At a time when the subject of “globalisation” is on everyone’s lips, it is timely to reflect on the contribution of international migration to the ongoing wave of globalisation. Just how significant an engine of globalisation is international migration? What have been some of the main trends in international migration over the past half-century and how do they compare with the first great wave of international migration from the 1820s to the beginning of World War I?
This paper seeks to provide answers to these questions drawing on data from the OECD and other sources. Section 1 presents some data on the current scale of migration and compares it with the other major drivers of globalisation. Section 2 delves into the great wave of migration in the 19th and early 20th century when it played a key role in the first globalisation episode. Section 3 updates the story during the second, on-going globalisation surge. Some data on the composition of current migration flows to OECD countries is presented in Section 4, with a special focus on a neglected element – the gender dimension of the so-called “brain drain”.