The 150 million people who live outside the country of their birth make up less than 2.5 percent of the world population, but they have an importance far beyond their numbers. Some international migrants are refugees or students, but those with the most impact are economic migrants, drawn to places such as Los Angeles, where the wages may be three times greater than those in Mumbai (Bombay). These migrants tend to be young and willing to work for low wages. Though traditionally unskilled, a growing number are highly educated.
Immigration is now the major contributor to demographic change in many developed countries. In the U.S., according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau projection, the population will grow by 129 million in the period from 2000 to 2050, but if immigration stops, it would go up by just 54 million. Western Europe's population is 42 percent greater than that of the U.S., but its projected immigration is only about half that of the U.S.; as a consequence, the region is expected to lose 28 million people over the next 50 years. Japan, which has close to zero net migration, is projected to lose 26 million by 2050. (Deaths will start outrunning births in western Europe and Japan around the middle of this decade.)
This article was originally published with the title Assembling the Future.