North Macedonia

General Information


2.083.380 (World Bank 2020)

2.097.319 (STAT MK 2021)



Working-age population

1.441.960 (World Bank 2020)

1.434.397 (STAT MK 2021)

Unemployment rate


12.266 bn, current prices USD (World Bank 2019)

655 bn, current prices MKD (STAT MK 2020)

Refugees and IDPs


308 (UN Refugee Stock mid-2020)

Asylum seekers:

51 (UNHCR mid-2020)


140 (UNHCR 2021)



The Republic of North Macedonia remains prone to emigration. According to the census 2021, the country's overall population amounts to 2.097.319 inhabitants, of which over 260.000 represent North Macedonians living abroad for over 12 months and foreigners temporarily living in North Macedonia. Meanwhile, the country's resident population stands at 1.836.713 revealing a decline of nearly 10% since the last census in 2002. According to UN DESA, close to 700.000 North Macedonian citizens live abroad, mainly in Albania, Kosovo, Germany, Serbia, and Italy.

The economy of North Macedonia has been doing fairly well over the past two decades. However, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 4.5% decline in GDP. The country’s unemployment rate remains at around 16.5 % and represents one of the reasons for emigration on par with other socio-economic drivers. The growing labour emigration drives up the flow of remittances, which increased from 2.7% of the GDP in 2019 to 3.4% of the GDP in 2020.

According to the reports of the North Macedonia Bureau of Statistics, in 2020, almost 1082 residents emigrated from North Macedonia, most of whom left for Germany, Turkey, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus, and Italy. The main reasons for leaving are family reunion (36.3%) and employment (42.8%), mainly in construction and hospitality. In 2020, 16.338 Macedonians received residence permits in the EU, mainly in Germany (8.033), Croatia (2.235), Italy, Austria, and Slovenia (over 1000 each). Nearly 75% of permits are issued for family reasons and work purposes, with Germany issuing the majority for the former and Croatia for the latter.  In terms of duration, most residence permits issued in 2020 were valid over 12 months (58%). Meanwhile, the number of all valid permits at the end of 2020 amounted to over 205.000, with the majority issued by family, other and work reasons (50%, 32% and 16% respectively).

In 2019, 12.726 Macedonian citizens of Turkish origin emigrated to Turkey due to economic ties with this country.  Moreover, from 2002 to 2019, about 90.000 Macedonian citizens obtained Bulgarian passports that simplify their emigration to the EU. There is no evidence whether those who emigrated with a Bulgarian passport have been registered as Bulgarians, which may downplay the Macedonian migrant stock abroad.

The total number of asylum seekers from North Macedonia increased two-fold from 1715 in 2020 to 3982 in 2021, yet representing a moderate figure compared to the peak observed in 2015. Within the EU – primarily, in Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, and Italy – North Macedonians submitted as many as 3.020 applications in 2021. The same year, the stock of recognized refugees from North Macedonia reached 1842 persons, with over half residing in Germany and France.

When it comes to statistics on returns, in 2020, 2.360 North Macedonian citizens were ordered to leave the EU, mostly from Germany (735),  France (465), and Austria (225). The return rate remains consistently high. With 2.005 persons returned, it stood at 83% in 2019, while declining to 61% in 2020. With the support of the EU and Member States’ funding, the IOM implements the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) program supporting capacity building of North Macedonia’s return system and facilitating access to Assisted Voluntary Return.

In 2019, North Macedonia hosted 76.493 immigrants, most of whom were nationals of Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Turkey, and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the flow of immigrants in 2020 amounted to 1848 persons, most of whom were foreigners. Employment is the main reason for immigration. In 2020, the country issued 3.672 work permits to foreign workers, of whom 593 were EU citizens.

Being located along one of the main routes for mixed migration movements to Europe, North Macedonia detected over 20,874 irregular border crossings in 2021. In 2020, 211 persons lodged applications for asylum in the country, out of which 22% were from Afghanistan, 16% from Pakistan, 12% from Turkey, and 11% from Syria. As a rule, most cases are discontinued due to the high rate of claim abandonment. In 2020, the Sector for Asylum issued only two decisions granting subsidiary protection, 39 negative decisions to 46 persons, and 201 decisions for the discontinuation of asylum procedures. North Macedonia still needs to find a sustainable solution for 259 refugees from Kosovo, mostly Roma, of which 14 have refugee status, 122 possess subsidiary protection and 123 are tolerated. The practice of cancelling subsidiary protection has left some of these individuals without a regulated status in the country. In August and September 2021, North Macedonia started temporarily hosting some 193 evacuees/refugees from Afghanistan. They are eligible to receive a 90-day temporary stay, which can be extended. Meanwhile, due to the war in Ukraine, 684 refugees have arrived in North Macedonia as of June 2022, according to UNHCR data.

North Macedonia has ratified all main international conventions related to the status of refugees, migrant workers, the rights of the child, and UN protocols against smuggling and trafficking. In 2021, the Parliament of North Macedonia adopted the Resolution on Migration Policy for 2021–2025 that focuses on strengthening the capacities for migration governance, migration data management, factoring the development aspects of migration, and promoting partnerships and international cooperation. The same year, the country endorsed the National Strategy for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Illegal Migration (2021-2025).

As of 2005, North Macedonia is an EU candidate country; however, the remaining bilateral issues between Bulgaria and North Macedonia prevent the accession talks from moving forward. The country has made significant progress in joint patrols with the Albanian and Kosovo police. North Macedonia is part of the Brdo-Brijuni process, the Prague Process, and the Regional Initiative for Migration and Asylum, among others. In terms of international cooperation on migration, North Macedonia also cooperates with various UN and EU agencies, as well as OSCE.