Fewer jobs means fewer people moving abroad, international report shows

by Ray Clancy on July 25, 2011

Expat travel decreasing

Fewer people are moving abroad to work with the latest figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development showing that in 2009 international migration fell for the second consecutive year after a decade of growth.

One reason given in the OECD report is that there are fewer jobs. Officials expect that 2010 will prove to have been a year of falling migration.

Its 2011 International Migration Outlook report reveals that migration into OECD countries fell by about 7% in 2009 to 4.3 million people, down from just over 4.5 million in 2008.

The decline is particularly marked in Asian OECD countries and in most of Europe, notably the Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In Europe, movement between European Union member states fell by 22% in 2009. In contrast, permanent migration to Australia, Canada and the United States increased slightly in 2009. Temporary labor migration is especially susceptible to shifting demand and declined by 17% in 2009.

Given the severity of the economic crisis, migration has fallen less than might have been expected, says the OECD. This may reflect the impact of demographic trends, notably in Europe, where ageing populations and falling fertility rates will mean a continuing demand for skilled and unskilled workers. Family and humanitarian migration are less affected by economic downturns.

Young immigrants have been especially hard hit by job losses, as have workers in construction, finance and retail. Immigrant employment has risen on the other hand in education, health, long-term care for people and domestic services. More migrant women have also joined the labor force to compensate for job losses among male migrants, according to the report.

Migrants are also slightly more likely than native-born persons to start a new business in most OECD countries, says the report. Businesses started by immigrants create significant numbers of jobs. Thus, governments need to eliminate specific obstacles to enterprise creation and growth by immigrants in order to help spur job creation.

The number of students coming to study in OECD countries from abroad continues to rise, reaching 2.3 million in 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, an annual increase of 5%. Nearly one in five came from China, totaling 410,000. On average across the OECD, about one in four will stay, providing an increasingly important source of skilled workers.

Temporary labor migration fell by 17%, while free circulation movements within the enlarged European Union declined by 36%. There was also a reduction in unauthorized migration, especially between Latin America and the United States. In contrast, legal permanent migration flows increased in Canada, Australia and the United States, but declined in Europe.

There are also interesting processes happening in emerging economies. China and India have become the first and third main providers of migrants in OECD countries. In South East Asia, an area where economic growth is much stronger than in the G8 countries, intra regional migration flows are gaining importance. In fact, south-south migration now accounts for about half of global movements.

The ongoing geopolitical changes in Africa and the Middle East will most probably have an extra impact on regional and intercontinental migration flows, the report also says. Comparable data are not yet available, however, it is clear that the Arab Spring has led to an increase of migration flows, for the moment mainly towards Italy and France, but also within Africa. These migration movements are a cause for concern, but they have also revealed the labor potential of this area.

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