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Inside Egypt's Diaspora: Who Wants to Come Home Again?
Gallup Blog

Inside Egypt's Diaspora: Who Wants to Come Home Again?

by Neli Esipova, Julie Ray and Anita Pugliese
Inside Egypt's Diaspora: Who Wants to Come Home Again?

Most migrants around the world would like to stay where they are, and few would like to move again -- but if they did, few would like to move back home. The same is true of Egyptians, whose extremely large diaspora is well represented in Gallup's World Poll data -- about 5,000 adults in Gallup's 2010 to 2018 global data set were born in Egypt but do not live there.

Three in four Egyptians who are first-generation migrants (77%) say they would continue living in their current country of residence if they could, and 14% would move to yet another country, while 9% would return to Egypt.

But the size of Egypt's diaspora in the sample allows us to dig much deeper than that, and take a more granular look at who these migrants are, where they live and where they would like to go -- if indeed they want to keep moving. The resulting analysis yields some important information for a country with a long, complex history with migration that has become even more complicated amid regional instability.

Desire to Move Again -- but Not Home -- Is Highest Among Young Migrants

Among Egyptians living abroad, few young Egyptians and those with the most education want to come home. Young migrants in particular are the least likely to want to return home, even though they are the most likely to want to keep moving. Those between the ages of 15 and 29 are the most likely of all age cohorts to want to move again -- but they are more than twice as likely to want to move to another country (22%) as to move home (9%).

Few Young, Educated Egyptians Abroad Want to Return Home
Among first-generation migrants from Egypt
Migrants want to stay Migrants want to move to another country Migrants want to return to Egypt
Age
15 to 29 69 22 9
30 to 54 80 11 10
55+ 90 6 4
Education
Primary or less 81 14 6
Secondary 76 15 9
College education 77 13 10
Gallup World Poll, 2010-2018

The most educated Egyptian migrants too are still likely to want to keep moving, but underneath, there is some potentially good news for the country's brain drain. Egyptian migrants with secondary or college education are slightly more likely to want to move home to Egypt than their less-educated counterparts -- albeit in small numbers. About one in 10 in each of these educated groups would like to return home.

Most Egyptian Migrants Live in Gulf Cooperation Council Countries

Egypt is one of the largest suppliers of migrant labor to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, so it is not surprising that the vast majority of Egyptian migrants in our sample -- about 90% -- are currently living in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The rest of them are clustered in the broader MENA region, and a smaller number are spread out throughout the world.

Whether they would like to move again depends on where Egyptian migrants are currently living. If Egyptian migrants are living in the GCC or outside of MENA, they are far less likely to want to keep moving than if they live within MENA. Twelve percent of those living in GCC countries and 18% living outside of MENA say they would like to move to another country, compared with nearly three in 10 Egyptian migrants (29%) living in MENA.

Egyptian Migrants' Desires to Move Again
Among Egyptian first-generation migrants living in these regions
Migrants want to stay Migrants want to move to another country Migrants want to return to Egypt
% % %
Gulf Cooperation Council countries 78 12 10
Middle East and North Africa (excluding GCC) 58 29 13
Outside of Middle East and North Africa 79 18 3
Gallup World Poll, 2010-2018

It's important to note that these data capture migrants' desires and don't necessarily reflect what they will do or even could do. Permanent migration isn't really permitted in GCC countries, so even if Egyptian migrants want to stay -- and they do tend to stay a long time in these countries -- it doesn't mean they can and will.

And They Are Least Likely to Want to Leave the UAE

Because so many Egyptians are living in GCC countries, we are also able to look at migration desires among Egyptian migrants living in specific countries across the Gulf. The desire among Egyptians living in GCC countries to move on -- or to move home -- depends on where they are living.

Across all GCC countries, Egyptian migrants living in the United Arab Emirates are the least likely to want to migrate again -- 91% say they would like to remain right where they are, and just 3% desire to move home.

Egyptian Migrants' Desire to Move Again
Among first-generation migrants living in these GCC countries
Migrants want to stay Migrants want to move to another country Migrants want to return to Egypt
% % %
United Arab Emirates 91 6 3
Bahrain 80 13 7
Kuwait 78 12 11
Saudi Arabia 75 12 12
Gallup World Poll, 2010-2018

Which Egyptian Migrants Want to Leave the GCC?

While few Egyptian migrants living in the GCC want to leave their current countries of residence, the more than one in five (22%) who do are more likely to be having a difficult time in their countries. They are more likely to be struggling economically, are more likely to see their living standards as getting worse and are struggling to get by on their present incomes.

Egyptian Migrants Living in the GCC
Migrants want to stay Migrants want to move to another country Migrants want to return to Egypt
Feelings about household income
Living comfortably 81 9 10
Getting by 79 11 10
Finding it difficult to get by 76 10 14
Finding it very difficult to get by 63 30 7
Employment
Employed full time 78 12 9
Employed part time 80 12 7
Unemployed 79 7 14
Out of workforce 73 13 14
Gender
Men 79 12 9
Women 77 8 14
Gallup World Poll, 2010-2018

Interestingly, those who are most likely to want to come home to Egypt are more likely to be unemployed or out of the workforce in their countries of residence; in addition, they are more likely to be women (14%) than men (9%). However, Egyptian women living in Saudi Arabia account for nearly all of the latter difference: 23% of Egyptian women living in Saudi Arabia would like to move home to Egypt, versus 10% of Egyptian men living there.

Where Do Egyptian Migrants Want to Go, if Not Home?

Egyptian migrants living in the GCC who want to move to another country -- if they could -- are most likely to say they would like to move to the UAE (18%) or the United States (17%). Canada comes in third, with 8% saying they would like to move there.

Bottom Line

In the current, increasingly complicated regional political and economic climate, there isn't a lot of bad news for Egypt in this analysis. Egyptian migrants are like most first-generation migrants around the world: content to stay where they are, with little desire to come home again. But to a certain degree, Egypt is counting on that. The country relies heavily on income from its diaspora, with economic remittances accounting for a significant portion of the country's gross domestic product.

At the same time, the country is actively working to entice its educated diaspora to come home and to help reverse the country's problem with brain drain. In this regard, it looks like some of these efforts may be panning out. Egyptian migrants with higher levels of education would like to come home again, if they could.

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