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Crossing African Borders

Cristina Udelsmann Rodrigues
Jordi Tomàs

Profiling Ethiopian Migration: A Comparison of Characteristics of Ethiopian Migrants to Africa, the Middle East and the North

Katie Kuschminder, Lisa Andersson et Melissa Siegel


This paper provides an overview of the different characteristics of migrants from Ethiopia to three different migration destinations: (1) northern countries, (2) other African countries, and (3) the Middle East. The paper is based on a recent household survey of 1,286 migrant, non-migrant and return migrant households in Ethiopia. First, the results show that the characteristics of the migrants and their origin households differ depending on migration destination. Secondly, the increased migration flows to Africa and the Middle East in recent decades have played an important role in reshaping the profile of Ethiopian migrants. Furthermore, the results show that current Ethiopian migration flows coincide with some of the current global migration trends but at the same time contrast some of the overall migration figures representing Africa.

Texte intégral


1Migration dynamics are continually evolving to meet changes in the global environment. New migration flows develop in response to economic, social and political structures in host and sending countries, often referred to as the push and pull factors of migration. The current environment in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has led to increasing migration movements from countries in the region in recent decades as people are pulled towards other countries and regions in search of better opportunities. Africa is a region that has strong migration dynamics stemming from a mix of conflicts, income inequality and poverty, and environmental factors such as droughts (IOM, 2010b). A large portion of the migratory movements in SSA can be characterized as internal African migration between countries. Limited data is available, however, on migration dynamics in and from SSA, particularly to other regions of the south. According to the World Migration Report published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there were an estimated 19 million international migrants in Africa in 2010, an increase of 1.5 million international migrants from 2005 (IOM, 2010b). It is estimated that Africa accommodates nine percent of global immigrants, although this is considered to be an underestimate due to the lack of data in the region (IOM, 2010b). SSA is an extremely large and diverse continent, and flows differ within each region and each country.

2The objectives of this paper are threefold: the first is to provide a further understanding of emigration flows from Ethiopia. The second is to understand the profiles of emigrants from Ethiopia and how emigrants differ in different destination countries. Finally, the third is to situate Ethiopian emigration within the broader picture of global migration trends. This paper achieves this by providing an overview of the different characteristics of migrants from Ethiopia to the following three migration destinations: (1) northern countries – meaning North America, Europe, and Australia, (2) other African countries and (3) the Middle-East. The results show that the characteristics of the migrants and their origin households differ depending on the migration destination, and the increased migration flows to Africa and the Middle-East in recent decades have played an important role in reshaping the profile of Ethiopian migrants.

  • 1 The IS Academy: A World in Motion Project is a five year study funded by the Dutch Ministry of Fore (...)

3This paper is based on the IS Academy: A World in Motion Ethiopia data collection.1 An in-depth household survey was conducted of 1,286 households across five different regions in Ethiopia from March to May 2011. Surveys were made of households that currently had a member living abroad, households that had a member who had lived abroad and returned and households that had no experience of international migration. The focus of this paper is on the households that currently had a member living abroad, and more specifically on the information the household provided on the member living abroad, that is the migrant. It is important to stress that the migrants themselves were not interviewed. A migrant was defined in this study as any member of the household who had been living in another country for a minimum of three consecutive months. This definition was chosen so as to include seasonal migration, which occurs annually for a shorter period, usually three to eight months.

4The surveys were conducted in five regions of Ethiopia: Amhara, Oromia, Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR), Tigray, and Addis Ababa, which together account for 96% of the population. In each region, three different woredas (districts) were selected for sampling, totalling 15 data collection sites. The sampling strategy was based on a two-stage approach. First a listing was made at each site to identify households as migrant, return migrant or non-migrant households. Based on this identification, households were randomly selected for enumeration in each site with an equal proportion of migrant or return migrant households to non-migrant households. The data is not nationally representative and cannot be generalized to represent all Ethiopian migration. The analysis seeks to compare the differences between the different migrant groups surveyed based on their region of destination.

Figure 1: Location of field sites

Figure 1: Location of field sites

Source: IS Academy: A World in Motion.

5The first section of the paper provides an overview of current trends in international migration with a focus on how these trends are manifesting in Africa. The second section gives a brief introduction to migration patterns from Ethiopia. The third section presents the results of the survey with a focus on the migrants' demographic characteristics, their household's characteristic, and their migration experiences. The fourth section discusses how the Ethiopian case fits within current international migration flows, while the final section provides a conclusion.

Global migration routes and trends: a focus on sub-saharan Africa

6This section examines four current trends in migration studies. The first trend is an increase in migration flows and the changing direction of migrant flows. Following on from this, the second is an increase in specifically south-south migration flows. The feminization of migration is highlighted as the third trend and the final trend is the barriers to migration for the low skilled.

7Castles and Miller (2009) have labelled the current era the “age of migration”, arguing that there is both an unprecedented volume of international migration and a global reach of international migration that is affecting more countries than ever before. De Haas (2005) argues that the number of people migrating internationally has not increased (the percentage of the population that are international migrants has stayed relatively stable at around three percent), but the direction of flows has changed, with the post-WWII era seeing previously unprecedented south-north migration movements. South-north migration flows from Africa have also changed in recent decades. Previously, the largest flows from Africa to Europe were from North African countries, but since the 1990s and the impositions of increasing migration restrictions in Europe these flows have changed (De Haas, 2008). Since 2000, the largest flows of irregular migration from Africa to Europe are by Sub-Saharan Africans, not North Africans (De Haas, 2008).

8Recent data from the World Bank also suggests that the current decades are seeing rising flows of south-south migration with the south accounting for 47 percent of all migration from the south (Ratha and Shaw, 2007: 5). Bakewell, however, highlights that there are conceptual issues within defining south-south migration. In order to define south-south migration, one must define what “the south" is. Saudi Arabia poses a challenge in this classification, as the World Bank’s definition of developing countries based on income places Saudi Arabia in the north whereas, if defined as per the UNDP Human Development Index, Saudi Arabia belongs to the global south (Bakewell, 2009: 4). This is problematic in defining south-south migration as Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East attract large flows of labour migrants. Thus the three categories of north, Middle East, and south will be used in this paper in an effort to avoid these classification challenges. South-south migration will be used in this paper to refer to migration within Africa. Migration to the Middle East will include the Arab countries of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Lebanon, and Syria and migration to the north will include North America, Europe, and Australia.

9A debate currently exists in the literature as to if and how the drivers of south-south and south-north migration differ. Ratha and Shaw (2007) suggest that income differentials, proximity and networks drive south-south migration. Bakewell (2009) argues that south-south migration, like south-north migration, can be driven and shaped by a number of factors including livelihoods, political conditions, social factors including education and marriage, and environmental factors including drought and famines. From a general perspective, De Haas (2005) argues that the key driver of migration is relative deprivation, and typically those from the poorest countries do not migrate, as they also do not have the resources to do so. Adepoju (2008) suggests that spiralling population growth in SSA has increased the impetus of people to move in recent decades and that families invest in funding the migration of one member as a livelihood strategy with the expectation of remittances. Overall, questions remain as to if and how south-south migration can or should be compared to south-north migration and whether the drivers of these different migration streams are different.

10In addition to an increase in south-south migration flows, recent decades have seen a feminization of migration (Castles and Miller, 2009). The term feminization of migration reflects the fact that: 1) today women make up nearly half of all international migrants - 49 percent in 2010 (IOM, 2010a) - and 2) their reasons for migration have changed over time. Data from the United Nations shows that there has been a three percent increase in female migration from 46.7 percent in 1960 to 49.6 percent in 2005 (United Nations, 2006). In Africa, women are cited to account for 46.8 percent of migrants in 2010, a slight increase from 46.2 percent in 1990 (Giovannelli, 2009). The second factor in the feminization of migration is the changing roles of females in international migration flows. Formerly, females were viewed as “passive reactors to males” migration decisions’ and as migrating solely for family reasons or family reunification (Cerrutti and Massey, 2001: 187). It is now recognized that females migrate increasingly as labour migrants and can be active decision makers in the process. The last decades have also led to female-specific forms of migration which include the commercialization of domestic workers, trafficking of women in the sex industry and the organization of women for marriage (Carling, 2005). In addition, certain countries have developed strong gendered migration trends. In Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines women comprise 62-75% of migrant workers, whereas women account for only 45% of migrant workers in Asia overall (Piper, 2008).

11The final trend that is discussed in this paper is the increasing barriers to migration to the north for the low skilled. The majority of migrants from Africa are low skilled, which creates increasing challenges for migration, as “barriers to mobility are especially high for people with low skills, despite the demand for labour in many rich countries” (UNDP, 2009: 2). The north has generally cut itself off to low-skilled workers (IOM, 2010b), with the exception of allowing some migrants to come as temporary workers in certain agricultural, construction or care worker programmes, but these are generally not migrants from SSA. Northern countries generally work to ensure that low skilled jobs and migrants are temporary, as low-skilled workers are not viewed as desirable and are often recruited to fill jobs that locals are unwilling to do (Martin, Abella and Kuptsch, 2006).

12This section has sought to highlight some of the key trends currently occurring in international migration with a focus on how these trends are manifesting in Africa. It is evident that there is a general increase in migration from African countries and that a large portion of the migration is to other African countries. Secondly, female migration from Africa is increasing, although female migrants from Africa are less numerous than the international average. Thirdly, low skilled migrants, which predominate in SSA, experience more barriers to entry and are generally only employed in temporary positions in countries of destination (IOM, 2010b; Adepoju, 2010). These trends are in no way representative of all current dynamics in international migration, but highlight some of the key developments in the field and will be returned to later in the paper. The next section provides an introduction to migration from Ethiopia.

Overview of Ethiopian migration patterns

13Ethiopia is one of the largest and poorest countries in SSA. Although Ethiopia, in comparison to other SSA countries, has a low emigration rate estimated at 0.7 percent (World Bank, 2011), due to its sheer population size of approximately 80 million people, in absolute numbers it has a large diaspora community. The exact size of the diaspora is unknown, but is estimated to be one to two million people with large populations in the Middle East, North America and Europe. In comparison to other SSA countries, Ethiopians are the second largest group in the United States (after Nigerians) and the fifteenth largest in Europe (AFTCD-AFTQK, 2007).

14Emigration movements from Ethiopia have been concentrated in the last thirty years and can be characterized in four waves (Tasse, 2004 in Lyons, 2007). The first wave was pre-1974 with the emigration and return of Ethiopian elite, who primarily went abroad for education and then returned. In 1974, the military Dergue regime took over from the monarchy imposing a state of fear. Refugees fleeing the Dergue regime characterized the second wave from 1974-82. The third wave was primarily migration for family reunification from 1982-1991 as families previously left behind joined those who had initially fled the regime. In 1991, the Dergue regime was defeated and in 1994 Ethiopia held its first democratic elections. The primary migration flow in the 1990s was the repatriation and return to Ethiopia of refugees from neighbouring countries. The final wave of Ethiopian emigration can be characterized by the post-1991 flows that continue today.

15There is limited availability of data on current migration stocks and flows from Ethiopia. The majority of data currently available is at the macro level. The World Bank cites the 2010 stock of Ethiopian emigrants to be at 620,000 and the stock of emigrants as a percentage of the population to be 0.7 percent (2011). Further, the World Bank cites the top destination countries as: Sudan, the United States, Israel, Djibouti, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Germany, Italy and Sweden (2011). At the micro level, in a recent survey of 2,042 individuals, the World Bank found that 39% of the respondents currently had family members or relatives living in another country (2010).

  • 2 Forthcoming: UNDP (2011) The Push and Pull Factors of Migration of Women in the Middle East.

16According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, it issued 21,256 employment contracts for Ethiopians to work in the Middle East from July 2008 to July 2009 (MOLSA, 2010). Eighty-two percent of these work permits were for females. The primary countries the work permits were issued for were Saudi Arabia (61.9 percent), Kuwait (33.16 percent), and Bahrain (3.22 percent). In an attempt to regularize irregular migration flows to the Middle East, employment agencies involved in migration between Ethiopia and the Middle East officially require a licence issued by MOLSA to provide employment contracts. The majority of migration to the Middle East continues to be irregular, however. According to a forthcoming study commissioned by the UNDP, it is estimated that up to half a million females migrate from Ethiopia to the Middle East each year.2 A large industry of informal labour brokers has been established in Ethiopia with both legal and illegal agencies offering to place women in domestic work in the Middle East (ILO, 2011).

17The two primary destinations for regional migration from Ethiopia to other African countries are Sudan and South Africa. Circular migration from Ethiopia to Sudan has existed for the past few decades, and females have recently begun to migrate to Sudan in search of domestic work. In a study of irregular migration from the Horn of Africa to South Africa, Horwood estimates that 11,000 to 13,000 Ethiopian men entered South Africa in 2008. The Ethiopian Embassy in South Africa estimates that there are currently 45,000 to 50,000 Ethiopians residing in South Africa (Horwood, 2009: 32).

18The current data on emigration from Ethiopia illustrates a shift from refugee driven migration in the 1980s to different forms of labour migration from Ethiopia in the last decade. The data also indicates an increasing prevalence of south-south migration and feminization of migration in Ethiopia. These themes will be explored further in the results section.

Results from the IS Academy Survey

19There are a total of 531 current migrants in the IS Academy sample. When examining the destination choice of all migrants in the sample it is apparent that the most popular destination country is Saudi Arabia, followed by the United States. Almost 24 percent of the migrants reside in Saudi Arabia, while a little over 20 percent live in the United States. Other popular destinations include the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the neighbouring country of Sudan, which have attracted approximately 11 percent of the sample respectively.

20Table 1 illustrates the migrants' destination regions. An examination of how migrants are distributed across different regions reveals that the Middle East is the most common migration destination among migrants, at 44 percent. Almost 30 percent of migrants are located in Europe, North America or Australia (here defined as the north), while approximately 21 percent of the sample have migrated to other African countries.

Table 1: Destination regions, frequency and percent

Destination regions




>60 months** (%)









Middle East








* North includes USA, Canada, Australia, and all European countries except Russia

** refers to migrants who have been abroad more than 60 months

*** All countries but Russia and Israel are classified into the three regions and constitute 97% and 95.7% of the sample respectively

21The results are presented in the following three sections that compare and contrast the characteristics of migrants to the north, African countries and the Middle East. The first section examines the demographics and background of the migrants themselves. The second discusses the migrants' household characteristics. The third describes the differences between the migration experiences of the three migrant groups.

Demographics and background of Ethiopian migrants

22Table 2 provides an overview of the migrants' characteristics. It is noteworthy that over 60 percent of all migrants are female, which illustrates feminization of the migration flows from Ethiopia. Migrants in the Middle East are 68 percent female, which coincides with recent feelings in Ethiopia that emigration is dominated by female migration to the Middle East. It is worth mentioning that females also dominate migration within Africa at 53 percent, which appears contrary to the common perception in Ethiopia that migration to African countries is male-dominated. When we examine this further by country of migration in Africa, however, it is evident that the majority of migrants to South Africa are male, at 82 percent, and the majority of migrants to Sudan are female, at 75 percent. These findings are in line with the figures reported by the IOM and current feelings in Ethiopia.

Table 2: Characteristics of migrants, whole sample and by destination region


Overall sample



Middle East
















Years of Education





Absent (months)





Parent of child in hh










Relationship to household head





















Occupation in Country of Migration (most common categories)

In paid work





Self employed, business





Doing housework





In education





Unemployed, looking for job





Source: Authors own calculations

23In general, the migrants are fairly young and primarily children of heads of households. The migrants' educational background also varies by destination. As expected the most educated migrants are found in northern countries. The average duration of education of a migrant in northern countries is 13 years, while migrants in the Middle East are the least educated of the three groups with on average of eight years. There are a total of 44 migrants in the sample who completed tertiary education (bachelor’s degree or higher) and would thus be classified as highly skilled. Of these 44 migrants, 37 (84 percent) are in the north.

24Finally, being employed in paid work is the most common occupation across all three migration regions. About 75 percent of the migrants are employed in their destination country. Of the migrants in the Middle East 85 percent are in paid work and very few run their own business, while migrants in northern countries run their own business or study in the country of destination to a larger extent. About 64 percent of the migrants in the northern countries are employed, around nine percent run their own business and almost nine percent are in education.

Migrant households' characteristics

25This section provides an overview and context of the households from which migrants are emigrating. Characteristics of the overall household and household head are detailed in Table 3.

Table 3: Household characteristics


Overall sample



Middle East

Household Size










Occupation of household head

In paid work





Self-employed: business










Unemployed, actively looking




Unemployed not looking














Community/military service









Family worker/helper



Main respondents perspective on household’s subjective wealth

Finding it very difficult





Finding it difficult





Coping (neutral)





Living comfortably





Living very comfortably





Average frequency of receiving food aid in the past 12 months





Source: Authors own calculations

26Migrants to the north are more likely to be from urban areas at 77 percent, while migrants to African countries are more likely to be from rural areas. Only 24 percent of the households with a migrant in the south live in urban areas. This coincides with migrants to the north being more educated and seemingly from a better-off background.

27The household head's education differs slightly from his or her occupation, however, especially when comparing the Middle East and African migrant groups. Unsurprisingly, the household heads of migrants to the north are the least likely to be involved in agriculture (3.8 percent), and are primarily retired (38.6 percent) or do housework (33.5 percent). The household head of migrants to African countries are the most likely to be involved in agriculture (62 percent), whereas only 35 percent of household heads of migrants to the Middle East are involved in agriculture. Heads of household of migrants in the Middle East are most likely to be involved in doing housework (21 percent) or paid work (15 percent), or to be self-employed (12 percent).

28The main respondents in the survey were asked to describe their household’s current economic situation. Nearly half of the households with a migrant in the north responded that their household was living comfortably or very comfortably (47 percent), compared to 34 percent of households with a migrant in an African country and 28 percent with migrants in a Middle Eastern country. Households with a migrant in the Middle East were most likely to report that they were finding it difficult or very difficult to cope, at 31 percent, compared to 26 percent of households with a migrant in an African country and 14 percent of households with a migrant in the north.

Migrants’ migration experiences

29This section provides an overview of the migration process experienced by the migrants. Table 4 shows descriptive statistics of the variables summarizing migration experiences.

Table 4: Migrants migration experiences

Overall sample



Middle East

Reason for migration (most Important)






Family reunion















Reason for destination choice (most Important)

Easy country to access/gain entry





Could find employment





Working conditions are better





Payment is better





Living conditions are better





Family/friends there










Involved in decision to migrate (most important)

Only migrant



































Means of financing migration






Informal loans from family/friends





Gift from family/friends





Sold assets





Migrate alone





Transit experience






Work visa





Tourist visa





Student visa





Refugee status





No documents





Source: Authors own calculations.

30As expected, the primary motivation for migration is employment opportunities in all three migrant destinations. This is, however, far more pronounced for African and Middle East migrants at 94 percent and 93 percent respectively, as compared to migrants to the north at 35 percent. Migrants to the north are more likely to migrate for education (15 percent), family reunification (11 percent) or as refugees for security and political reasons (nine percent).

31In addition to the reason for migration, the questionnaire asked the reason for choosing the destination country. There is more variation here amongst the migration destination groups. The reason for choosing a northern country was primarily due to network effects of having family or friends in the country of destination (26 percent). Network effects were a more unlikely reason for destination choice among the Africa (nine percent) and Middle East group (seven percent). The second most common reason for destination country choice for migrants to the north was that the living conditions were better there (15 percent), which was a negligible response for migrants in the Africa and Middle East Group.

  • 3 Based on interviews conducted by Kuschminder with 45 female return migrants from the Middle East.

32The most common response for destination choice among migrants to African countries was “easy to gain entry” (33 percent), which was most likely predicated on geographic closeness to Ethiopia and the fact that only 65 percent of migrants to an African country had a passport. The most common response for destination choice for the Middle East group was that working conditions were better (31 percent). Here it is essential to remember that the migrants did not answer these questions themselves and responses might have been different if the migrant had been the respondent, as the authors' research findings demonstrate that working conditions in the Middle East are quite poor.3

33Across all three destination groups, the majority of migrants migrated alone and most frequently they were the only person involved in their decision to migrate. Particularly for female migrants this illustrates their autonomy and role as active decision makers in the migration process, as opposed to passive reactors to a male’s decision-making.

34Finally, people generally have to acquire documents in order to migrate. Most frequently migrants to all destinations acquired a work visa (48 percent), which was the most common for migrants to the Middle East (64 percent). Migrants to the north also acquired tourist visas (11 percent), student visas (10 percent) or refugee status (10 percent). Migrants to African countries most commonly did not acquire any documents (47 percent), which was also a frequent option in migration to the Middle East (25 percent), and slightly less frequent for migration to the north (14 percent). Ten percent of migrants to the Middle East and eight percent of migrants to African countries migrated with a broker or smuggler. This suggests that these low skilled migrants migrate illegally and seek to avoid barriers to entry for the low skilled. Smugglers and brokers were not mentioned in the northern migration routes, which have a higher percentage of highly skilled migrants, as discussed previously.

Profiling Ethiopian migrants and situating Ethiopia within global migration trends

35This paper seeks to provide an overview of the different characteristics of migrants from Ethiopia to the three destination groups, the north, Africa and the Middle East. Based on the results, a profile of the characteristics of migrants to the different regions and their households begins to emerge.

36Ethiopian migrants to the north are more educated, from more educated households in urban areas, and are more likely to be married (although the majority are still single). They are most likely to have a passport and migrate for a variety of reasons including employment, family reunification, as UNHCR sponsored refugees and for education. Migrants to the north are the most likely to have a network in the country of migration, which influences their destination choice. They are also more likely to make their decision to migrate in consultation with their family, and their migrations are primarily funded by gifts from family or friends. Finally, they are absent from the household for the longest average duration and are the least likely to be employed in the country of migration.

37Migrants from Ethiopia in African countries present a different picture from migrants to the north. Ethiopian migrants using these south-south migration channels are primarily from rural areas where the household is involved in agricultural or herding for their livelihoods and are the most frequent recipients of food aid. These migrants and their head of household have low levels of education. Ethiopians migrating within Africa frequently do not have a passport or any formal entry documents. Nearly all south-south migrants migrate for employment and they generally migrate to countries that are easy to access and where they can find a job. This group is the most likely to migrate with friends as a part of a group. Finally, the majority have paid employment in the country of migration, though they are most likely to migrate for the shortest period.

38In the final group, Ethiopian migrants to the Middle East are predominately young and female, from a mixture of rural and urban areas with low levels of education of the migrant and household head. The household heads are in a variety of occupations including agriculture, paid work, housework, self-employment or retired. These households are the most likely to report that they are finding it difficult to cope, however. The primary motivation for migration is employment and the vast majority are employed in paid work in the country of migration. They chose the destination choice country based on working conditions, payment and finding employment. In order to finance their migration, they most frequently take informal loans from family or friends. Ethiopia migrants in the Middle East tend to migrate alone (although some migrate with a broker or smuggler), and have been abroad for an average of four years.

39These regional migration profiles can also be compared to the trends in international migration discussed at the beginning of the paper. First, it is evident that migration from Ethiopia is increasing in volume, as the majority of migrants to the Middle East and Africa are recent migrants, whereas the majority of migrants to the north have been there much longer. The primary destination, however, is not other African countries, but the Middle East. The strongest corridor of migration from Ethiopia reflected in this data is clearly to the Middle East, which should not be considered south-south migration due to the vast differences in wealth between these countries.

40Returning to the debate at beginning of the paper as to whether the drivers of north-south and south-south migration are different, this analysis suggests that the north-south and south-south/south-Middle East migration flows do have different drivers in the Ethiopian context. The drivers of Ethiopian migration to Africa and the Middle East are clearly economically motivated as the migrants seek employment opportunities abroad. In comparison, however, the drivers of migration to the north are multiple (including family reunification, security reasons and education opportunities) and are not solely motivated by employment. This supports the argument that different migration flows have different drivers and suggests the need for further comparative data between drivers of different migration streams.

41The feminization of migration is also highly evident in Ethiopia, as sixty percent of total migrants are female. Migration to the Middle East is most significantly a female phenomenon and is motivated by gender-specific domestic work opportunities in the Middle East. The results also indicate that females are active decision makers exercising their agency in the process, as 43 percent make the decision to migrate without consulting anyone else, as opposed to historical migration trends in which women were classified as passive reactors to migration processes. The feminization of the Middle Eastern migration flow from Ethiopia is comparable to countries in Asia such as the Philippines, Indonesia or Sri Lanka, where migration is primarily female-dominated for domestic work.

42The final trend of barriers to movement of the low skilled is also reflected in the data. Firstly, migrants to the north are higher educated and from better-off families. This reflects both a global preference for skilled migration and the higher costs of migrating to the north. Secondly, the reasons for migration to the north are much more diverse, reflecting a variety of legal migration channels, than the reasons for migrating to Africa and the Middle East. Thirdly, the majority of migrants to the north have passports and proper documentation, whereas one third of migrants to African countries do not have a passport and nearly half do not have any official entry documents. This illustrates the impact of barriers to movement imposed by states and how differences in entry requirements and border management affect migration flows.


43This paper has presented an in-depth overview of the characteristics of migrants from Ethiopia, with a comparison of three different flows of migrants to the north, Africa and the Middle East based on the IS Academy Survey. This picture has been further elaborated into profiles of the different migration streams that can be compared and contrasted. These profiles elicit the different ways that the different migration streams appear in global migration trends and contrast these trends as they are represented in Africa.

44The comparison highlights that migration from Ethiopia contrasts with some of the overall migration figures for Africa. First, the most prevalent migration stream is to the Middle East, which thus contrasts with the overall figure that 47 percent of migration from Africa is to other African countries, as migration to other African countries is the smallest flow from Ethiopia (21 percent). Secondly, the UN DESA states that 46.8 percent of migrants from Africa are female, whereas in Ethiopia 60 percent of migrants are female.

45In conclusion, this analysis suggests that the current migration streams from Ethiopia are unique within the African context. It also illustrates that caution must be exercised when drawing conclusions across the African context, as each country and region is unique. Further research is required to understand the different streams within particular countries and how these countries factor into the wider picture of global international migration flows and trends.


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1 The IS Academy: A World in Motion Project is a five year study funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Migration and Development in Afghanistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, and the Netherlands.

2 Forthcoming: UNDP (2011) The Push and Pull Factors of Migration of Women in the Middle East.

3 Based on interviews conducted by Kuschminder with 45 female return migrants from the Middle East.

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Titre Figure 1: Location of field sites
Crédits Source: IS Academy: A World in Motion.
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