Trends in Contemporary International Migration of Ethiopia

Main Article Content

Fikadu Tolossa Ayanie
Dagnachew T. Melese
Eyayew T. Beze
Tihtina A. Fanta


Ethiopia is found in the ‘Eastern Africa migration system’ known for turbulent population mobility due to a host of social, economic, and political factors. The migration problem of East Africa, in which, a substantial exploration of the complexity and intensity of the migration pattern of Ethiopia has become necessary in the context of social transformation and development processes. To this end, this study is designed to provide migratory change and developmental patterns of international migration of Ethiopia in regional and sub-regional perspectives based on long-term macro statistics. The data obtained from the Reports of the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs and World Bank’s Development Indicators have been used to describe, analyze and explain long-term patterns of international migration of Ethiopia within the regional contexts. Results show the trend that Ethiopia experienced a continuous increase in its international migrant stock in the last five decades, from less than 400,000 in 1960 to over 1 million in 2015. Refugees and transit migrants constituted the largest number of immigrants, mostly from the neighboring countries, driven by continuous conflicts and political instability. Ethiopia, once dominant in refugee flows in the Horn of Africa due to political conflict, famine, and persecution, experienced a sharp decline in the share of refugees in the Horn of Africa in the last three decades. Economic motives have recently become the prime factors in migration decisions among the Ethiopians as observed with the fact that the USA and the Middle East are the major destinations. The findings revealed that Ethiopian emigration is characterized by the inter-continental flows unlike the Sub-Saharan migration pattern known to have an intra-continental migratory link. Feminization of Ethiopian migration is also evident particularly in core destination countries of the Global North, which indicates the increasing role of females in migration decisions but also disproves the widely held perception about Ethiopians emigration to the Arab World as female-specific. In the final analysis, Ethiopia could be regarded rather as a destination, with over 1.2 million migrants, than as an origin, with just over 800,000 as of 2017, which now make the country a regional migration hub in the Horn of Africa.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details

How to Cite
Fikadu Tolossa Ayanie, Dagnachew T. Melese, Eyayew T. Beze, & Tihtina A. Fanta. (2020). Trends in Contemporary International Migration of Ethiopia. PanAfrican Journal of Governance and Development (PJGD), 1(2), 30-60.
Author Biographies

Fikadu Tolossa Ayanie, Jimma University, Ethiopia

Fikadu T. Ayanie is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Governance and Development Studies, Jimma University, Ethiopia. His research areas include Political Economy of Development, Social Justice and Poverty, Economic Growth and Development, Migration, Institutional Reform, Local Development and Governance, Business Internationalization, cyber politics, and digitalization of security.

Dagnachew T. Melese, Lawyer, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Dagnachew Tefera Melese was a former Lecturer of Law at Debre Markos University and Jigjiga University. He has obtained his LLB from Hawassa University, Ethiopia, LLM from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and Joint European Masters in Comparative Local Development. Currently, he is working as an independent lawyer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His research areas include business law, labor law, human rights and democratization.

Eyayew T. Beze, Ruhr University, Germany

Eyayew Teka Beze is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at Ruhr Graduate School, Germany. He was a former Lecturer of Economics at Department of Economics, Jimma University, Ethiopia. His research areas include urban and regional economics, migration economics and housing market dynamics.

Tihtina A. Fanta, Unity University, Ethiopia

Tihtina Abebe Fanta was a former Lecturer of Agricultural Economics at Haramaya University, Ethiopia. She has obtained her BSc and MSc in Economics from Haramaya University, Ethiopia, and Joint European Masters in Comparative Local Development. She is currently serving as Lecturer at Unity University, Ethiopia. Her research areas include environmental governance and sustainability, agricultural productivity and rural food security, gender equality, women empowerment and migration.


Adepoju, A. (2004). Trends in International Migration in and from Africa. In Massey, D.S., & Taylor, J. E. (Eds.), International Migration: Prospects and Policies in a Global Market, 58-76. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Aggarwal, A. (2014). Migration Hump and Development. A Look at Migration Patterns in Turkey and Mexico. Munich: GRIN Verlag.
Bakewell, O., & Haas, H. D. (2007). African Migrations: Continuities, Discontinuities and Recent Transformations. African Alternatives, 95-118.
Bariagaber, A. (1999). States, International Organizations and the Refugee: Reflections on the Complexity of Managing the Refugee Crisis in the Horn of Africa. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 37(4), 597-619.
BBC. (2017). BBC News. Retrieved from:
Chacko, E. (2003). Identity and Assimilation Among Young Ethiopian Immigrants in Metropolitan Washington. Geographical Review, 93 (4), 491-506.
CIMADE. (1986). Africa's Refugee Crisis: What's to be Done? by Inodep & Mouvement international N'Krumah & Comité inter-mouvements auprès des évacués. Totowa: Zed Books.
Coleman, J. (1990). Foundations of Social Theory. Massachusetts and London: The Beklnap Press of Harvard University Press.
Edward, T., & Stark, O. (1991). Migration Incentives, Migration Types: The Role of Relative Deprivation.
Ember, M. (1997). Evolution of the Human Relations Area Files. Cross-Cultural Research, 31(1), 3-15.
Frank, A. G. (1969). Latin America: Underdevelopment or Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Fransen, S., & Kuschminder, K. (2009). Migration in Ethiopia: History, Current Trends and Future Prospects. Paper Series: Migration and Development Country Profiles, Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, Maastricht.
Girmachew Adugna (2017) Ethiopian Female Domestic Labour Migration to the Middle East: Patterns, Trends and Drivers. African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, 11(1), 6-19.
Harris , J., & Todaro, M. (1970). Migration, Unemployment and Development: A Two Sector Analysis. American Economic Review, 60(1), 126-142.
ICR. (2008). International Crisis Report, Africa Report, No. 147, December 23, 2008.
James, Q. (1992). The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews: A History of the Beta Israel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Kurekova, L. (2011). Theories of Migration: Conceptual Review and Empirical Testing in the Context of the EU East-West Flow. Interdisciplinary Conference on Migration. London: University College London.
Kuschminder, K., Andersson, L., & Seigel, M. (2018). Migration and Multidimensional Wellbeing in Ethiopia: Investigating the Role of Migrants Destinations. Migration and Development, 7(3), 321-340.
Kuschminder, K., Andersson, L., & Siegel, M. (2012). Profiling Ethiopian Migration: A Comparison of Characteristics of Ethiopian Migrants to Africa, The Middle East and The North. Crossing African Borders: Migration and Mobility. Center of African Studies, University Institute of Lisbon, Lisbon, 28-43.
Martin-Shields, C., Schraven, B., & Angenendt, S. (2017). More Development, More Migration? The “Migration Hump” and Its Significance for Development Policy Co-Operation With Sub-Saharan Africa. Retrieved from Website of German Institute for Development:
Massey, D. S. (1999). Why Does Immigration Occur? A Theoretical Synthesis. In The Handbook of International Migration: The American Experience, 34-52. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.
McKeown, A. (2004). Global Migration, 1846-1940. Journal of World History, 15(2), 155-189.
Melegh, A. (2013). Diverging Historical Development of Migration in Southeastern Europe Since 1950. Working Papers on Population, No. 17, Demographic Research Institute Hungarian Central Statistical Office, 1-38.
Meron, Z. (2015). Determinants of Migration and its Impact on Socio-Economic Welfare of Households in Tigrai, Ethiopia.
Mitchell, B. (nd.). “The Falash Mura.” Jewish Virtual Library.
Mohammed, Y. (2016). Cause and Consequence of Cross Border Illegal Migration from South Wollo, Ethiopia. Arts and Social Science Journal, 7(2), 1-20.
MPI. (2014). The Ethiopian Diaspora in the United States. Migration Policy Institute, July 2014.
Piore, M. (1979). Birds of Passage: Migrants Labor and Industrial Society. London: Cambridge University Press.
Portes, A., & Borocz, J. (1989). Contemporary Immigration: Theoretical Perspectives on Its Determinants. International Migration Review, 23(3), Special Silver Anniversary Issue, 606-630.
Raharto, A. (2007). Indonesian Labour Migration: Issues and Challenges. International Journal on Multicultural Societies, 9(2), 219-235.
Sander, C., & Maimbo, S. M. (2003). Migrant Labor Remittances in Africa: Reducing Obstacles to Developmental Contributions. World Development Report Background Papers: Africa Region Working Paper Series, No. 64. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Sassen, S. (1988). Foreign Investment: A Neglected Variable. In The Mobility of Labor and Capital: A Study in International Investment and Labor Flow, pp. 12-25. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schlewitz, A. (2013). Push and Pull Factors of Mexican Migration to the US.
Schoumaker, B., & Beauchemin, C. (2015). Reconstructing Trends in International Migration with three Questions in Household Surveys: Lessons from the MAFE Project. Demographic Research, 32(35), 983-1030.
Sjaastad, L. A. (1962). The Costs and Returns of Human Migration.
UNDESA. (2003). The International Migrant Stock: A Global View, by the United Nations Population Division. Osaki Conference. United Nations Population Division (UNPD).
UNDESA. (2013). Trends in International Migrant Stock: Migrants by Destination and Origin (United Nations database, POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2013). United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
UNDESA. (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, DVD Edition. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.
UNDESA. (2017). Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2017 Revision (United Nations database, POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2017). United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.
Williams, C. P. (2008). Female Transnational Migration, Religion and Subjectivity: The Case of Indonesian Domestic Workers. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 49(3), 344–353.
World Bank. (2018). World Bank Total International Migrant Stock, World Development Indicators, World Bank, Last Updated on January 03, 2018.