Globally, both the volume and patterns of economic migration have undergone important changes during the last decade.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Europe constitutes the region with the largest volume of migrant workers (27.5 million or 34%), followed by Asia with 22.1 million or 27% foreign labour. In Europe and elsewhere, demographic, economic and labour-market related trends have resulted in the increased demand for skilled foreigners (e.g. in the health and care sector) and the revival or intensification of temporary (‘guest worker’) migration schemes. At the same time, rising numbers of undocumented migrants working in lower skilled jobs, often in specific sectors, can be witnessed as for instance in the UK. Migrant workers’ specific location within labour markets and the temporary or undocumented nature of their migration status entail specific legal, social and economic constraints. This is likely to have implications also for rights advocacy by civil society organisations.

From a global perspective, we can observe a trend toward increasing diversification, resulting in highly stratified migratory movements. ‘Diversification’ can refer to intra-group differences as well as to inter-group differences (more nationalities have appeared on the migration ‘scene’ than before; there is also more diversity with regard to the temporal component: migrants of a specific nationality might migrate either on a long-term or short-term basis to the same destination; and immigrants engage in a diversity of socio-economic activities, ranging from being entrepreneurs to civil society advocates). In all of these roles, they make important contributions to society.

Diversification also plays out geographically: recent studies on newly arrived migrants in the UK have shown that the preponderance to concentrate in the South/Southeast of England is less noticeable today than in the 1990s and more migrants now reside and work in smaller towns and rural countries of the UK, including Wales. These changes can also be observed with regard to internal migration which shows a reverse trend from rural-to-urban involving increasingly urban to rural flows. All of these changes pose new challenges as well as opportunities to local communities, regional and national governments as well as to the im/migrants themselves.