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Migration Could Triple Populations in Some Wealthy Nations

Migration Could Triple Populations in Some Wealthy Nations

Some poor nations could see adult populations reduced by half

by Neli Esipova and Julie Ray

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup's Potential Net Migration Index finds Singapore, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, and Kuwait atop the list of countries that could see the highest net adult population growth from international migration. If all adults worldwide who desire to migrate permanently to other countries actually moved where they wanted today, each country would see their adult populations double or even triple.


A Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI) score is the estimated number of adults who would like to move permanently out of a country if the opportunity arose, subtracted from the estimated number who would like to move into it, as a proportion of the total adult population. The initial index released in 2009 was based on 135 countries and about 260,000 interviews conducted between 2007 and mid-2009. The latest results include 148 countries or areas surveyed through early 2010 and a total of about 350,000 interviews.

The higher the resulting positive PNMI value, the larger the potential net adult population gain. For example, in Switzerland, subtracting the estimated 800,000 Swiss adults who would like to move to another country if they had the opportunity from the 10 million adults who would like to move to Switzerland and dividing that number by the total Swiss adult population (6 million) results in a PNMI value -- or a net adult population gain -- of +150%.

Except for Switzerland and Kuwait, which are new to the index, the list of countries with the highest positive index scores remains relatively unchanged from the first release. The United States, the top desired destination among all potential migrants, continues to place farther down the list, after Canada and several other developed nations. It's important to keep in mind, though, that a country's population size affects how high or low its index score is and its ranking.

There are also few changes among countries with the highest negative PNMI values -- the ones that could potentially lose as much as half of their adult populations to migration. New additions Comoros and Somaliland join Liberia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Haiti, and Sierra Leone at the bottom of the list.


While Gallup's findings reflect people's wishes rather than their intentions, the implications of what could happen if these desires become reality are serious considerations for leaders as they plan for the future. Gallup will continue to monitor these trends in desired migration and will publish an updated index in 2011.

For the full list of countries and scores, see page 2.

Rajesh Srinivasan and Anita Pugliese provided additional analysis and technical assistance.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with 347,717 adults, aged 15 and older, in 148 countries from 2007 to early 2010. The 148 countries surveyed represent about 95% of the world's adult population. In Gulf Cooperation Council countries, only Arab nationals and Arab expatriates were surveyed. Potential Net Migration Index scores for countries where non-Arab expats make up more than 50% of the adult population are not reported: United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Index scores are not reported for countries where total sample sizes are 500 or lower because of the volatility in the index as measured by the margin of error: Belize, Cyprus, Guyana, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

For most countries, aggregated sample sizes (across multiple years of surveys) range between 1,000 and 4,000 interviews. A total of 8,196 interviews were conducted in India, 7,561 in China, and 7,010 in Russia.

The Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI) is measured on a scale of -100 (meaning the total adult population of the country would leave) to infinity (meaning the potential inflow of adult population to the country is unlimited and depends on the number of adults who want to move in from around the world). As with any survey-based estimate, the PNMI has a corresponding margin of error for each country, calculated using the Standard Error (SE) of the index. Sample size, size of the country, and range in population projection weights affect the PNMI margin of error.

The index for each country and range at the 95% confidence level are presented in the table on page 2. For example, the PNMI for El Salvador is estimated at -45%, meaning if all adults who desire to move in and out of the country did so, the adult population would decline by 45%. With the margin of error at the 95% confidence level, this estimate ranges from -48% to -43%. Gallup estimates that Singapore's adult population would increase 219%, with the margin of error, this estimate ranges from +168% to +270%.

Gallup's Potential Net Migration Index is based on responses to the following questions:

Ideally, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move permanently to another country, or would you prefer to continue living in this country?

(If "would like to move permanently to another country") To which country would you like to move? [Open-ended, one response allowed]


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