SOPEMI - Continuous Reporting System on Migration

The Continuous Reporting System on Migration (known under its French acronym, SOPEMI, from Système d’observation permanente des migrations) was established in 1973 to provide the OECD member countries with a mechanism for the timely sharing of information on international migration, the collect of migration statistics as well as the improvement of their comparability, and to serve the basis for an annual OECD report on international migration.

The functioning of the SOPEMI

The core of SOPEMI has always been a group of national experts (correspondents) who prepare annual reports on the migration development in their countries. The original membership of SOPEMI consisted of 11 OECD member countries. In the following years several more joined the group, including non-member countries. In 1979, the Working Party on Migration became the statutory body overseeing SOPEMI’s activities and acting as a link between SOPEMI and OECD’s Manpower and Social Affairs Directorate, which became later the Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs (DELSA). The principal function of SOPEMI, then as now, was to provide information to the Working Party, whose mandate was to collect systematically information on migration trends and policies in the OECD member countries in order to identify emerging problems in international co-operation. The type of information that might be included in the report has been steadily refined over the years. In an attempt to enhance the comparability of national reports, during the 1980s the OECD Secretariat prepared a “grid” outlining the main topics deserving attention.

As the process of international migration evolved and more countries joined SOPEMI, the scope of the annual report broadened. Today the SOPEMI network is a unique institution, global in scope. It functions efficiently and in friendly fashion as an information exchange system based on the three pillars: the correspondents, the OECD Secretariat and the Delegates of the OECD Working Party on Migration.

Better statistical data

The basis for the annual SOPEMI report has always been its standard statistical tables on immigration, emigration and labour stocks and flows. Gradually a wider range of data has been collected and presented and major attempts made to improve comparability between countries. The inclusion of the four settlement countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) in the 1980s raised issues of comparability, especially in relation to the conceptual distinctions of migration movements (foreign-born/foreigners; permanent/ temporary migration; family reunification/accompanying family) between participating countries and the set of statistical tables compiled. Although from the outset there were attempts to generalise, case-by-case descriptive presentations continued. The growing number of countries within SOPEMI and the convergence of migration interests between countries required improvement of migration statistics as well as of their comparability. Since then, the OECD has created a comprehensive database on international migration as well as a database on immigrants in OECD countries (DIOC), recently extended to many non-member countries (DIOC-E).

A flagship publication: the OECD International Migration Outlook


Coordinator: OECD

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