G20 Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting: Promoting fair and effective labour market integration of regular migrants and recognised refugees – a potential for inclusive growth


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

OECD Secretary-General

Bad Neuenahr, Germany, 18 May 2017

(As prepared for delivery)


Dear Ministers,

Hosting 160 million migrants accounting for 66% of the world’s international migrants, G20 countries are at the centre of global migration, and many of them have seen a significant rise in migration recently. I commend the German Presidency for putting this high on the G20 agenda.

While for many regular migrants integration into the labour market is relatively fast, for refugees and especially the low-skilled, integration requires more time, even 10-15 years.

But these often large costs should be seen as a long-term investment given the contributions migrants give to our economies.

Migration strengthens economies by bringing much needed skills across the qualification spectrum.

Over the past decade, immigrants in the EU accounted for about 70% of labour force growth, and just below 50% in the US. Migrants also make an important and increasing share of the labour force in many other G20 countries, notably in specific sectors such as health care, construction or domestic services.

Migrants and refugees can contribute to boost economic growth and positively impact public finances, especially in countries with ageing population. Recent OECD work has shown that in most countries, immigrants pay more in taxes and social contribution than they receive in individual benefits.

But for our economies to harness the benefits of migration, it is essential to rapidly integrate migrants and refugees into the labour market:

  • First, by taking stock of skills, recognising foreign qualifications and ensuring they are well activated. Germany and Sweden, two countries with very large inflows of refugees over the past two years, are investing heavily in the early assessment and recognition of refugees’ skills and qualifications. But all too often, the skills of immigrants and their children are under-utilised. In the OECD, for example, more than half of tertiary educated migrants are inactive, unemployed or overqualified in their job.

  • Second, by adhering to international labour standards supporting conducive social conditions for integration.

  • Third, by strengthening cooperation with social partners, civil society and dialogue between receiving and sending countries.

Last but not least, when it comes to migration and refugees, emotions run high so it is particularly important for policy makers to be informed by facts and evidence. The OECD stands ready to regularly provide G20 countries with updated data on migration trends and policy challenges.

Ministers, this is, undoubtedly, a difficult agenda and countries around the table are in different circumstances. But if we are to turn international migration into an economic opportunity, we must take action now.



See also

OECD work on migration



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