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News : International Last Updated: Dec 19th, 2007 - 13:17:15

OECD International Migration Outlook 2006: Inflows of foreign nationals growing at more than 15% annual rate
By Finfacts Team
Jun 8, 2006, 10:00

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The OECD says in its International Migration Outlook 2006 report published today, that the trend decline in the number of asylum seekers observed since 2000 continued with a decrease of 20% between 2003 and 2004. New data show overall migration flows to the 30 Member Countries, is progressing by about 15% in countries for which harmonised data are available (see Table I.1), which amounts to over 330,000 persons for the countries concerned taken together.

Between 3 and 3.5 million immigrants, including those already living in their new country on a temporary basis, became official long-term residents in the 30 OECD countries in 2004.

Immigration rose sharply to the United States (+34%), Italy (+28%) and the United Kingdom (24%) during 2004, the latest year for which comparative figures are available. By contrast, immigration dropped sharply in Finland (-25%), Germany (-15%) and New Zealand (-14%). Over the same period, the number of asylum seekers arriving in OECD countries declined by more than 20%, continuing a trend that has seen a 35% drop since 2000.

Source: OECD

In relative terms, requests for asylum remain high in Austria, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. France is the country which had the highest number of requests in 2004, while the strongest declines between 2000 and 2004 were observed in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The increase in the number of foreign students was significant, in particular in New Zealand, Japan, Australia, France and Germany.

The OECD says that immigrants represent a growing share of the labour force in OECD countries, although there are important differences from one country to another. For example, they represent less than 1.5% of the working population in Japan, around 12% in Germany, but 25% in Switzerland and in Australia. A detailed analysis of the situation of immigrants on the labour market shows the spread of immigrant employment to the service sectors in most OECD countries while self-employment among immigrants is growing, in particular in Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Notwithstanding progress in employment of the foreign-born during the last decade, the latter encounter difficulties in most of the receiving countries in integrating into the labour market, as illustrated by a lower rate of employment compared to the native-born and a higher unemployment rate. In the countries of southern Europe and Ireland, as well as non-European OECD countries, this pattern is less apparent, indeed, one observes the opposite.

The report says that in certain OECD countries, the young, older workers and women encounter specific difficulties. Immigrants in these groups are even more at risk because they combine the disadvantages associated with their demographic group and with their origin. For example, in Belgium, France and Sweden, while unemployment among young people 15-24 born in the country exceeds 15%, the figure for young immigrants is twice as high. In a number of member countries, older immigrant workers have to contend with a similar situation in accessing the labour market. In Belgium, fewer than a quarter of 55-64 year olds born abroad are working, while in Germany and Denmark, the figure is a little over 35%.

The report looks in particular at the labour market integration of immigrant women in OECD countries. In most of them, foreign-born women have a lower employment rate compared to the native-born, generally below 60%. Moreover, the gap tends to widen with the level of education. This is partly attributable to problems with the recognition of foreign diplomas and qualifications. Women originating from non-OECD member countries are likely to find themselves in an even worse situation in the majority of countries.

Source: OECD


New data show overall flows progressing by about 15% in countries for which harmonised data are available (see Table I.1), which amounts to over 330,000 persons for the countries concerned taken together. Most of this is attributable to a large increase in the United States and to increases in Australia, Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom. In the United States, attribution of green cards rose by about 240 000 after a decline almost as large in 2003 as a result of constraints introduced following the September 11th attacks. The increase reflected a take-up of an accumulated backlog and a return to normal processing rates. Note that the change shown in the upper panel of Table I.1 does not include the impact of the 2003 regularisation programme in Italy. This witnessed the granting of residence permits to almost 635 000 persons. Such persons tend to show up as inflows in the year in which the regularisation takes place, although the immigrants concerned have generally entered over several years. They have not been included in Table I.1, to avoid distorting the statistics. In the lower half of Table I.1, virtually all of the observed change is accounted for by Spain. This country saw an increase in municipal registrations of foreign nationals of almost 220 000 in 2004, to a total level of close to 650 000.2 This was the first significant increase in registrations since 2001 and preceded the regularisation programme implemented in 2005. Since this programme was announced in the autumn of 2004 and since candidates had to show residence in Spain from at least early August 2004, the announcement of the regularisation itself seems unlikely to have produced this increase.

However, there had been some public speculation about the possibility of a regularisation for some months previously and this may have acted as a drawing card for some potential migrants. Among smaller countries, which can undergo significant changes that have only a marginal effect on the statistics as a whole, Norway and Portugal saw significant increases from 2003 to 2004. Inflows of foreign nationals in these countries increased by 14% and 18% respectively in 2004 compared to 2003. Countries showing significant declines (more than 10%), on the other hand, were Finland, Germany and New Zealand.


The report says that currently and indeed historically as well, persons with tertiary education tend to be overrepresented among international migrants.8 Indeed in most countries, the per cent of immigrants with a tertiary education exceeds the corresponding percentage in the native born population. There are a number of reasons for this. Persons with a tertiary education are more attuned to international labour markets and have a higher likelihood of possessing the means to carry out their plans than do persons with less education.

In addition, returns to tertiary tend to be high in OECD countries, adding a further inducement to move. What is true for persons outside the OECD area, however, tends also to be true for persons moving within the OECD zone, that is, expatriates from an OECD country tend to be very highly educated relative to the population remaining behind (OECD, 2004c).

However, not every OECD country can be a “winner” with regard to intra-OECD movements. Some countries receive more tertiary graduates than depart to other OECD countries, others are in the opposite situation. The “losses”, however, can be compensated for by immigration from non-OECD countries, so that there can be a net gain. Table I.7 summarises the situation for the current immigrant population in OECD countries, which represents the accumulated effect of several decades of population movements. Note, first of all that movements of the highly educated from the rest of the world exceed those from OECD countries (6% versus 4% of all tertiary educated in OECD countries). In addition, only the settlement countries of Australia, Canada and the United States and Luxembourg, Sweden and Switzerland gain significantly from migration of the highly educated within OECD countries. All other countries lose more graduates than they gain or show a small net balance. The picture also does not reflect current movements and policies, because Finland, Ireland and the United Kingdom, for example, who have been attracting persons from other OECD countries in recent years, show strong negative balances. Also showing a negative balance are the Central European countries, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, New Zealand and Portugal.

Source: OECD


The most significant development in Ireland concerns the large increase in inflows from the new accession states of the European Union. In addition applications for asylum approximately halved from 2003 to 2004. A number of legislative and policy proposals have been put forward to respond to the new migration developments in Ireland.

Both gross and net migrations into Ireland are their highest levels ever at 70 000 and 53 000 respectively for the year ending April 2005. About three fourths of the inflows consisted of foreign nationals and about 26 000 were from the new accession states. These are estimates based on the Irish labour force survey. However, statistics based on Personal Public Service numbers, which are necessary to work in the Irish Republic, show 80 000 such number issued to persons from the new member states in the 12 months following enlargement. Some numbers may have been issued to persons already in the country and some were obtained fraudulently (estimated to be 10%). On the other hand, it is known labour force surveys tend to undercover recent arrivals, so the true picture may lie somewhere in between.

The large drop in work permits issued and renewed, in general, and in particular to persons from the accession states indicates that nationals of these countries are now playing a more significant role in the supply of foreign labour to the Irish labour market. The strong increase in inflows from these countries was accompanied by a drop in the skill profile of the jobs taken up by persons immigrating fewer managers and professionals, more semiskilled and unskilled workers).

The Employment Permits Bill 2005 is intended to put in place a statutory framework for an active managed economic migration policy. It proposes green cards, an intra-company transfer scheme and revised work permits system. It will enable the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to limit by regulation the number of work permits that may be granted and provides certain protections for non-nationals in employment.

A “green card” is to be established for occupations where there are skill shortages, with a restricted list of occupations in the annual salary range from €30-60,000 and a more extensive list of occupations for annual salaries over €60,000. Green cards will be issued for two years in the first instance, with the possibility of long-term residence thereafter. The intra-company transfer scheme, suspended a few years ago, is to be re-established for temporary transnational management transfers for a period up to five years. The work permit scheme is modified to provide for a very restricted list of occupations in the annual salary range up to 30 000 euros where the shortage is one of labour rather than skills. The existing work permit system is modified by allowing both the employee and the employer to apply for an employment permit based on an offer of a job.

More information


Twenty countries originally signed the Convention on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on 14 December 1960. Since then a further ten countries have become members of the Organisation. The Member countries of the Organisation and the dates on which they deposited their instruments of ratification are:

AUSTRALIA: 7 June 1971
AUSTRIA: 29 September 1961
BELGIUM: 13 September 1961
CANADA: 10 April 1961
CZECH REPUBLIC: 21 December 1995
DENMARK: 30 May 1961
FINLAND: 28 January 1969
FRANCE: 7 August 1961
GERMANY: 27 September 1961
GREECE: 27 September 1961
HUNGARY: 7 May 1996
ICELAND: 5 June 1961
IRELAND: 17 August 1961
ITALY: 29 March 1962
JAPAN: 28 April 1964
KOREA: 12 December 1996
LUXEMBOURG: 7 December 1961
MEXICO: 18 May 1994
NETHERLANDS: 13 November 1961
NEW ZEALAND: 29 May 1973
NORWAY: 4 July 1961
POLAND: 22 November 1996
PORTUGAL: 4 August 1961
SLOVAK REPUBLIC: 14 December 2000
SPAIN: 3 August 1961
SWEDEN: 28 September 1961
SWITZERLAND: 28 September 1961
TURKEY: 2 August 1961
UNITED STATES: 12 April 1961

Copyright OECD 2006

© Copyright 2007 by Finfacts.com

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