Migration patterns

The city of Lyon has 180,445 immigrants on its territory (people born abroad and living in France who may subsequently acquire French nationality), i.e., slightly over 13% of its total population in 2012 (1.3 million inhabitants). With a rate higher than the average national rate (11.4%), the city is arguably one of the main immigrant reception centres in France. Its long migration history can be summarised as follows:

  • end of 19th Century until 1910, the Lyon Metropolis receives the first wave of Italians, followed by another in between World Wars, as well as labourers from Poland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Armenia
  • mid - 20th Century, after the end of Second World War, increased need for workforce. Joining unto the continued immigration from Europe, new migratory flows from the Mediterranean region, particularly from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia
  • the 1970s are characterized by immigration from Maghreb, Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as new migratory flows from Sub - Saharan Africa
  • finally, after 1980s, the Metropolis receives immigration from Africa and Europe and, more recently, from the Middle East

23% of the immigrant population in the city can be found in four districts (3rd, 7th, 8th and 9th), primarily along the left bank of the Rhône. In the metropolitan area, half of the immigrant population resides in ten neighbourhoods located just South and East of Lyon (including Vaulx - en - Velin, Saint - Fons and Vénissieux).

Migrant population

Immigrants from the Maghreb represent 40% of the entire immigrant population in the metropolitan area. There has been a decline in the number of European immigrants (30%); Italian immigrants represent 15% of all immigrants over 55 but just 4% under 15. Other immigration countries, mainly in Asia, currently represent 14% of the total immigrant population in the metropolitan city, and immigrants from Sub - Saharan Africa represent 11%.

With median ages of 66 and 61 years old respectively, immigrants from Italy and Spain are the oldest immigrant populations, and with a median age of 34, those from Eastern Europe and sub - Saharan Africa are the youngest. The immigrant population has become increasingly feminised following the shift in migration patterns observed in the 2000s. This shift has been driven by family - based immigration. Female immigrants are now the majority (51.7%).

Immigrants residing in the Metropolitan City, more often than non - immigrants, work as labourers (26% compared to 14%) and, to a lesser extent, as employees (31% compared to 27%). Immigrants are less represented in intermediary professions and managerial positions.

The share of active population is slightly lower for immigrants – 57% of immigrants as compared to 60% of non - immigrants. The unemployment rates, however, are much higher among immigrants than non - immigrants with an unemployment rate of 13% and 7% respectively, according to the national statistics office, INSEE (19% and 10% according to Eurostat).

In general, the immigrants in the Lyon Metropolis have less educational attainment than non - immigrants. 46% of immigrants do not have a school leaving certificate, compared to 21% of non - immigrants. Only 38% of immigrants have qualifications higher than a high school diploma compared to 46% of non - immigrants.
The proportion of immigrants with school diploma varies widely depending on the immigrants’ country of origin.


This text is retrieved from: ICMPD, MC2CM, (2016). City Migration Profile: Lyon; Mediterranean City-to-City Migration; Dialogue, Knowledge and Action.


MC2CM Publications
City Migration Profile Executive Summary
City Practice Poster
Attachment Size
City Practice Poster - Lyon 2.62 MB
General Overview
Political and Administrative Context

Local authority with a special status sharing the same responsibilities as a metropolis and a department.

City and Migrant Population Data
Total population 1 639 558 (Unite Urbaine de Lyon);
1 333 618 (Metropole de Lyon);
513 275 (Ville de Lyon)     
Migrant population Metropole de Lyon: 180 445 - 13% (both EU and non-EU nationals);
Unite Urbaine de Lyon: 215 767, among which 164 984 are non-EU citizens -10% of total population
Year 2015/2013
Source INSEE & MC2CM City profile
Metadata Unite Urbaine de Lyon is composed of 128 municipalities, while 58 municipalities make up the Metropolis of Lyon
City Migration Profile Executive Summary - Lyon
City Practice Poster - Lyon