Global migration? Actually, the world is staying home

Take a tape measure. Unroll the tape to about two meters (six feet) and place one end against a wall. The distance between you and the wall corresponds to the world population of about 7.3 billion people.

The number of people worldwide who left their native countries in the last five years — in other words, migrated — takes up about one centimeter (three-eighths of an inch) of the tape measure. That number amounted to 36.5 million, or 0.5 percent of the world’s population.

All others, or 99.5 percent of the global population, are non-migrants, or people who were living in the same country in 2015 as in 2010. They represent the other 199 centimeters on the tape measure.

This is the sort of thing you learn when you pay a visit to Guy J. Abel, the man who can load all the world’s migrants onto his computer and draw colorful circles around them. The 35-year-old Englishman is a social statistician and population researcher at the Wittgenstein Center for Demography in Vienna.

Abel has developed a model to estimate and depict the actual dynamics of global migration. An examination of the results quickly shows that we have a lot of incorrect images in our heads. “I always felt that the traditional methods of estimating global migration were rather inadequate,” Abel says.

The institute is part of the new Vienna University of Economics and Business campus, next to the Vienna convention center, a group of shiny, oblique-angled new buildings that look like something architect Zaha Hadid might have designed for a colony on Mars.

The Wittgenstein Center, on the second floor of building D5, is considered one of the most important research centers of its kind. Its researchers address existential questions such as these: Will there be too many people on the planet soon? (No.) Can the rich world survive the aging of society? (Yes.) Is Western Europe doomed because of its low birth rates? (No.) Continue reading


Additional reading

News category: Features.

Tags: , , ,