Economy: migration key to long-term economic growth, says OECD
International migration has fallen during the economic crisis, but as the recovery moves into gear migrants will once again be needed to fill labour and skill shortages, according to a new OECD report.
The OECD’s International Migration Outlook 2010 says that the inflow of immigrants to OECD countries fell by about 6% in 2008 to 4.4 million people, reversing five years of average annual increases of 11%. Recent national data suggest migration numbers fell further in 2009.
See the data here
The decline reflects a fall in labour demand in OECD countries, says the OECD. Immigrants have been hard hit by the jobs crisis, with young immigrants, in particular, suffering steeper drops in employment.
Unemployment among male immigrants, many of whom worked in sectors that were badly hit by the crisis such as construction, hotels and restaurants, has generally risen more than among their native counterparts. Nonetheless, few unemployed immigrants are returning home. In some countries, there has been an increase in employment rates among immigrant women, who have taken jobs to make up for the lost income of their unemployed spouses.
Beyond the short-term impact of the crisis, immigration will continue to play a vital role for OECD economies in the long term because of the need for extra workers to maintain growth and prosperity.
With this in mind, the OECD says, governments in OECD countries should make every effort to assist immigrants who have lost their jobs, both by ensuring that they have the same rights to unemployment support as native workers and by providing support for job searches and language-training to help their integration.
“It is important to recall that migrants are valuable contributors to the national economy especially when times are good,” commented OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Current economic difficulties will not change long-term demographic trends and should not be used as an excuse to overly restrict immigration. It is important that immigration policy has a long-term perspective.”
Without an increase above current migration rates, the OECD forecasts, the working-age population in OECD countries will increase by only 1.9% over the next 10 years. This compares with an 8.6% increase in the working-age population between 2000 and 2010.
One of the keys to satisfactory employment outcomes and, ultimately, integration for immigrants is naturalisation. Immigrants who are eligible to take up the nationality of the host country should be encouraged to do so, the OECD recommends. Governments, meanwhile, should consider lowering barriers to naturalisation, such as limits on dual nationality and overly restrictive eligibility criteria.
For further information, journalists are invited to contact Jean-Pierre Garson (tel. +33 1 45 24 91 74), Jean-Christophe Dumont (tel. +33 1 45 24 92 43) or Georges Lemaitre (tel. +33 1 45 24 91 63) in the OECD’s International Migration Division. Journalists are invited to download the report from the password protected site or they can contact the OECD’s Media Division.
Further information on International Migration Outlook 2010 can be found at www.oecd.org/els/migration/imo.