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Photo: Cougar Studios

If they all lived in one place, the world's 191 million migrants would form the fifth largest country. Latest OECD figures show that mobility continues to increase, although the growth rate is slower than in recent years. What is shaping mobility?

Improvements in wireless technologies are enabling people to become more nomadic and external factors like climate change and resource availability also play a role. By 2025 it is estimated that three billion people could be living in water stressed countries - adding pressure to move. Governments may also try to reverse mobility: Italy's Silvio Berlusconi declared a state of national emergency to deal with the "exceptional and persistent influx" of irregular migrants. In the UK, Indian chefs are allowed to work, but not Indian IT workers. Economic downturn is also likely to reverse recent trends; migrants from Eastern European are at an all time low in the UK, not just due to unemployment, but also because the falling value of the Sterling means remittances are worth less.

Economic migration is not a one-way trend. Bangalore has seen a reverse diaspora with more than 50,000 IT professionals born overseas attracted back to work in the past five years. This trend may increase as global competition for skills and labour intensifies between older OECD countries and new emerging economic powers.

This is part of Outsights 21 Drivers for the 21st Century ™, a future-orientated scan of the 21 key forces shaping this century.

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