Temporary Labour Migration
Temporary labour migration is back in the headlines again. It had fallen into discredit after the experience of the "guest-worker" era, when many of the guest workers who were present at the time of the first oil price shock remained in the host countries where they had found work. Recently, much of the debate on temporary labour migration has focused on so-called "circular migration", which also incorporates the notion of repeated movements.
Trends in Migration Flows and in the Immigrant Population
OECD countries are currently entering what is likely to be a significant period with respect to international migration movements. The effect of the retiring baby-boom cohorts and of declining youth cohorts is beginning to make itself felt in almost all countries. There have been significant labour migration movements over the past decade in southern Europe, Ireland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the traditional settlement countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States). Elsewhere, although long-term labour migration has tended to be more limited, there are far from negligible contributions to the labour force from family and humanitarian migrants, which together account for more than half of all permanent-type immigrants in many countries, as well as from free circulation movements in countries where such regimes exist. While there is a consensus about the desirability of higher skilled migration and, in many countries, concern about costs and risks associated with lower skilled migration, labour shortages are manifesting themselves in sectors where there are many lesser skilled occupations. The same sectors are appearing as shortage areas across many countries, in particular construction, hotels and restaurants, food processing, agriculture, household services, cleaning, personal care. Often the jobs involved are low paid and the working conditions unappealing to the domestic work force.
Immigrants and the Labour Market
This section looks at the recent trends in immigrant employment in OECD countries in the light of overall labour market dynamics. It also considers the situation of immigrants in terms of their integration into the labour market. Finally, it offers a preliminary approach to the issue of pay differences between immigrant and native-born workers, and a comparative analysis for selected OECD countries.
Migration Policy Development
For the most part, 2006-07 has been a relatively "quiet" period in international migration for OECD members, without new major perturbations in flows. This has provided governments with time to reflect on their policies, introduce new measures and in some cases embark on substantial structural and institutional changes in the organisation of their administration of migration policy and process. Some of the legislative or operational changes represent the continuation or completion of unfinished business, others are new initiatives. During the period under review almost all OECD countries brought in legislative change. Australia, Finland, France, Mexico, the Netherlands and Sweden had changes of government, the consequences being that proposed Bills fell with the old government and/or new directions were taken by their successors with new programmes for dealing with migration. In the United States, failure to get agreement on new legislation has created a hiatus, pending new elections in 2008.
Management of Low-Skilled Labour Migration
Government policy with respect to managed migration has concentrated on attracting high-skilled workers, as OECD countries vie to attract the most highly educated professionals in key industries. Labour market shortages, however, are also appearing in many lesser skilled jobs. Rising educational levels and shrinking numbers of young people mean in practice that there are fewer native-born people available and willing to perform these low-wage jobs in many OECD countries. In many countries, the demand for workers for low-skilled jobs has been met partly through migration. Indeed, immigrants have already been playing a significant role in meeting the demand for workers for such jobs.
For many immigrants, returning home is a prospect they cherish and one that sustains them during their migration history. Ties with the home country, even if stretched, keep this aspiration alive. Recently arrived migrants, or those arriving under temporary programmes, lend themselves naturally to these return dynamics. Yet in fact some will return home and others will not; some will move on to a new destination, while others will be caught up in a cycle of circular migration. While return migration is a major component of migratory flows, our knowledge of it is still fragmentary.
Permanent immigration to Australia has continued to grow. Entries under the 2006-07 migration programme were 148 200, the largest in more than a decade. The shift towards skilled migration, which began in the second half of the 1990s, continued, resulting in the largest number of skilled migrants (including accompanying family) ever admitted to Australia.
In 2006, the inflow of foreigners to Austria continued to decline to 85 400 (–16 100 compared to 2005) after having reached a peak of 108 900 in 2004. At the same time, outflows of foreigners increased, resulting in a net migration of 32 500, the lowest level since 2002.
Migration flows continued to increase in 2006, with official figures showing that more than 83 000 foreigners had immigrated to Belgium. This was 8% more than in 2005 and was the highest level recorded for over twenty years. Just over half of these entrants came from European Union countries, with French and Dutch nationals accounting for the bulk of migrants, the latter two nationalities representing more than one-fifth of new entrants. It should be noted, though, that immigration flows from Poland continued to rise steeply (a little over 6 500 people, i.e. an increase of nearly 40% compared to 2005).
Migration from and to Bulgaria appears to have increased markedly in 2006 and 2007 in light of Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union on 1 January 2007. However, the impact on outflows has been somewhat more limited than expected. Emigration had already accelerated following the liberalisation of the visa regimes for Bulgarian citizens since 2001. Postaccession labour migration from Bulgaria has mainly concentrated in the Southern European countries Spain, Italy and Greece – in spite of the fact that none of these countries have fully opened their labour market to Bulgarian nationals. There are some indications, however, that many of the Bulgarian nationals concerned were already in these countries prior to accession.
In 2006, about 252 000 people were admitted to Canada as permanent residents, a 4% decrease over the previous year. Family migration was the only category registering an increase, reaching the highest level in a decade. China and India remained the top two source countries of permanent migration, accounting for 13% and 12%, respectively, of new arrivals.
In 2006 immigration to the Czech Republ ic reached 68 000, an increase of about 13% as compared to the previous year and the highest level recorded since the establishment of the Czech Republic in 1993. In the meantime, emigration also increased significantly to 33 500. As a result, net migration was more or less stable at about 35 000 in 2006.
In 2005, long-term immigration to Denmark reached 32 800 people, an increase of 1 700 over the previous year. 2006 figures are not yet available, as national statistics define immigrants on an ex post-basis as persons who entered in a given year and stayed for at least 12 months.
Immigration of foreign citizens into Finland has continued to grow. It reached about 13 900 in 2006, which represents a new high and an increase of about 9% relative to 2005. Most of the increase in foreign immigration was due to movements from EU countries, especially Estonia, as a result of the removal of the transition arrangements in May 2006. Finland also fully opened its labour market to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals in 2007.
After a number of years of strong growth (13% annual average between 1995 and 2003), permanent inflows have slowed down significantly since 2004. In 2006, approximately 135 000 foreigners were admitted for residence, a level comparable to that of 2005. This levelling off is due to the decrease in the number of foreigners granted asylum in France (–6 400 in comparison with 2005) and the increase in family migration (+4 300) and labour migration (+1 500).
The decline in long-term migration that has been evident for a number of years continued in 2006. This notably concerns family migration, humanitarian migration, and – in particular – immigration of persons of German origin from the successor countries of the former Soviet Union. Less than 8 000 persons immigrated under this category in 2006, compared to more than 35 000 in 2005 and between 100 000 and 230 000 in the 1990s. Likewise, immigration of Jewish resettlers from the former Soviet Union decreased to about 1 000 in 2006 compared to about 6 000 in 2005 which was already the lowest number since the establishment of the programme in the early 1990s. Family migration also reached its lowest point for more than a decade with only about 50 000 visas for family reunification in 2006. Asylum seeking has also continued its strong decline, reaching about 21 000 in 2006 – the lowest level since the early 1980s.
Immigration to Greece has been significant in recent years, although flow data are difficult to obtain and much immigration has been irregular. 85 000 new residence permits were issued in 2006, a 68% increase over 2005. 15% were for family reunification. Likewise, the registered resident foreign population increased by more than 90 000 from 2005 to 2006 – i.e. a growth of more than 15%. As in the past, Albanians are the main nationality concerned, although there are some indications of a diversification of the immigrant population. Albanians account for about 70% of the stocks, but for less than 40% of the change in stocks.
Compared to other OECD countries, migration movements play a limited role in Hungary. This appears to be the case for both in- and outflows, although the current registration system is not designed for monitoring long-term emigration. Immigrants account for less than 2% of the population, and the vast majority of these are Hungarian speaking. After the 2005 peak with an inflow of almost 25 600 foreign nationals, immigration to Hungary decreased by 14% to about 19 400 in 2006. In spite of a strong decline in recent years, Romanians remained the main nationality concerned (about 6 800, compared to more than 12 100 in 2004), followed by Ukrainians. Chinese are now the third most important nationality among the inflows, following a strong increase (almost 1 500 in 2006, compared to about 550 in 2005).
Immigration to Ireland continued its strong growth path in 2006. Long-term (over one year) migration of foreign nationals was about 89 000. This represents an increase of more than one third over 2005, which was already the highest immigration on record. Preliminary figures for 2007 show, however, a stagnation at this high level.
Permanent immigration to Italy continues to be significant and largely employment based. Labour immigration is subject to annual numerical limits ("quotas") applied to employer requests for foreign workers. These quotas have been raised over the past few years to meet forecasted demand. In both 2006 and 2007 the quotas were set at 170 000, twice the 2005 figure. About 520 000 applications for permits were made in 2006, when employers filed requests through the post office. The government later decided to accept all applications, but administrative delays meant that most applications were not considered until the end of 2006, when Romanian and Bulgarian citizens became exempt from the procedure. Excluding Romanian and Bulgarian citizens, as well as incomplete and duplicate applications, the actual number of applications approved was about 253 000. The 2007 quotas contained a larger number of reserved set-asides than the previous year.
Permanent-type inflows of foreign nationals to Japan increased only slightly in 2006, to reach about 87 000, in relative terms one of the lowest immigration rates among OECD countries. The flows are about evenly split between labour, family and ancestry-based migrants (persons of Japanese ancestry from Latin America). About 10% of the flows concern changes in status among international students who stay on after the completion of their studies, almost 73% of whom are from China, and a further 11% from Korea. Most of these are specialists in the humanities and international services (interpreters and translators), but about 20% are engineers.
Long term inf lows of foreigners to Korea reached about 315 000 in 2006. This corresponds to an increase of almost 20% compared to 2005, and a two-thirds increase compared to 2004. Net long term migration of foreigners amounted to 132 000 in 2006, one of the highest figures ever recorded.
Emigration continues to dominate migration movements in Lithuania, despite some signs that this is gradually slowing down and immigration increasing. Recorded emigration in 2006 was around 12 600. Based on surveys carried out in 2006 and 2007 which showed that around 60% of emigrants are undeclared, the Lithuanian Statistical Department estimates total emigration for 2006 as 27 800. Both declared and undeclared emigration has declined since 2005 (by 19% for declared and 58% for undeclared) despite the fact that in 2006 six additional EU countries opened their labour markets to Lithuanian citizens. The main destination country remains the United Kingdom, followed by Ireland, Germany and Spain. Although relatively lower than in the neighbouring Baltic countries Estonia and Latvia (where they amount to 4% and 10% of GDP, respectively) , migrant remittances reached 614 million Euros in 2006 representing 2.6% of Lithuania’s GDP.
The recent revision of the population figures for Luxembourg shows that the foreign population is continuing to grow: in January 2007, it accounted for nearly 42% of the resident population, as compared with around 41% in 2005 and 37% in 2001. This is by far the largest proportion among all OECD countries. Although net migration in 2006 accounted for more than 75% of population growth (approximately 5 400 out of 7 100), it should be pointed out that only foreigners make a positive contribution to the natural balance (an increase of nearly 2 400 as opposed to a decrease of approximately 600 for nationals). The totality of Luxembourg’s population growth is therefore due to foreigners.
Mexican migration continues to be dominated by migration flows to the US – either of Mexicans or of immigrants from other Central and South American countries that use Mexico as a transit state. Unauthorised immigration from Mexico to the US is estimated to be at about 315 000 persons per year, adding to the about 6 570 000 unauthorised Mexicans already in the US. With the increased physical border controls that are the result of legislation to increase border security passed by the US government in 2006, there are signs that the flows may have somewhat diminished since then.
In 2006, the number of immigrants to the Netherlands increased for the f irst time since 2001, reflecting growing labour migration in the context of a tightening labour market. More than 101 000 immigrants came to the Netherlands in 2006, compared to about 92 000 in 2005. At the same time, however, emigration from the Netherlands (including both Dutch and foreign nationals) rose for the seventh year in a row, from 83 400 in 2005 to just over 91 000 in 2006. When correcting for unreported emigration, total emigration even exceeded total immigration by more than 31 000 – the largest figure for several decades.
Nearly 47 000 people were approved for residence in New Zealand in 2006-07 which was around 4 000 people less than in the previous year. The largest source countries were the United Kingdom (26%), China (12%), India (9%) and South Africa (8%).
According to national statistics, immigration of foreign nationals in 2006 was 37 400, an increase of more than 6 000 compared to 2005. This is the highest level ever recorded. The significant increase was mainly the result of the high level of labour immigration, especially from Poland. Inflows of Polish citizens more than doubled since 2005 to reach 7 500 in 2006. In total, one-third of all immigrants came from the new member states. But labour migration from non- EEA countries has also increased. The number of permits issued for skilled labour – which mainly concern non-EEA nationals, with Indians now being the leading nationality – almost doubled to 2 000. Preliminary figures for 2007 indicate a further increase.
Migration flows in Poland are still largely outward and have increased steadily during the last decade and especially since the country’s accession to the EU in May 2004. Precise figures on emigration are difficult to obtain, as most people do not declare emigration. The national Labour Force Survey provides a lower-bound estimate of about 537 000 Poles who had been abroad for more than two months in the second quarter of 2007, up 38% from the same quarter of 2006. About half of these Poles were abroad for more than 12 months. Post-accession labour emigration has been disproportionately female, younger and better educated. The main destinations are the UK and Ireland, although migration to Germany, Norway and Sweden has also been high. With the ongoing expansion of Poland’s economy, an improving exchange rate and rising wages, there are some signs of a slowdown of emigration in the second half of 2007.
The declining trend of immigration to Portugal observed since 2003 apparently stopped in 2006. The different components of legal migration totalled more than 42 000 in 2006, an increase of almost 50% compared to 2005. The largest increases were observed among migrants from Eastern Europe, most of whom appear to have come to Portugal for family reunion motives.
Migration movements in and out of Romania were marked by the country’s accession to the European Union on 1 January 2007. Although data on migration flows for Romania are difficult to obtain, there are several indications that this was associated with significant increases in migration movements, which continue to be strongly dominated by emigration.
With significant emigration in 2006 and a solid GDP growth of more than 8% the Slovak Republic has started to exhibit labour shortages. Nevertheless, few measures aimed at encouraging immigration of foreign workers have been taken and immigration thus far has been modest. Based on national statistics which use self-reporting of permanent address by residents, immigration increased only slightly to 5 600 persons in 2006, compared to 5 300 persons in 2005, the first year after EU accession.
Spain continued to receive significant inflows during 2006 and 2007. According to municipal register statistics, more than 800 000 foreigners moved to Spain in 2006, up 17% over the previous year. The main source countries were Romania (110 000), Bolivia (69 000) and Morocco (60 000). According to registries, there were 4.5 million foreigners in Spain in early 2007, accounting for 10% of the population. The main nationalities were from Morocco (583 000), Romania (527 000), Ecuador (427 000) and the United Kingdom (315 000).
Permanent-type migration movements of foreign nationals to Sweden increased by almost 40% from 2005 to 2006, reaching approximately 74 000 persons. This is the highest level observed in the statistics of (harmonised) permanent-type migration since 1995 and this is also mirrored in the national statistics. Much of the increase relative to 2005 is attributable to a temporary amendment to the Aliens Act, which gave asylum seekers who had been denied a residence permit but had stayed in Sweden for a long period the right to a new assessment. As a result of this amendment, 17 350 were granted a residence permit. Iraq, Serbia and Somalia were the countries of origin with the largest number of reviewed cases.
Immigration into Switzerland increased in 2006, reaching a total of 102 700 persons, 63% of whom came from an EU country. This was the highest level since the beginning of the 1990s. Germans and Portuguese remained the two largest groups, accounting respectively for 24% and 12% of new arrivals. There was a decline in immigration from Italy (5%), Serbia (5%) and Spain (1.5%), which were formerly the main sending countries of foreign workers. This increase in immigration is primarily due to the growth of labour migration, although immigration for family and humanitarian reasons also rose in 2006. According to the OECD’s standardised statistics, slightly more than 38 000 people immigrated to Switzerland for work purposes, a 20% increase over the previous year, accounting for approximately 44% of total permanent immigration in 2006.
Although migration data for Turkey remains difficult to obtain, there are several indications that migration from and to Turkey in 2006 broadly continued similar trends to those observed in prior years. Official emigration figures are not reported. The number of Turkish nationals seeking asylum continued to strongly decline, falling to around 8 000, a drop of about 30%. In contrast, contract-dependent temporary labour migration via the intermediary of the Turkish Employment Office increased by 35% in 2006 to reach about 81 000 persons. About half of this temporary migration is towards the Middle East (about 40 000, an increase of 60% over 2005). Within this region, Saudi Arabia stands out, accounting for 20 000 persons in 2006 – a three-fold increase compared to 2005. The remainder of the flows is essentially towards the Commonwealth of Independent States (about 37 000, an increase of 30%). Together, these two regions accounted for about 95% of the flows under this category. Temporary migration flows from Turkey to other OECD countries have been comparatively small for the past few years and in constant decline.
The United Kingdom remains an important destination country for international migration flows as well as experiencing high levels of emigration by its own citizens. In 2006, the estimated number of people arriving to live in the UK for at least a year was 591 000, with an estimated 400 000 people leaving the UK giving a net gain of 191 000. There was a net gain of 71 000 citizens from the Eastern Europe states which joined the EU on 1 May 2004 (A8). The inflows of workers from the A8 countries, which were granted access to the UK labour market, have remained fairly steady since accession. 218 000 citizens of these countries registered under the Worker Registration Scheme between June 2006 and June 2007, in keeping with the annual average for the previous two years. More than two-thirds of these were Poles, with Lithuanians and Slovaks the next largest groups. Indeed, Poles are now the largest group of foreign citizens, with 406 000 (292 000 working) in 2007. The total number of A8 citizens was 587 000, of whom 409 000 were working, a much higher proportion than among the native-born.
Permanent immigration to the USA rose again during the US Fiscal Year 2006 (1 October 2005 through 30 September 2006), with 1 266 000 people receiving lawful permanent residency status. This represents a 13% increase over FY (Fiscal Year) 2005 and the highest level since 1991. The increase mostly comprised humanitarian migrants, whose numbers increased sharply over the previous year from 143 000 to 216 000, and those migrating for family reunification, which rose from 649 000 to 803 000 – mainly the unrestricted class of immediate family members. Admissions under the employment-based preferences category, on the other hand, fell sharply from 247 000 to 159 000. The decline in employmentbased immigration was largely due to administrative delays rather than a drop in demand or a change in the caps. More than half of the employment-based visas went to family members of the principal applicant.
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