OECD Secretary-General

Launch of the International Migration Outlook 2011


Remarks by Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD

Press Centre, Residence Palace, Brussels
12 July 2011, 14:30


(As prepared for delivery)


Commissioner Malmström, Commissioner Andor, Ladies and Gentlemen:


It is a great pleasure to be in Brussels to present the OECD International Migration Outlook 2011. I am very pleased to launch this report with the two Commissioners who cover major migration issues within the EU. Their presence bears witness to the close co-operation between the European Commission and the OECD, especially in the field of international migration.


International migration is at a turning point. As our countries try to foster a job rich recovery and build stronger, cleaner and fairer economies, we must analyse international migration through a new lens, one that considers the transformative changes that are affecting the world economy and their impact on cross-border movements of people.


The IMO 2011 provides us with such a tool. Let me share some of its main highlights with you.


Fifty Years Monitoring International Migration


The release of the 2011 edition of our IMO coincides with the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the OECD. So, at the beginning of this study you will find an overview of how international migration has been discussed and studied since the creation of the OECD.


Migration issues have evolved significantly during the past fifty years, from the boom of guest workers in the 60's, to the restrictions on migration from the mid-70s and the corresponding increase in family migration, to the significant changes which occurred after the fall of the Iron Curtain in the 90s, and finally the renewed interest in labour migration from the beginning of the 21st century, just before the financial crisis called into question policies of openness to migration.


The study then takes off by analysing current trends in international migration, reflecting diverging experiences among different OECD countries but also very interesting changing patterns in migration flows.


Key Trends in International Migration: Diverging and Changing Patterns


A first trend to be considered is the impact of the global economic slowdown on migration. In 2009, there was a 7% decline in global migration flows; a trend that continued during the first estimates for 2010.


Temporary labour migration fell by 17%, while free circulation movements (within the enlarged European Union) declined by 36%. There was also a reduction in unauthorised 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.


Young immigrants were particularly affected by the crisis, especially in Europe. Countries, which received a high number of immigrants just before the crisis are the most affected. This is the case of Spain, where the unemployment rate for non-EU immigrants is around 30%. The situation of migrant women seems less worrying. In sectors like social services and domestic services, many immigrant women have increased their participation.


In spite of the crisis, the flows of international students in OECD countries continued to increase, reaching more than 2.3 million, according to the latest available data. The percentage of students who remain in the host country after completing their studies in 2008 stood at between 20 and 30% in quite a few OECD countries, reaching a slightly higher figure in France (32%) and Canada (33%).


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. 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  labour potential of this area.
So be prepared for a new panorama. It is unlikely that future migration flows will mirror what we have seen until now.


Migrant Entrepreneurship: A Source of Growth, Employment and Much More


This edition of the IMO also sheds new light on the economic contribution of immigrants. This is a crucial topic, which has demanded attention for years. Our study contains a special chapter that analyses the role of immigrants as entrepreneurs in OECD countries, and on the jobs created by immigrant entrepreneurs.


This is a remarkably interesting area. Migrants in OECD countries are on average slightly more entrepreneurial than natives, with around 12.6% of their working age population involved in non-agricultural entrepreneurial activities (in comparison to 12% among natives). There are significant variations among countries, but the study reveals that the share of self-employed is higher among migrants than among natives in most OECD countries.


The contribution of migrant entrepreneurs to employment creation in these countries has been increasing steadily between 1998 and 2008. This contribution has gone beyond investment and employment to include innovation and trade. And it has also moved beyond ethnic businesses into other high-value activities. In Canada, for example, only one third of Chinese entrepreneurs cater to their ethnic markets.


This special chapter proposes to strengthen policies in many OECD countries to facilitate the creation and expansion of enterprises by immigrants. The same applies to admission procedures for future immigrant entrepreneurs which could benefit from better targeting, to ensure that potential immigrant entrepreneurs or investors better meet the needs of global and regional economies in OECD countries.


Finally, this 2011 edition of IMO examines the case of immigration to Israel, one of our new member countries.


International Migration to Israel: A Wealth of Policy Know How


Israel has one of the most interesting migration experiences in the OECD. The State of Israel is built on immigration. Since its creation, Israel has accepted 2.8 million immigrants, so it joined the ranks of OECD member countries with a high percentage of immigrants in their population. Today, one in four Israelis is foreign-born.


This country has a similar migration system to some OECD countries, but at the same time it bears some distinctive features with respect to permanent migration, family migration and the status of temporary labour migrants.


There are a number of challenges which Israel faces in the management of migration, such as the vulnerability of guest workers, the persistence of illegal immigration, the illegal employment of foreigners and the difficulties faced by some immigrants to move from a temporary to a permanent resident status.


But there is much to be learned from the Israeli experience in the integration of immigrants and their children. You may be surprised to know that in Israel integration policy provides immigrants with a “basket” of cash payments and vouchers to spend on housing, training and consumption. And they are expected to complete an intensive language course and move fast into the labour market.


I invite you to read this section carefully. The experience of Israel is full of very nurturing lessons that can be of great help to those countries that are addressing immigration challenges.


These are just a few highlights of one of OECD’s flagship publications. I very much hope that they will stimulate your curiosity and interest. My colleagues and I would be happy to answer your questions. But first, let me thank the Commissioners for having honored us with their presence at this press conference. The floor is theirs. 


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