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Employed or Not, Many Young People Desire to Migrate

Employed or Not, Many Young People Desire to Migrate

by Julie Ray, Jenny Marlar and Neli Esipova

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Millions of young people worldwide would move away from their countries permanently if they had the opportunity, regardless of whether they have jobs at home. In most places, except the Middle East and North Africa, Gallup finds adults younger than 30 who are employed, underemployed, or not in the workforce are equally likely to desire to migrate.


Employment status makes a difference in the migration desires of older adults. In Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the Americas, older, underemployed adults aged 30 to 65 are more likely to say they would like to migrate than those who are the same age and are employed or not in the workforce. In Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, however, older adults who are employed or underemployed are equally likely to want to move.

These results are based on interviews with 108,404 adults in 105 countries in 2009 and 2010. Gallup classifies respondents as "employed" if they are employed full time or are employed part time but do not want to work full time. Respondents are "underemployed" if they are employed part time but want to work full time or are unemployed. Those "not in the workforce" are not working and are not looking for and/or available for work. They may be full-time students, retired, disabled, or homemakers, though they may not fit any of these scenarios.

MENA is the only region where younger adults' migration desires are more like older adults'. Underemployed young adults in the MENA region are most likely to express a desire to resettle elsewhere -- just like their older adult counterparts.


MENA's unemployment rate is the highest among the regions of the world, driven largely by high unemployment among youth. A mismatch between skills and available jobs, in tandem with new entrants flooding the job market, makes the market extremely competitive and finding quality jobs at home more difficult.

Within MENA, the migration desires of young adults in traditionally labor-receiving Persian Gulf states and labor-sending states differ by job status. In Persian Gulf states, young people's desire to migrate is relatively low and about equal in each employment group. However, across the rest of MENA, underemployed young adults are the most likely to want to relocate.

Bottom Line

Age and employment status are global predictors of people's desire to migrate. Those with fewer commitments or greater mobility -- younger adults -- are generally more likely to say they would like to move. This may at least partly explain why job status matters less to young people than to older adults in most regions. But the similarities in the migration desires of younger and older adults in MENA suggest there are multiple factors beyond age and employment status that affect the desire to move.

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 108,404 adults in 105 countries in 2009 and 2010. For most countries, sample sizes range between 1,000 and 3,000 interviews. One can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error, accounting for weighting and sample design, is 0.5% for the sample of adults who would like to migrate and ranges from ±2 percentage points to ±2.5 percentage points within regions. Results are projected to the total population of each country, aged 15 and older, using 2008 World Bank population estimates.


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