Trends and relevant data

In recent decades, international migrations in the region have undergone variations in the direction, intensity and composition of migratory flows, as well as in the role assumed by some countries in the international migratory system. Within this framework, contemporary international migrations involving South American populations adopt two clearly defined patterns: intra-regional and extra-regional. The former include movements from countries in the region to other countries in the region, while extra-regional migrations are those that take place between countries in the region and countries outside the region, either to South America or to other regions of the world.

Nowadays, migration in the region shows an increase in intra-regional movements, facilitated by the spread of communication technologies, lower transportation costs and, essentially, by the political conditions prevailing in the region, since the implementation and operation of regional integration mechanisms (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Union of South American Nations, the Andean Community and the Southern Common Market). At the same time, the traditional destination countries of migration from South America, particularly the more developed ones, are erecting increasing barriers to entry and exit flows, as well as to residency.

These intra-regional movements are mainly destined for the Southern Cone countries. Among these, Argentina, Chile and Brazil attract the most significant numbers of migrants from the region, most of them coming from the Andean countries and Paraguay. Disparities in economic and labor opportunities continue to be the driving factors behind these migration processes.

Another migration pattern is the emigration of South American nationals to North America (United States and Canada) and Europe (mainly Spain and Italy). Extra-regional emigration has a long history in the region and in recent decades has been encouraged by economic and social weaknesses in the countries of origin. Although this phenomenon has continued to the present day, since the last economic crisis suffered by European countries, especially those in the south of the continent, there has been a reduction in emigration to these destinations.

The third migration pattern is extra-regional immigration. In recent years, the number of people from other regions settling in South America has increased significantly. Thus, immigration of nationals from certain countries in Africa, Asia, North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe has been increasing.

Finally, South America receives a significant number of returnees from developed countries. This is probably the consequence of the crisis in labor and social protection systems that has been affecting the main European destination countries for some years. Several governments in the region have return programs that include support for the return and reintegration of their nationals.

In terms of the composition of the migrant population, it should be noted that South America has experienced a growing feminization of its migratory flows in recent decades, motivated by changes in labor demand and family strategies, in which women play a central role. At the same time, it is noted that migrants are concentrated in the age groups between 20 and 60 years of age, thus consolidating the strong labor profile of these migratory flows.