Measuring migration using big data

Abstract globe with blue lights and networks


Internal freedom of movement is one of the European Union's four fundamental freedoms and is necessary for the EU single market to function. Yet official statistics on the migration of workers are constrained. They are limited in their ability to distinguish population subgroups, come with a considerable time lag of a year or more and are fully reliant on individual member states' measurements. Current data sources also tend to underestimate the overall extent of mobility by notably not covering short-term moves and not capturing most recent movers.

Given the importance of freedom of movement, it is crucial for European institutions to have robust, rich and up-to-date data to monitor it. Big data sources from social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, offer opportunities to bridge the gap between official statistics and recent migration trends.


The European Commission has commissioned RAND Europe to investigate social media data's potential use for estimating of migration flows and stocks of migrants. We will be collaborating with experts from the Vienna Institute for Demography, the University of Manchester, Washington University and the Qatar Computing Research Institute. The ultimate objective is to develop a sustainable method of measurement and model of calculation of (labour) mobility and migration within the EU.