International migration has increased steadily over the years, becoming an established feature of the contemporary social and economic landscape for many youth. Young migrants constitute a relatively large proportion of the overall migrant population and have a significant impact on origin, transit and destination countries and communities.
Voluntary migration for work, study or family reasons is far more prevalent than forced migration. For instance, only 15 out of 232 million international migrants were refugees in 2013. South-South migration is as common as South-North migration, with the number of international migrants in both categories estimated at 82 million in 2013. The majority of young migrants (60 per cent) live in developing countries.
The reasons for youth migration vary. Often, a combination of several major factors leads to the decision to migrate. Personal considerations, socio-economic circumstances, and the political situation in the country of origin may be important contributing factors. Often, the main driving force behind youth migration (particularly international migration) is the magnitude of perceived inequalities in labour market opportunities, income, human rights and living standards between the countries of origin and destination. Some young people migrate to escape conflict, persecution, or environmental threats.
The impact of youth migration on individuals and communities
Migration affects both the young migrants themselves and those young and old persons left behind. It has a direct and often profound impact on migrants and their immediate families, but the wider community can be directly or indirectly affected as well. The consequences are complex, context-specific and subject to change over time.