Keep doors open to migrant workers to meet long-term labour needs, says OECD


30/06/2009 – The economic crisis is likely to cause the first major fall in the number of migrants coming to work in OECD countries since the 1980s, according to a new OECD report. This is already happening, for example, in Ireland, Spain and the UK, which were among the countries first hit by the downturn.

The International Migration Outlook 2009 says that migrant workers are also more affected by the deterioration of labour market conditions. They have been among the first to lose their jobs, with unemployment levels among immigrants almost doubling in Ireland, Spain and the United States since the beginning of the crisis. The unemployment rate among immigrants in Spain was 27.1% in the first quarter of 2009, compared to 15.2% for natives.

“In these challenging times, policymakers should address labour market integration as a matter of priority,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría at the presentation of the report (read the Secretary-General's speech).

The effects of the crisis coupled with more restrictive government policies are behind the fall in the number of immigrants seeking work in OECD countries, according to the report.

For the first time in many years, the allocation limit for the main US temporary work visa was not reached immediately this year. Australia witnessed a decline in temporary skilled migration of more than 25% in the first four months of 2009. In the United Kingdom and Ireland migration from the new EU member countries has declined by more than half.




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The Czech Republic, Japan and Spain have also put in place policies to encourage return migration among unemployed immigrants, by offering them money to return home. Past experience, however, shows that these schemes generally have limited impact.

The phenomenon of population ageing in OECD countries will not go away. This year´s International Migration Outlook proposes a road-map to manage labour migration that suggests to better identify labour market needs and adjust flows accordingly; reduce irregular migration and illegal employment or redirecting them into legal channels; and ensure better outcomes for immigrants and their children.

“Migration is not a tap that can be turned on and off at will,” said Mr Gurría. “We need responsive, fair and effective migration and integration policies – policies that work and adjust to both good economic times and bad ones. We also need to ensure that the benefits of migration are shared between sending and receiving countries. This requires responsible recruitment policies to avoid the risk of brain drain,” Mr. Gurria added.

For further information, journalists are invited to contact Jean-Christophe Dumont (tel. 33 1 45 24 92 43), Georges Lemaitre (tel. 33 1 45 24 91 63) or Thomas Liebig (tel. 33 1 45 24 90 68) in the OECD’s  International Migration Division.


Immigrants have been strongly affected by rising unemployment as a result of the economic downturn. But migration will remain an essential ingredient in the economy of the 21st century... 

Journalists are invited to download the report from the password protected site or they can contact Sara Sreberny-Mohammadi in the OECD’s Media Division.

Further information on International Migration Outlook 2009 can be found at

For more information about the High-Level Policy Forum on Migration (OECD Paris, 29-30June 2009), please visit:


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