UN Estimates 4.25 Million People from Burma Now Live Abroad

By Rik Glauert 18 January 2017

RANGOON — The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated some 4.25 million people born in Burma now live abroad, based on the 2014 census and projected immigration rates from censuses since 1983.

The majority of Burmese living abroad hail from border areas such as Mawlamyine in Mon State and Hpa-an in Karen State and most now live in Thailand and Malaysia, according to the UNFPA’s report released Wednesday.

International emigrants are predominantly young and male with 156.3 male emigrants per 100 female emigrants and three quarters of recent Burmese immigrants to Thailand are aged 15 to 34.

International migration is fueled by employment opportunities and higher earnings abroad, according to the report.

UNFPA also revealed that the majority of internal migration in Burma was from urban areas to urban areas. A large share of internal migrants seeks employment in manufacturing in Rangoon, migrating from the Irrawaddy Delta and among Rangoon townships.

“The findings show that policy makers can help slow urban growth by locating industrial zones outside Yangon [Rangoon]. The data also calls for the need for increased and improved housing, utilities and services in the industrial zones,” said Janet Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar.

Women constitute more than half of recent internal migration (53 per cent) and a significant share of female migrants are unmarried, especially those who move between states or regions (49 percent).

“Female migrants are particularly vulnerable. Myanmar [Burma] needs policies and interventions that protect female migrants from exploitation, including the provision of secure accommodation and information about their rights,” said Jackson.