OECD Factbook 2011-2012: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics
Previous page 23/157 Next page
branch Population and migration
branch International migration
    branch Migration and unemployment

Immigrant workers are more affected by unemployment in traditional European immigration countries. Conversely, in South Africa, Hungary, the United States and Estonia, the unemployment rate depends less on the place of birth. Some groups, such as young immigrants, women or older immigrants have greater difficulties in finding jobs.


The unemployment rate is the share of the unemployed in the total labour force (the sum of 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 weeks preceding the interview.


Data for the European countries are from the European Union Labour Force Survey. Data for Australia are taken from the National Labour Force Survey; those for Canada from the Canadian Labour Force Survey; and those for the United States from the Current Population Survey. Even if unemployment levels can at times be affected by changes in the survey design (this occurred in France in 2004) and by survey implementation problems (e.g. non-response), data on unemployment rates are generally consistent over time.

Data for Brazil, Indonesia and the Russian Federation refer to 2000; data for South Africa refer to 2007.


In 2009, unemployment rates increased both for foreign- and native-born persons in most OECD countries. However immigrants in most European OECD countries were much more affected by unemployment than the native population. In Ireland, Finland, Estonia, Belgium, Sweden and France, the unemployment rate of immigrants was above 15%. It was close to 30% in Spain. The unemployment rate was more than twice the level observed for the native-born population in Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland. In other countries, especially in the settlement countries (Australia, Canada, the United States) and in recent immigration countries (Greece and Portugal), the unemployment rate does not vary much by birth status. In Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil, the native population was more affected by unemployment than immigrants.

Recent years have seen some sizable increases in the unemployment rates of the foreign-born (both men and women) in a number of countries, such as Spain, Ireland, the United States, Portugal and Luxembourg. At the same time, labour market conditions have improved for immigrants in the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland and Germany.

More than 15% of immigrant women are unemployed in Finland, Belgium, France, Greece and Germany. The unemployment rate of immigrant women is at least twice as high as that of native women in Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Denmark. In all OECD countries with the exception of South Africa, immigrant women have a higher unemployment rate than native women.



Further information
Analytical publications
Online databases
Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

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

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