The Migrant, The Expat, The Student and The Digital Nomad: Bringing the Latest facts into Focus

In this iPMI Global Insights article, iPMI report author Ian Youngman, pulls no punches, looking at migrants, expatriates, students and digital nomads, and the recent OECD report, International Migration Outlook.

Ian Youngman is a writer and researcher specialising in insurance. He writes regularly for a variety of magazines, newsletters, and on-line services. He publishes a range of market reports, and undertakes research for companies. To read his latest report, International Health Insurance 2023, please click here, or visit the REPORTS section of iPMI Global.

  • Turn on your television or open your paper and sooner rather than later you will see a frothing at the mouth politician or self-appointed commentator telling us how migrants are the scum of the earth and should be excluded from their great nation.
  • But a citizen going to another country as a temporary or permanent migrant – including expats and digital nomads- are heros supporting their family and local businesses.
  • As for economic migrants who start work by doing all the jobs that not enough citizens want to do – caring for the aged, cleaning the toilets or picking fruit – citizens should be forced to do this if they do not have a job- although of course politicians and commentators are too important to do these jobs themselves.
  • A reason why you do not see me on TV or in national papers- is that I tend to want to bring facts into this discussion.

OECD report

  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international body with 38 member-states.
  • The membership is made up of primarily developed, high-income economies,
  • Out now is a new OECD report on migration that gives us 2022 figures.
  • International Migration Outlook is an independent publication based on detailed research rather than guesses or estimates.
  • Their combined population is approximately 1.38 billion.

Key new facts

  • Permanent new migration to OECD countries reached 6.1 million in 2022, a 26% increase compared with 2021, and its highest level since at least 2005.
  • 15 out of the 38 OECD countries registered in 2022 their highest levels of permanent migration over the past 15 years.
  • Rising labour migration was one contributing factor, as migrant workers have helped lower labour and skills shortages in OECD countries.
  • Labour market prospects and integration of migrants have improved.
  • The employment rate of migrants rose to 72.3% across OECD countries in 2022, catching up almost with that of the native-born population.
  • Employment rates increased for men and women.
  • Regulated immigration of foreign workers accounts for 21% of total flows, and now represents the same proportion as immigrants on humanitarian grounds. 
  • More than one in three member countries recorded immigration figures that were unprecedented for at least 15 years, including France (301,000 people), Spain (471,000) and Belgium (122,000). 
  • The United Kingdom (521,000) and Canada (437,000) have their highest-ever levels.
  • Those figures did not include the some 4.7 million Ukrainian refugees registered in June 2023 in the OECD member states. 
  • The number of asylum applications also reached a record high level, with 2 million registered in 2022. 
  • The United States alone - where 730,000 refugee requests were lodged last year welcomed 1.05 million new immigrants.
  • The 2022 figures come on top of the flow of refugees from Ukraine, with 4.7 million displaced Ukrainians in OECD countries, with Germany, Poland and the USA.
  • 1 million people in Ukraine have been displaced inside the country and 6.2 million into neighbouring countries.
  • 70 per cent of Ukrainian refugees in OECD countries are women.

Temporary labour migration

  • Temporary labour migration, especially seasonal labour migration, registered a strong increase across the bloc,

International students

  • International student flows reached a record high in 2022.
  • 9 million residence permits were issued for international tertiary-level students across the OECD in 2022, 24% more than in 2019 and the highest number ever registered.
  • The number of permits issued to international students in the OECD increased by 42% relative to 2021, and by 30% across OECD European countries.
  • The increase was particularly large in countries where border closures were lifted more recently, such as in Japan or New Zealand.
  • The UK is the top study destination for new international students in 2022, followed by the USA, Canada, Australia, a
  • Study permits issued to new international students travelling to OCED countries increased by 61% in 2022 compared the base year of 2012.
  • Most international students in OECD countries come from Asia.
  • Top countries of origin for international students bound for OECD destination countries are China, India, Vietnam, Germany, and France.
  • Beyond Asia and Europe, Latin America was the next most significant sending region in 2022.

Permanent migration

  • More than one in three OECD countries registered their highest levels in at least 15 years, including Canada, the UK, New Zealand and European countries such as Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and France.
  • There were some countries that remained closed or reopened after Covid-19 later than others, New Zealand, Australia and Japan in particular. So there was some catching up effect.
  • The top four destination countries were the USA, Germany, the UK and Spain, with the UK experiencing the largest rise among them at 35 per cent, with more than 521,000 new permanent immigrants.
  • Asylum applications across the OECD reached a record high with more than 2 million new applications, the highest annual number recorded so far, twice the 2021 level and well above the previous record of 1.7 million in 2015 and 2016.
  • Across the OECD, the main refugee origin countries were Venezuela, Cuba, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Syria.
  • In the USA there is also a strong increase in asylum, because the USA introduced new programmes that enabled 30,000 people every month from four countries, Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to go to the USA.
  • Labour immigration to France reached 54,000 in 2022, a level not seen since the 1960s. 
  • Record numbers of Indians have moved to OECD member countries over the last few years.
  • A record number of foreign nationals acquired citizenship of OECD countries in 2022—2.8 million, a 25 per cent hike from the previous year.
  • In 2021 130,000 Indians obtained citizenship in OECD member countries, with the United States leading the way by granting 56,000 citizenships- Australia followed closely with 24,000, and Canada provided 21,000.
  • 57,000 Chinese nationals secured OECD citizenship, placing them fifth on the list of immigrants.


  • International students are a massive and growing IPMI market.
  • A substantial number of students stay on to work where they studied.
  • Temporary labour migrants include expats but most expats are not in the numbers.
  • When does an expat become a temporary or permanent migrant?

What happens next

  • Migration to OECD countries will continue to increase in 2023.
  • "Asylum broadly will be on the increase and 2023 will be even higher, a record year most likely."
  • It is hard to predict what sort of impact the war in Israel and Gaza will have but it could increase numbers by hundreds of thousands or even millions if the war escalates to Lebanon and elsewhere.
  • Labour migration is possible because there are a lot labour shortages across the OECD countries in a variety of sectors.
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