There is a tendency for Senegalese migrants to remain in the destination country for long periods, even though a significant proportion of irregular migrants in industrial countries are deported within a short time. In general, however, Senegalese migrants plan their stays abroad as short-term experiences.
According to the World Bank, about 463 000 Senegalese (or 4% of the population) were living abroad in 2005. The results of a household survey carried out by the Senegalese Ministry of Economy and Finance show that 76% of urban households and 70% of households nationwide have at least one family member abroad.
A total of 46% have gone to Europe, where Italy, France and Spain are the most important countries of destination. A further 8% have gone to North America. The most important destinations for Senegalese migrants within Africa are the Gambia, the Ivory Coast, Mali and Mauritania. Due to its close geographical proximity, the Gambia's population includes about 300 000 Senegalese. Before the crisis in the Ivory Coast there were about 125 000 Senegalese citizens living in that country. The majority of these have returned to Senegal since the war started in 2002. The number of Senegalese in Mauritania is estimated at 50 000 to 60 000, while Mali accommodates about 30 000. The Senegalese population in Guinea-Bissau consists of between 10 000 and 20 000 persons.
There is a tendency for Senegalese migrants to remain in the destination country for long periods, even though a significant proportion of irregular migrants in industrial countries are deported within a short time. In general, however, Senegalese migrants plan their stays abroad as short-term experiences. A study based on a sample of migrants residing in Germany shows that their wish for early repatriation has not been realised for a large number of reasons : some have ended up starting a family abroad, many feel obligated to continue meeting the financial needs of their dependent family in Senegal, and there is also widespread fear of losing one's social status in Senegal upon return.
According to the household survey referred to above, 46% of migrants were employed or self-employed before they emigrated, including occupation in the informal sector and subsistence farming. Some 29% were unemployed, 14% school children or students and 7% housewives. According to the survey, approximately 84% of migrants are men , of which 68% are between 15 and 34 years old.
Senegalese migrants who move to industrialised countries also demonstrate relatively high levels of education. Within a sample of 51 Senegalese in Germany, 22 hold qualifications from an institute of higher education. Among the Senegalese in the USA, just 9% have attended school for four years or less, whereas 25% possess at least four years of tertiary education. According to the World Bank, the proportion of Senegalese with tertiary education who emigrate is 24.1%. Approximately 51.4% of doctors trained in the country and 26.9% of nursing staff have left Senegal.
In many senses migration is not an individual but a collective matter. This concerns financing, the financial benefits of migration and often, too, the very decision to migrate. In total just 58% of Senegalese emigrants make the decision to emigrate essentially for themselves, and only 46% finance their move abroad themselves.
On average, Senegalese living in Germany transfer between EUR 125 and 250 a month to their families. Remittances sent to Senegal increased dramatically between 1998 and 2004 from USD 91 million to USD 563.2 million. By contrast, remittances from Senegal have stayed at a relatively constant level. In 2005, remittances from abroad were estimated to represent 7.6% of the country's gross domestic product. The effects of remittances on the standard of living appear to be inconsistent. In the urban setting they have a readily apparent positive impact. In Dakar, for example, 85.2% of households with one or more members living abroad have an annual income per head of at least EUR 343, whereas this is only true of 69.2% of households with no migrants in the family. Rural areas show no clear improvements in income. This common phenomenon is explained by the fact that the rural population shifts its attention away from productive activities once they begin receiving external financial support.