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YANGON, Myanmar - A new census report reveals that an estimated 4.25 million people who were born in Myanmar now live abroad. This number includes the 2.02 million household members reported to be abroad during the 2014 census, and those projected to have left the country between the 1983 and 2014 censuses. The majority come from relatively few districts in border areas, including Mawlamyine and Hpa-An, and most live in Thailand and Malaysia. Large differences in earnings and employment opportunities between countries fuel international migration.

Shared language and ethnicity across borders facilitate this emigration, especially among ethnic minorities along the Thailand and China borders. International migration is dominated by young men. There are 156.3 male emigrants per 100 female emigrants. Three quarters of recent emigrants to Thailand are aged 15 to 34 (77 per cent for men, 76 per cent for women).

The findings come from the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census Thematic Report on Migration and Urbanization. The report shows that only 10.4 per cent of recent migration within Myanmar is rural-to-urban. The largest movements are instead urban-to-urban (47.2 per cent). While Myanmar remains a predominantly rural society, the tempo of urbanization is increasing. This is especially true for Yangon where the population density is high and the infrastructure is already stretched.

Employment is a main instigator of movement. A large share of migration revolves around Yangon, into which there is significant migration, primarily from Ayeyawady. But the lion’s share of movement is between townships within Yangon, primarily from the south and west parts of the city to the north and east. Many recent migrants in Yangon are employed in manufacturing, illustrating that industrial zones are a powerful influence on migration and local population growth. Migration accounts for 80 per cent of Yangon’s population growth in the last five years.

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

In addition to the urban hubs, the areas with the highest level of recent in-migration are Kachin, Kayah and Kayin. This indicates that economic dynamism, created by for example extraction industries and cross-border trade, impacts migration flows also outside the urban hubs. The areas with the highest level of recent out-migration are Ayeyawady, Bago, Magway and Chin.

Women constitute more than half of recent migration (53 per cent). A significant share of these are unmarried, especially those who move longer distances. 49 per cent of women who move between states/regions are unmarried.

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

Download: 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census: Thematic reports

For more information, please contact:
Yenny Gamming; Tel: +95- (0)9 2604 00005;

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, delivers a world where every pregnancy is wanted,
every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.


Notes to Editors

The main results of the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census were published in May 2015. This thematic report is part of a series of 13 thematic reports on diverse topics. The thematic reports contain new data as well as previously released data which have been statistically adjusted for higher accuracy. The reports analyse the relationship between different data, and shed light on what the numbers tell us about the lives of people in Myanmar. The census was conducted by the Government of Myanmar. UNFPA has provided, and continues to provide, technical and financial support towards the census.

An estimated 1,090,000 people who wished to self-identify as Rohingya were not enumerated in the census. UNFPA recognizes their non-enumeration as a serious shortcoming of the census and a grave human rights concern, and regards it as critical that all rights are restored as soon as possible. An estimated 69,700 people in Kayin State and 46,600 people in Kachin State were also not enumerated. In total, an estimated 1.2 million people were not enumerated in the census. These estimated 1.2 million people were included in the total population count of 51.5 million. However, since data on characteristics is not available for the people who were not enumerated, the data and analysis presented in this report covers only those enumerated during the census.

Census reports can be accessed on the UNFPA website: or the Department of Population website:



Emigrant (or out-migrant): A migrant who has moved out of an area.
Immigrant (or in-migrant): A migrant who has moved into an area.
Internal migration: Movement between townships/districts/states/regions.
International migration: Movement across international borders.
Lifetime migration: Captures people who have moved at least once in their lifetime.
Recent migration: Captures people who have moved at least once in the last five years.