Launch of the International Migration Outlook 2018


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

20 June 2018, Paris, France

(As prepared for delivery)


Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to launch the 2018 International Migration Outlook. This is the 42nd edition of our annual flagship report on international migration flows and policies.

We are launching this report on World Refugee Day, a day to raise awareness of the millions of people forced to flee their homes, countries and loved ones in pursuit of safety and security. We should recognise their strength and courage as they try to re build a new life in their host countries. And we should also acknowledge the efforts of transit and host countries to manage large inflows of refugees in recent years.

OECD countries currently host around 5.3 million refugees, with more than half in Turkey alone. But this is only 24% of the estimated total number of people in need of international protection worldwide.

We are at a critical juncture. On the one hand, we are seeing progress in international co-operation on refugees and migration more generally. Preparation of the United Nations’ Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is entering its final stages. However, this undeniable progress in migration management on both the national and international front remains abstract for many people, who often feel overwhelmed with conflicting messages and impressions when it comes to discussing refugees and migration.

Our latest International Migration Outlook will help ensure that conversations around migration are based upon facts and evidence. Let me highlight some numbers from this year’s edition:

  • In 2017, around 5 million new permanent migrants arrived in OECD countries. In addition, more than 4 million temporary foreign workers were recorded in total in OECD countries in 2016, the highest since we began measuring such flows ten years ago. International student numbers have also reached record levels, with more than 3 million enrolled in higher education establishments in OECD countries.

  • Overall, 127 million foreign-born people were living in OECD countries in 2017, or 10% of the total population. Migration has contributed to sustaining much needed labour force growth in many OECD countries. For example, in the US, one third of population growth in 2000-2017 came from increases in the foreign-born population. This proportion is even larger — three-quarters of population growth — in the EU/EFTA area.

Beyond providing data on migration trends, this year’s International Migration Outlook reviews two main concerns about migration: the impact of refugee inflows on host country labour markets; and the illegal employment of foreign workers.

The report shows that, in most cases, fears about the impact of refugees on jobs in OECD countries are simply at odds with the facts. Indeed, our analysis suggests that the labour market impact of the recent refugee inflow will be small and concentrated.

For example, in Europe as a whole the increased inflow of refugees in 2015 16 is projected to enlarge the labour force by no more than 0.3% by December 2020. In some countries, however, the impact is expected to be much higher: Austria, Germany and Sweden will experience an increase of up to 0.8%. Since finding a job takes time, the impact on the host country labour force will initially materialise more in an increase in unemployment than in employment. Improving labour market integration is thus critical since employment affects many other dimensions of refugees’ social integration. Employers have a very important role to play in this respect, as discussed in the joint OECD-UNHCR action plan, Engaging with Employers in the Hiring of Refugees.

For some segments of the labour force, however, refugee inflows will have a much larger impact — notably young, low-educated men. In Austria and Germany, this segment could swell by 15%. As this population group is already vulnerable in most host countries, well-targeted measures are needed to provide adequate support: for example, by expanding access to practical training and equipping all with the skills needed to enhance employability.

This year’s edition of the International Migration Outlook also looks at the issue of the illegal employment of foreign workers, which weighs on the minds of many in OECD countries. The illegal employment of foreign workers is commonly understood as migrants who work without a legal right to stay in the host country, but this is only part of the picture. It also encompasses foreign workers who are staying legally in the host country, but who work informally. To address the different kinds of illegal employment, we need to introduce broad-based measures that draw on both labour market and migration policies, including creating legal pathways for migration and ensuring stronger labour inspections and enforcement of workplace regulation.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

“Immigrants bring to their work the same courage and ingenuity they demonstrated by moving to a new country.” These words by the Founding Director of the Oxford Martin School, Professor Ian Goldin, go to the heart of the matter. The potential contribution of migrants to our economies and societies is huge, however this requires well-managed and evidence-based migration policies and debates to ensure the understanding and support of native-born citizens. OECD evidence presented in this latest International Migration Outlook can inform an open, honest and accurate discussion. This requires addressing challenges and legitimate concerns, while respecting rules of law. Count on OECD data and analysis to continue informing these important conversations and policy decisions.

Thank you.



See also

Press release: Countries should focus on labour market policies to help refugees and improve coordinated actions to tackle illegal immigration

OECD work on migration

OECD Migration Insights


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