21st Century Population Migration in a New World Video

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  • 0:02 21st Century Migration
  • 0:43 Demographics
  • 2:16 Migration Projections
  • 4:06 Issues
  • 4:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we broadly explore the current demographics and economic realities of the world and the driving engines behind the likely migrations which will occur in the 21st century.

21st Century Migration

When was the last time you or your family moved? Perhaps you moved because you or your parents got new jobs, or perhaps you moved simply to be closer to friends or family. Maybe you moved just a few streets over, or maybe you moved across the entire the country!

Whatever the reason, moves likely had a big impact on you and your family. If more than just your family move - if two, ten, or a hundred families move - for the same reason, demographers and geographers likely will note that as a migration trend.

In this lesson, we will explore some of the global dynamics that confront the world today, note some of the factors causing migration today, and try to predict a few that may change the 21st-century world.


Let's begin by establishing where many important countries and regions in the world stand today in terms of population dynamics and economics. For the most part, the western world - countries like the United States, Canada, and most of Europe - are some of the richest countries, per capita, in the world. Mean incomes here are generally pretty high, as is the standard of living. These countries also have aging populations, meaning that their average age is generally older than the world average. Basically, people in these countries are living longer and are also having fewer children.

Alternatively, there are developing areas of the world, such as Africa, and some poorer regions of Asia and South America, whose experience is largely the opposite. The economies of these regions are poorer. Additionally, they also have much younger populations, as these countries have lower life expectancies. For example, in several African nations, a disproportionately high percentage of the population is under the age of 30 or 40.

Of course, plenty of states don't fit into either of these categories. Two exceptions of note are China and India. China, for example, has only recently joined the ranks of the richer economic nations. Most of the country still remains far poorer than the average U.S. citizen, for instance. However, because of a strict one-child policy for over a generation, China has a hugely aging population which threatens to buckle the state's support systems. Despite the two general trends mentioned above, it's important to remember that not every country fits into that broad mold.

Migration Projections

Global migrations can be caused by various reasons. Whether it's spurred by armed conflict, economic crises, or other factors, large groups of people often move for the opportunity to give themselves and their family a better life in a new country or region. In the 21st century, this rule of thumb and the demographic realities discussed above will largely dictate what the world looks like by the end of the century. For example, some of those nations with large economic sectors will require more workers than they have within their own borders, especially semi-skilled workers in the trades, in order to maintain their economic activity. For example, the government of Canada already claims to have an enormous shortage of semi-skilled laborers in trades such as mining, forestry, and plumbing. These labor gaps will likely be filled by those poorer countries with more workers than they have jobs. Richer countries, in general, will likely be forced by their need for labor to have more friendly immigration policies.

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