E.g., 07/31/2014
E.g., 07/31/2014

The Demography of China and India: Effects on Migration to High-Income Countries

October 2008

The Demography of China and India: Effects on Migration to High-Income Countries

China and India are major players in international migration. Both have large populations that will continue to grow in the coming years. The available pool of potential migrants from China and India will remain high although population size and density (known as demographic variability) will change from year to year in both countries and China will experience slower labor force growth overall. Both countries’ supply of individuals in the 16-to-34 age group, which is most likely to migrate, will remain high, and in India this supply will increase substantially. Further, large migrant communities in destination countries are likely to sustain the flows of information and remittances that encourage further migration.

It is more difficult to tell to what extent this large pool of potential migrants will translate into immigration flows. One of the most important unknowns is the level of domestic growth China and India will experience. Continued high growth would create significant opportunities at home, potentially discouraging emigration or encouraging the diaspora’s return. China’s more promising ratio of working-age to non-working-age persons favors economic growth in the short term. The two countries’ differing current age structures and demographic trajectories also make for somewhat different scenarios in the two settings. On balance, however, the pressure to migrate to developed countries from China and India is expected to remain high.

Meanwhile, destination countries will continue to see shrinking working-age populations. Europe will be particularly affected since it has lower fertility rates than the United States. This demographic need may or may not translate into greater openness to immigration. If it does, demographic trends suggest that ample numbers of Chinese and Indian workers will be willing and able to migrate — although it is more difficult to tell how these migrants’ skill composition will change over time.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Key Demographic Drivers

III. Some Key Sociodemographic Determinants

IV. How Much Movement Is There and Has There Been? The Diaspora

V. Receiving Countries: Demographic Needs and Policy

VI. Conclusion