The Case for a World Migration Survey

Marcela Cerrutti, Philippe Fargues and Mariama Awumbila


This IUSSP Policy & Research Paper advocates for the development and implementation of a World Migration Survey (WMS) to generate international comparative information on significant and unrevealed aspects of migrants and migration. Results of a world migration survey will inform a wide range of policy-relevant debates. The need for timely, reliable and comprehensive data on international migration has been expressed not only by experts and researchers but also by national and international policy-makers and organizations. More than two years after the adoption of the Global Compact on Migration much of the data needed to monitor its implementation and impacts remain limited, lacking comparability, or missing entirely. In the meantime, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has raised new questions in the intersecting domains of migration and public health. A WMS will therefore also serve as an effective and critical baseline to monitor both how migration indicators evolve and how new mobility patterns emerge in response to epidemiological, climate and environmental change.


The WMS is designed with the potential to capture both outward and inward migrant stocks and flows of the countries it covers. Employing a uniform methodology in all countries, the WMS will serve many purposes, including providing retrospective and biographical information to reconstruct migration trajectories, generating information that traditional migration data sources fail to fully capture; monitoring migrants´ access to rights; and providing evidence on migration impacts, particularly across the global South.


This Policy & Research Paper greatly benefited from input from the members of the IUSSP Scientific Panel on International Migration: Strengthening the Knowledge Base for Policy (2018-2021) as well as from participants in various sessions focusing on the prospects for a WMS which the Panel organized at the Second Asian Population Forum (Shanghai, October 2019), the African Population Conference (Entebbe, November 2019), the International Forum on Migration Statistics (IFMS) (Cairo, January 2020), the Online African School of Migration Statistics (December 2020) and the IX Congress of the Latin American Population Association (ALAP) (December, 2020).