More than 800,000 Ethiopians Migrated Abroad Over The Past Five Years

Maureen Achieng delivers keynote speech at 2021 Labour force and Migration Survey Dissemination event. Photo: IOM 2021, Haimanot Abebe.

Addis Ababa – More than 839,000 Ethiopians have migrated to other countries in the past five years in search of job and economic opportunities, according to a new joint survey report released this week by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Ethiopia’s Central Statistical Agency (CSA).

The survey shows that estimated 78 per cent of the more than 839,000 Ethiopians who migrated during this period were aged between 15 and 29 years, and that nearly 31 percent of them traveled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United States, and Yemen were popular destinations too.

The survey report known as the 2021 Labour Force and Migration Survey is the first to include data on educational status and digital literacy of internal and international Ethiopian migrants. Whilst the CSA has periodically reported on employment data within the country since 1999, this is the first time the agency is sharing information on employment trends of Ethiopian migrants and statistics on missing Ethiopian migrants.

As movement from Ethiopia to the Gulf countries is largely irregular, Ethiopian migrants often experience great perils and are exposed to a wide range of risks on these migration journeys. The survey found that close to 51,000 migrants are missing, a majority of whom are men (85%), with many more believed to have perished or gone missing on the way to their destination country using dangerous land and sea routes. 

“The objective of the survey is to provide up-to-date information on the national labour force, [including] employment and unemployment and internal and international migration. Our main focus and collective efforts are to generate user relevant quality data for policy formulation, monitoring, and evaluation of national and global programmes, and to support evidence-based decision making,” said Biratu Yigezu, the CSA Director General, at the survey dissemination event on 17 Aug.

IOM Ethiopia Chief of Mission Maureen Achieng said understanding the complexities shaping mobility is an urgent priority.

The evidence that originates from rigorous analysis and research is the primary source and starting point for migration policymakers. Migration practitioners, students, scholars and the public need this data,”  said Achieng, who is also Representative to the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Alexander Skommer, Royal Danish Government Deputy Ambassador to Ethiopia said, “Quality data is key for any kind of governance or management and indeed in terms of managing migration. In this complex environment, we underscore the need for improving data and improving the knowledge on migration and irregular migration and strengthening coordination between government agencies to inform policy decisions of political leaders on how to best manage these challenges.”

The survey found that internal migrants in the country make up 17 per cent of the population, the majority who are women who migrate from rural to urban regions. Women continue to face higher rates of unemployment since the first survey was conducted 20 years ago.

The Central Statistical Agency awarded IOM a Certificate of Appreciation for the organization’s role in supporting migration statistics in Ethiopia. The survey was led by CSA with technical support from IOM, and funding from the Government of Denmark.

For more information, please contact Haimanot Abebe at IOM Ethiopia, Tel: +251 47 551 0899 (Ext. 1260), Email: 

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