals getting out of the country”

    Yep, The UK is a crap place to be an engineer, they pay peanuts and there are far too many qualified people chasing the small number of jobs that are available.

    “So the data is incomplete rather than wrong”

    It says South Africa has less than 2 million.The figure being throw about South Africa is 6 million Zimbabweans alone, not including the Congolese Angolans Kenyans Algerians Ethiopians etc etc. Should be right up in the top ten

  • Oh, yeah, fair enough. Some of it is definitely wrong, and pretty much everything that is wrong is on the low side. And there is going to be a lot of incomparable data, because when does one stop being a temporary visitor, exactly? Lots of different definitions. Plus a lot of it is going to understate the number of illegals, partly because they are hard to count (as they will often actively avoid being counted) and partly because governments are going to want to manipulate the figures about things like this.

    Back to Australia, because I am familiar with that, I think the number of immigrants shown (5.5 million) is about the right number, but the number of emigrants (442,000) is about half the true number. Australia has good and non-political statistics, whereas many of the Asian countries Australians are living in do not. There is a sort of “not really allowed to work on this class of visa but the situation is understood and tolerated by officials and we will not notice if you enter the country every three months for three months” status that does not work well with statistics but is actually very common.

  • Tam

    The often American demand that you break these ties is deeply foolish, I think.

    Yeah, the fact that I don’t speak any Norwegian, German, Swedish, or Polish like my g-grandparents leaves me feeling all empty inside.

  • No, but it leaves you more narrow-minded than you’d been otherwise. In my anecdotal experience, teachers in the US actively discourage immigrants’ kids from taking pride in their cultural heritage, including their parents’ native language. That is just plain silly.

  • The often American demand that you break these ties is deeply foolish, I think

    Well yes… and no… my problem with the ‘classical’ American approach {“You are an American now”) is that it is the wrong answer to the right question: if you move from one place to another, what are you?

    Well the answer does not have to be “an American” (or whatever depending on where you go and why) because it is a loaded question if the only reply is THIS nation or THAT nation.

    I see myself as a cosmopolitan and I that means I take the bits I like from wherever I like rather than some exclusionary nationally approve list of traits, quirks and values. Some things are better than others either objectively or subjectively and I want the bits that make the most sense for me. My identity is for me to make.

  • Tam

    Yes. The fact that, within two blocks of where I am sitting, I can get English pub food, Indonesian cooking, delicious Mediterranean-style food from Syrian immigrants, or a Cuban sandwich is because America ruthlessly squashes non-conformity and feeds everybody Big Macs from WalMart.

    This is me rolling my eyes.

    (And if I’m willing to walk farther than two blocks; say four or five? The world is my oyster, baby.

    Don’t believe everything you see on TV.)

  • Some cultures are better than others (subjectively speaking, of course), but it doesn’t make other cultures worthless. That is the beauty of the US society: while largely influenced by the English (and German?) cultures, it was able to absorb the better traits of some other, “lesser” ones, for its own indisputable benefit. It would be a shame to lose that ability in favor of the brave-new-world rigidity so typical of totalitarian societies. Some Americans need to loosen up, and realize that the real danger facing the US is not immigration, but rather something else, entirely home-grown.

  • I don’t watch TV, Tam (well, I guess FOX doesn’t count;-P). I actually lived in the US, and not in NYC/LA either. A hint: enjoying hummus/croissant does not count as cultural immersion – being able to understand a foreign language does.

  • James Waterton

    Tam: if anyone around here’s doing any ruthless squashing, I suspect it’s you, as you’ve clearly shoehorned one or two commenters here into an anti-American box that they absolutely don’t belong in. I think you’ll find the perspective of these folk is rather more well-considered than that.

    And what Alisa said about the hummus and croissants. Although never combine these two foodstuffs again, Alisa. It just seems wrong.

  • You just may be wrong there, James – I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as I find out:-)

  • My observation was intended at least as much as a criticism of American policy towards Americans who leave as American attitudes towards immigrants who come, in truth. For instance, tax laws that make it much more expensive for Americans to go and work or found a business abroad, and which are enforced so aggressively that people of other nationalities are discouraged from entering partnerships with them or even sometimes doing business with them. We were discussing this recently.

  • Kim du Toit

    “The often American demand that you break these ties is deeply foolish, I think.”

    Totally incorrect. The US does not insist on you ridding your ties to your country of birth — anything but — except for renunciation of your old passport/citizenship (which isn’t enforced, by the way — you’re not forced to surrender your old passport; you just have to swear an oath to forswear your prior citizenship).

    What the US is does is ask you not to bring your old political / cultural ideas as a replacement for American ones — and even that isn’t enforced.

    When I received my US citizenship, there was in our group a woman of E. European descent who had been living in the country for over thirty years who could speak no English (she couldn’t even understand a request for her home address). She’d been living in a little six-block ghetto in Chicago which was a virtual replication of her old homeland — newspapers, radio station, foods, etc. — and she’d never felt the need to learn English in all that time. There are literally hundreds of similar neighborhoods all over the US.

    Nobody actually cares much about this stuff, actually — check out such ephemera as St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo, for example — until these people start demanding that Americans take on their cultures or demand to be spoken to in their language by civic officals. Visit Dearborn in Michigan to see the hold that Islam and Shari’a has there — and see the future.

    THAT’S when American start to get upset. But offically? It’s not a big deal.

    Now… when Americans want to leave the US? That’s when the godless IRS gets interested, and things start to fall apart. Fuckers.

  • Maybe Kim is right, and the US is no different, in that there are people everywhere who have sentiments similar to Tam’s. Still, in my mind all this ties in with a sort of isolationism that is peculiarly American. Of course it can be easily explained by that country’s enormous size and relative geographical isolation, which in this day and age are obviously no longer a good excuse, but there we are.

  • Laird

    I think Kim is right. Immigrants don’t, and never have, been expected to break their ties to the old country or forswear their old customs. The next generation takes care of that quite naturally.

    And Alisa, I don’t think we’re truly isolationist, per se, as much as simply disinterested. The country is huge (geographically, economically, culturally, and in just about any other way you can imagine), as well as being physically separated from much of the world, and for much of the last century we haven’t had to depend upon other nations for anything (although now we do need Chinese money to buy our debt!). For everyday purposes rest of the world doesn’t much matter to us. That’s hardly irrational, even if you consider it “narrow-minded”.

  • Yes, Laird, I’ve already conceded that. It is not irrational, but in this day and age it is no longer realistic, even without the Chinese money etc.)

    simply disinterested

    Someone quoted someone else here some time ago as saying: ‘You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you’. I think it applies well to all human relationships.

  • Laird

    Alisa, I don’t see how it applies to all human relationships; I’m sure the world is quite full of people who are as disinterested in me as I am in them.

  • In such a case, Laird, a relationship, may be non-existent – although it should be noted that for that to apply a relationship does not have to be consensual.

    All that said, the term ‘relationships’ may have been poorly chosen – ‘interactions’ may have been better.

  • Need to rephrase: In such a case, Laird, a relationship, may be non-existent – although it should be noted that for the above-mentioned principle to apply a relationship does not have to be consensual. (sorry, running short on sleep…)

  • Laird

    Hmmm, got to think about that one. A “non-consensual” relationship? Sort of like the “relationship” between me and a mugger? So what you’re saying is that we Americans should be aware of the rest of the world so we can avoid becoming its prey?

  • Wasn’t that obvious to begin with?

  • Laird

    Nah. That’s why we have government. The average man on the street (which is what we’re talking about here, with your “isolationism that is peculiarly American” comment) has no need to pay much attention to goings-on in foreign lands. Indifference (by anyone whose job isn’t to pay attention to such things) is a perfectly rational response. If you live in a country the size of Delaware, the doings of the neighbors matter. In a country the size of the US, not so much.

  • What about WWII then? Should the US had stayed out?

  • Laird

    Not necessarily, and you’re coming back around to your “isolationist” comment, which I thought we’d already disposed of. We stayed out of WWII for as long as possible, and finally entered only when essentially forced to. We pay close attention when it matters, but not otherwise. Eminently sensible, it seems to me.

  • which I thought we’d already disposed of

    We did? Then I must be missing your point…Can you recap?