OECD Factbook 2008: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics
Previous page 11/146 Next page
branch Population and migration
branch International migration
    branch Migration and unemployment

Immigrant workers are more affected by unemployment in older European immigration countries while in North America, in Australia and to a lesser extent in Southern Europe, the unemployment rate tends to depend less on the place of birth. Some groups, such as young immigrants, women or older immigrants have particular difficulties finding jobs.


The unemployment rate is calculated as the share of the unemployed in the total labour force (employed and unemployed persons). In accordance with the ILO standards, unemployed persons consist of those persons who report that they are without work during the reference week, that they are available for work and that they have taken active steps to find work during the four preceding weeks.


All data for the European countries are from the European Union Labour Force Survey (second quarter). The national labour force survey, the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics and the Current Population Survey (March supplement) are used respectively for Australia, Canada and the United States. Even if unemployment levels can at times be affected by changes in the survey design (this is the case for France since 2004) and by survey implementation problems (e.g. non-response), the unemployment rates are generally consistent over time.

Long-term trends

In 2005, immigrants in the majority of European OECD countries were relatively more affected by unemployment than was the native population. In the Slovak Republic, in Finland, Germany, and Belgium, the unemployment rate of immigrants is higher than 15%. The rate is more than twice the level observed for the native-born in Finland, Belgium Denmark, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In other countries, however, especially the main settlement countries (Australia, Canada, the United States) and recent immigration countries (Italy, Spain, Greece), the unemployment rate does not vary much by birth status.

The period since 1995 has seen some sizable declines in the unemployment rates of the foreign-born, both men and women, in a number of countries, among them Australia, Denmark and Sweden, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. At the same time, labour market conditions have stagnated in a number of other countries and have had adverse consequences for immigrants in Austria, Germany and Portugal. 

More than 15% of immigrant women in the labour force are seeking employment in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, and the Slovak Republic. In relative terms, the unemployment rate of immigrant women is at least twice as high as that of natives in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Switzerland. The difference in absolute values vis-à-vis the native-born is systematically positive, but does not generally increase with the level of qualifications.



Further information

Analytical publications


Table 3.3.  Unemployment rates of foreign-and native-born populations


Note : Statlink StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/272400686475

Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

Unemployment rates of foreign-and native-born populations
    Table in Excel

3.3. Foreign-born unemployment rate relative to native-born unemployment rate Figure in Excel
Foreign-born unemployment rate relative to native-born unemployment rate

Visit the OECD web site