Immigrants to rich countries dropped during the global economic crisis, reversing five years of annual increases as the demand for labor fell, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Its shows that 4.4 million people moved to the OECD’s 31 member countries, the world’s most developed economies, in 2008, a drop of about 6% from the year before.
The fall reverses five years of annual increases of 11%, the OECD said in its International Migration Outlook 2010. National data suggest that international migration fell again in 2009.
‘Immigrants have been hard hit by the jobs crisis, with young immigrants, in particular, suffering steeper drops in employment,’ the OECD report says.
Unemployment among male immigrants has risen more than among native counterparts because many immigrants worked in industries badly hit by the crisis, such as construction, hotels and restaurants, the OECD said. Still, few are returning home, it added.
In some countries, employment of female immigrants has risen as women take jobs to make up for lost income of their unemployed spouses, it said.
OECD chief Angel Gurria warned governments against toughening immigration policies because migrant labor will be needed to fill shortages as the economy cranks back up. Britain in particular is at the forefront in trying to reduce the number of people coming to work from non European Union countries with a series of new measures being brought in next year.
‘Current economic difficulties will not change long term demographic trends and should not be used as an excuse to overly restrict immigration,’ said Gurria.
Without an increase in current migration rates, the working age population in OECD countries will increase by only 1.9% in the next 10 years, according to the Paris based organization. That compares with an 8.6% increase between 2000 and 2010.
Among countries where immigration has increased the most is Italy, where inflows rose by an annual average of 48% between 2003 and 2007. However, this was tempered by a 28% fall in 2008. In the UK, the average annual rate of increase from 2003 to 2007 was less than 10%, with the country also recording a decline in 2008. The US experienced an average migration growth rate of 11% between 2003 and 2007, below the OECD average. The growth rate fell to 5% in 2008.