Emigration is the process of leaving one’s country or region to settle in another. It involves moving away from familiar surroundings, culture, and family and adapting to a new environment.
For instance, a person may choose to leave the United States and migrate in search of more prosperous job opportunities abroad. This process necessitates learning a new language and adapting to an unfamiliar culture and lifestyle changes.
In sociology, the concept of emigration has been studied extensively as a form of social mobility. It is often seen as a means of improving economic prospects and increasing social capital in new locations.
In addition to seeking economic opportunities, people may emigrate in search of better living conditions, such as improved healthcare or higher standards of education.
Political turmoil or persecution can also drive people away from their homes.
Definition of Emigration
Emigration is the permanent or temporary movement of a person away from their home country, place of residence, or region for the purpose of relocating to a different place (FAO, 2018).
According to Darling and colleagues (2022), emigration means:
“…to exit and relocate from one’s country of origin to live in another on a permanent basis” (p. 336).
For example, someone from Mexico may choose to move to the United States as a permanent resident. This person is engaging in emigration since they are leaving their home country and relocating to another.
In its simplest form, emigration is the act of people leaving their homeland either temporarily or permanently for various reasons – be it because of economic hardship, political unrest, war, or persecution (Beswick, 2020).
Emigration can be a voluntary choice or an enforced situation where individuals are forced to depart from their home environment and start anew in another place.
15 Examples of Emigration
- A family decided to move from Ukraine to Poland due to the war in the region.
- An individual from India emigrated to Canada in search of better economic opportunities.
- A student moved from China to the United States to pursue higher education.
- A political refugee left their home country due to persecution and moved to another safe place.
- A group of people emigrated from Thailand to Malaysia due to poverty and lack of resources in their home country.
- A family from Latin America immigrated to the United States in search of better job opportunities.
- An individual left their home country to escape an oppressive political regime and moved to another country with better human rights protections.
- A family emigrated from Mexico to the United States in search of a better lifestyle.
- An person left their home country due to religious persecution and moved to another safe haven.
- A family left their home country due to civil unrest and moved to a country with better safety standards.
- A student from Saudi Arabia moved to the United Kingdom for higher education opportunities.
- An individual left their home country due to environmental disasters and moved to another with better environmental protections.
- A family from Canada decided to move to the United States in search of a more prosperous lifestyle.
- An individual from Nigeria moved to Germany in search of better medical care.
- A group of people left their home country due to oppressive political rule and moved to another democracy with better human rights protections.
Emigration vs. Immigration
Emigration means leaving one’s home country for a destination in another part of the world, whereas immigration means arriving in a new place.
Emigration is the movement of people out of their home country with the intent to relocate permanently or temporarily.
Immigration, on the other hand, is the movement of people into a new country or place intending to settle there (Green & Weil, 2010).
Emigration requires a person to depart their homeland and as a result, oftentimes necessitates relinquishing one’s citizenship. Meanwhile, immigration is the relocation of individuals into another country without any need to forfeit national identity.
In addition, emigration usually refers to the permanent or long-term relocation of people away from their home country, whereas immigration refers to the arrival of people in a new place for a shorter period (Green & Weil, 2010).
The same person is both an emigrant and an immigrant on the same journey, depending on which side of the border they are.
For example, a Mexican citizen leaving Mexico for the United States is an emigrant in Mexico and an immigrant in the United States.
See Also: Immigration Pros and Cons
Reasons for Emigration
People can leave their homeland and emigrate for a multitude of reasons, such as economic difficulty, political turmoil, warfare or oppression, environmental catastrophes, and family reunification.
They may also emigrate due to favorable conditions in other countries. A factor “pushing” someone away from a country is called a push factor; while a factor “pulling” someone to a new country is called a pull factor.
Here are some of the main causes of emigration:
1. Economic Hardship
Economic hardship can be a major factor in why individuals and families decide to emigrate. Oftentimes, people move in search of better job opportunities and higher wages that are not available in their home countries (Bodvarsson & Den, 2013).
For instance, a family from a third-world country may emigrate to another country with better employment prospects and higher wages to provide a better quality of life for the children.
2. Political Turmoil, Warfare, or Oppression
Political turmoil, warfare, or oppression can also be causes for emigration, especially when a person’s safety or freedom are in danger. People may emigrate to seek refuge and security away from their home country’s oppressive regime.
So, for example, a person may leave their home country to escape political or religious persecution or to avoid becoming involved in a conflict (Bodvarsson & Den, 2013).
When people flee a country due to untenable conditions, we call it forced migration.
Today, many refugees are fleeing from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan due to civil war and oppressive regimes.
3. Environmental Catastrophes
Environmental catastrophes can also lead to emigration. Many people may move away from areas affected by natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes in search of a safer home (Bodvarsson & Den, 2013).
For example, Hurricane Katrina caused approximately 1 million people to evacuate their homes in the southern United States and seek refuge elsewhere.
Similarly, a family in Bangladesh may emigrate due to recurrent flooding in their home country.
Go Deeper: Examples of Environmental Justice Issues
4. Family Reunification
Another reason for emigration is family reunification. Some may emigrate to be with their families, such as a daughter returning to her parents’ home country or a son immigrating to join his siblings.
We call this type of migration “chain migration” because people follow each other like a chain – or conga line!
In addition, some people may choose to move abroad to start a family or to provide a better life for their children. For instance, many Mexican immigrants come to the United States for work and a better future for their families (Bodvarsson & Den, 2013).
These reasons for emigration demonstrate that the decision to move can be motivated by many factors.
Due to economic difficulty, political turmoil, environmental catastrophes, or family reunification, emigrants often seek a better life for themselves and their families.
Economic Impact of Emigration
Emigration often has a lasting economic impact on both the country of origin and the country of destination, and this impact is quite different.
Impact on the Country of Origin
When people emigrate, they take with them their skills and knowledge that are beneficial to the country of origin. It results in a “brain drain” or a loss of skilled and educated people who could contribute to the development of their country.
Brain drain is a major issue, particularly in developing countries. For example, Haiti has lost about 40% of its educated population due to emigration (Abdelbaki, 2011). When people choose to leave for a better life overseas without facing any danger at home, we call it voluntary migration.
Besides, emigration can lead to a decrease in the country’s workforce and slower economic growth. It is especially true for countries that have a large number of people moving abroad for employment opportunities (Bodvarsson & Den, 2013).
In addition, when a country’s population declines, this affects the production and consumption of goods and services in that country. This factor reduces the potential for economic growth in the country of origin.
Impact on the Country of Destination
The economic impact in the destination country is usually more positive than negative. In many cases, the country of destination benefits from an influx of immigrants due to the new ideas and innovations they bring.
New skills, labor, and resources can also benefit the country of destination. Besides, immigrants are often willing to take on low-paying jobs and contribute to the development of their new country (Abdelbaki, 2011).
When relocating to another nation, emigrants are subject to taxation for their income and possessions following the new country’s regulations. These funds can create new sources of budget revenue (Bodvarsson & Den, 2013).
Still, money sent home by immigrants in the form of remittances can significantly boost the economies of both countries. Remittances provide much-needed financial support for families, which can help to alleviate poverty in the country of origin.
Emigration is a complex issue that affects many people around the world. It means leaving one’s home country due to economic, political, environmental, or family-related reasons.
Emigrants often hope for better opportunities abroad and may be motivated by the desire to seek a safer environment or reunite with their families.
Emigration can have both positive and negative economic impacts on countries of origin and destination.
With the right policies, governments can help to ensure that emigrants’ rights are respected and that both countries benefit from the process. Such actions can help create a more peaceful and prosperous world.
Abdelbaki, H. H. (2011). Estimation of the economic impact of brain drain on the labor expelling country. International Business & Economics Research Journal (IBER), 8(12). https://doi.org/10.19030/iber.v8i12.3197
Beswick, J. (2020). Identity, language and belonging on Jersey. Springer Nature.
Bodvarsson, Ö. B., & Den, V. (2013). The economics of immigration: Theory and Policy. Springer.
Darling, C. A., Cassidy, D., & Ballard, S. M. (2022). Family life education: Working with families across the lifespan. Waveland Press, Inc.
FAO. (2018). State of food and agriculture: 2018, migration, agriculture and rural development. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Green, N. L., & Weil, F. (2010). Citizenship and those who leave. University of Illinois Press.