International Migration Outlook

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1999-124X (online)
1995-3968 (print)
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OECD’s annual publication analysing recent developments in migration movements and policies in its countries. Each edition provides the latest statistical information on immigrant stocks and flows, immigrants in the labour market, and migration policies. Country Reports provide detailed policy information for each OECD country and special reports look at current issues in immigration.

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International Migration Outlook 2012

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27 June 2012
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9789264177239 (PDF) ; 9789264177208 (print)

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OECD's annual publication analysing recent developments in migration movements and policies in its countries. Each edition provides the latest statistical information on immigrant stocks and flows, immigrants in the labour market, and migration policies. This 2012 edition covers all OECD countries, as well as the Russian Federation, Bulgaria, Romania and Lithuania. Two special chapters complement the information on movements and policies: "Renewing the skills of ageing workforces: The role of migration" and "The Changing Role of Asia in International Migration". The publication also features country profiles and a statistical annex.


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  • Foreword

    This publication constitutes the thirty-sixth report of the OECD’s Continuous Reporting System on Migration. The report is divided into four parts plus a statistical annex.

  • Editorial

    The great recession which began in late 2008 brought an abrupt halt to the upward trend in international migration inflows to OECD countries. Three years later, with a sluggish recovery underway in the OECD area and many countries still grappling with high unemployment, the first tentative signs of a recovery in migration flows appeared. Now is a good moment to look back and draw the lessons learned about labour migration from the crisis and from other recent experiences in this area.

  • Executive summary

    The slowdown in migration into OECD countries caused by the global economic crisis seems to have come to an end. Migration into OECD countries fell in 2010 for the third year in a row, but started to rise again in most countries in 2011. Temporary labour migration continued to fall, albeit more slowly, while the number of people coming to OECD countries to study continued to grow.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Trends in international migration

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    • Trends in international migration flows and in the immigrant population

      Following the strong decline in 2009, macroeconomic conditions improved in most OECD countries in 2010/11. However, the recovery generally remained fragile, in particular in Southern Europe, where the debt crisis dampened economic prospects. With the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Japan also re-entered into recession. Unemployment hit a high of 8.3% in 2010 and declined only marginally in 2011, to 8.1%. It thus remained well above the pre-crisis level of 5.7% in 2007.

    • Employment

      More than three years after the onset of the crisis, with a sluggish recovery underway in the OECD area, many countries, notably in Europe, are still grappling with high unemployment and increasing long-term unemployment. The magnitude of the effect of the recession on the labour market has however been varying among OECD countries. Overall, in the OECD area, unemployment increased by 54.5% between December 2007 and January 2012, which corresponds to about 13.7 million more unemployed persons. The three European countries greatest hit by the crisis in Europe, Ireland, Spain and Greece, have also experienced the largest increases in unemployment in the OECD together with Iceland and Estonia. Unemployment rates in Spain and Greece have more than doubled in this period reaching 23% and 20% respectively, while those in Iceland, Estonia and Ireland at 6.7%, 11.7% and 14.8% respectively, were close to three times those in December 2007 (). Portugal, Hungary, Italy, France, Poland, the Slovak Republic had all unemployment rates above the OECD average of 8.4% in January 2012. In contrast, in Austria, Chile, Israel,The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law. Germany and Turkey, the unemployment rate had returned to its pre-crisis level (or below that) in January 2012.

    • Migration policy developments

      Behind the migration policy changes in OECD and other countries in recent years have been a number of factors. In some cases, policies have been changed to deal with the effects of the global economic crisis, often through more restrictive measures. In other cases, policy changes reflect a shift in paradigm, due to changes in governments or other shifts in the social and political situation in countries. While long-standing concerns about the impact of ageing populations and the need to attract skilled workers remain in the background, and even in crisis drive some reforms, this has been counteracted by a souring of public opinion regarding migration in some countries. Finally, many reforms are a response not to external factors but to efficiency issues, such as bottlenecks and backlogs in processing, or to refinements made based on operational experience, such as tweaks to admission criteria to prevent abuse.

    • Renewing the skills of ageing workforces: The role of migration

      examines the role which different demographic groups (youth, new immigrants, persons of prime working age and older persons) have played in changes in the educational attainment of the labour force and in changes in the distribution of occupations.

    • The changing role of Asia in international migration

      looks at emerging issues around migration within Asia and from Asia to OECD countries, asking three key questions: will OECD countries continue to be able to attract and retain skilled migrants from the region? Will Asian destination countries manage the transition from restrictive policies to selective policies, as well as the challenges posed by the integration of immigrants? To what extent will consolidated models for managing labour migration in the region continue to function effectively? It begins with an overview of Asian migration, then looks at the competitive challenge Asian countries are presenting as migration destinations, and considers the specific difficulties in managing low-skilled and family migration faced by OECD and non-OECD Asian countries.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Country notes: Recent changes in migration movements and policies

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    • Australia

      In 2010-11, Australia’s combined migration and humanitarian programmes totalled 182 500, slightly higher than the 2009-10 figure, and the second highest level on record after 2008-09. 92% of places came under the migration programme – 62% through the skill stream and 30% through the family stream – and 8% through the humanitarian programme. For the first time, China was the main source of new migrants to Australia, accounting for an 18% share of the 2010-11 Migration Program, up from a 10% share a decade ago. In addition, over 34 500 New Zealand permanent settlers came under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, 41% more than in 2009-10. For 2011-12, the overall size of the migration and humanitarian programmes is set at 199 750 places, comprising 125 850 skilled migration, 58 600 family, and 13 750 humanitarian places.

    • Austria

      In 2010, according to national statistics, the total inflow of foreign nationals to Austria was 98 300, up 7% over 2009, when there had been a decline related to the economic crisis. At the same time, outflows remained fairly stable at 66 400, leading to net immigration of foreign nationals of 31 900, 24% higher than in 2009.

    • Belgium

      The most recent data on the stock of foreigners in Belgium are from 31 December 2009, when the foreign population of 1.06 million represented 9.8% of the total population of Belgium. At the same date, the foreign-born population was 1.5 million (14% of the total population). Since 2008, the principal country of origin of the foreign-born has been Morocco, followed by France, the Netherlands and Italy.

    • Bulgaria

      The 2011 census data confirmed that Bulgaria has been a net emigration country since 1992. Over the twenty-year period, emigration represented a 6% loss in the total population, and a 10% loss considering only the active population. High emigration levels were accompanied by natural decrease, related to low fertility rates, which contributed a further 12% to total population loss in the same period.

    • Canada

      Canada admitted about 281 000 permanent migrants in 2010, an 11% increase over the previous year, and the largest number since 1957. As in previous years, the top sending countries were the Philippines (13%), India (11%) and China (11%), although the order changed from 2009. China, despite a 4% increase in new permanent residents, fell from the top source country in 2009 to third in 2010. The Philippines jumped into top place recording a 34% increase over 2009, while India rose to second with a 16% increase. In 2010, most permanent migrants (61%) entered Canada for family-related reasons (this includes the spouses and dependents of economic principal applicants). Labour migrants accounted for roughly one-quarter of long-term inflows, and one out of eight permanent migrants acquired a residence permit on humanitarian grounds.

    • Chile

      According to national estimations based on Census data, almost 370 000 foreign-born persons were living in Chile in 2010, which represents an increase of around 20 000 compared with the previous year and twice the number of immigrants registered in 2002. Most immigrants in Chile are from other South American countries, with 61% from neighbouring countries. Over the past few years, Peru has replaced Argentina as the main country of origin. Between 2002 and 2009, the number of immigrants from Peru has more than tripled, from 38 000 to 131 000. They now account for 37% of the migrant population, followed by Argentines (17%), Bolivians (6%), Ecuadorians (5%) and Colombians (4%).

    • Czech Republic

      Immigration into the Czech Republic continued to decline in 2010, following a trend started in 2008. According to national statistics, about 30 500 immigrants entered the country in 2010, a decrease by 21% compared with the previous year (39 000). In parallel, outflows increased from almost 12 000 to almost 15 000 persons. In total, net migration declined to 15 600, about 11 700 less than in 2009.

    • Denmark

      In 2010, the total number of new residence permits granted in Denmark was about 59 000, a slight increase compared with the corresponding figure for 2009 (57 000). 43% of residence permits were granted on the basis of EEA free movement, 26% for study (including permits granted to au pairs and interns), 18% for employment (including self-employment) and 8% for family reunification. More than 2 100 persons were granted refugee status (4% of the total number of residence permits), which was the highest level since 2004.

    • Estonia

      There were 1.32 million people living in Estonia on 1 January 2012, of which almost 16% were foreigners. The vast majority of the foreign population is longstanding and arrived in Estonia prior to 1991 as internal migrants from other parts of the Soviet Union.

    • Finland

      According to national statistics, the number of foreigners living in Finland at the end of 2011 was 183 000, or about 3.4% of the population, with the largest groups represented by Estonians (33 900) and Russians (29 600).

    • France

      Permanent immigration excluding freedom of movement (nationals of Romania, Bulgaria and third countries do not benefit from freedom of movement) reached a level of roughly 137 000 entries in 2010, an 8% increase over 2009. This increase was driven by an 8% rise in family reunification, to 84 000, while humanitarian and labour migration flows were stable. In part the increase reflects the entries with a long-stay visa constituting a residence permit (Visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour, VLS-TS) in 2009, some of whom were not registered until 2010.

    • Germany

      Total inflows of foreigners in Germany were 683 500 in 2010, an increase by 13% over 2009. In the same period, outflows of foreigners decreased by 8%, to just under 530 000, leading to a net inward migration of foreigners of almost 154 000 in 2010, a fivefold increase on the corresponding figure for 2009. Net migration of German nationals, however, was negative 26 000 in 2010. The main origin countries of arriving foreigners remained Poland (17%) and Romania (11%), followed by Bulgaria (6%) and Hungary, which replaced Turkey in the fourth position.

    • Greece

      Data on immigration in Greece are not consistently available, but the principal sources available suggest a decline in the stock of immigrants in 2010, and an even sharper decrease in 2011. According to LFS data, in the fourth quarter of 2010 there were 810 000 foreigners living in Greece, a 4% decrease over the corresponding figures for 2009. According to the Ministry of Citizen Protection (former Ministry of Interior) permit data, the stock of non-EU permit holders (non-seasonal) at the end of 2010 stood at 567 000, a decrease by 20 000 compared with the previous year. Preliminary figures for the end of 2011 suggest that the total number of permit holders was down by 100 000. In 2010, the largest groups of non-EU citizens with permits were from Albania (491 000), Ukraine (20 500), Georgia (16 500), and Pakistan (16 300). The largest groups of EU nationals in Greece come from Bulgaria and Romania.

    • Hungary

      Hungary is a not a major destination for international migrants. The stock of foreign nationals is comparably small and makes up only 2% of the overall population. By January 2011 it stood at 209 000 persons. It is estimated that up to 40% of these are ethnic Hungarians from neighbouring countries.

    • Ireland

      Migration in Ireland continues to be affected by the country’s severe economic crisis. Between 2007 and 2011, net migration fell from +1.6% to –0.8% of total population. Three years after Irish employment levels peaked in the third quarter of 2007, the country had lost almost 290 000 jobs, a decline of 14%, and the unemployment rate exceeded 14%. Migrant inflows to Ireland decreased sharply from 110 000 in the year prior to April 2007 (FY 2007) to 31 000 in FY 2010. A slight increase in immigration was observed in FY 2011, when 42 000 inflows were recorded.

    • Israel

      The foreign-born population still accounts for about 26% of total population in Israel, although migration flows have been relatively low in the past decade. In 2010, there were 16 600 new permanent immigrants to Israel, an increase of 14% over 2009 and a rate of 2 immigrants per thousand residents. The uptick in permanent immigration to Israel continued in 2011, with 12 500 entries of permanent immigrants recorded in the first 8 months of the year, 1 500 more than in the corresponding period for 2010. The main countries from which immigrants arrived were the United States, the Russian Federation and Ethiopia, with a share of about 17% each, followed by France (11%) and Ukraine (9%).

    • Italy

      Permanent immigration to Italy remains at high levels. According to data from the population register, as of 1 January 2011 the stock of foreign residents had increased by 8% on an annual basis, to reach 4.57 million persons. Foreign residents accounted for 7.5% of the entire Italian population. The increase in the stock of foreign population in 2010 was mainly due to the 424 000 arrivals from abroad, up 4% compared with 2009.

    • Japan

      Inflows of foreign nationals reached 287 000 in 2010 (excluding temporary visitors), a decrease of almost 10 000 compared with 2009. The number of new entrants with the status of residence for the purpose of work, declining since 2005, fell a further 8% in 2010, to 52 500. The most important category of entry for employment remained entertainers (28 600). Entries of intra-company transferees remained at the same level as in 2009 (5 000), while the inflow of skilled workers decreased by 33%, to less than 4 000.

    • Korea

      By the end of 2010, the foreign population in Korea stood at around 1 261 000 persons, an increase of 8% (92 200) compared with the previous year. Foreign residents represented 2.5% of the total population. Citizens of China account for a half of total foreign population, followed by citizens of the United States (127 000) and Vietnamese (103 000).

    • Lithuania

      From 2009 to 2010, Lithuania saw a drop in total immigration and a sharp increase in emigration parallel with steadily worsening labour market conditions. After falling 30% on an annual basis in 2009, total inflows declined by a further 20% in 2010, to 5 200 entries, including returning Lithuanian citizens, who represented 80% of the total inflow. The number of registered departures increased from 22 000 in 2009 to 83 600 in 2010. The 2010 figure was five times higher than the corresponding figures for 2004 and 2005. This increase may, however, include many previous emigrants who only now reported their departures, as deregistration from the population register became mandatory, to avoid compulsory health insurance payments. While unemployment levels have fallen in 2011, emigration continues, albeit at a lower level: in 2011, 53 900 departures were recorded. Official figures only reflect emigrants who leave the country for a period longer than one year and report their departure. According to estimations based on census data, undeclared emigration accounted, on average, for more than a half of total outflows in the period 2001-10. In 2010 the net migration rate (based on the national registry) in Lithuania was –23.7 per 1 000 inhabitants, the lowest in the European Union (EU). Provisional data for 2011 suggest net migration of –11.8 per 1 000 inhabitants.

    • Luxembourg

      Luxembourg, one of the faster-growing countries in Europe, had 512 000 inhabitants on 1 January 2011, 43% of whom were foreign nationals.

    • Mexico

      The number of foreign-born residents in Mexico rose 13% from 2009 to 2010, from 860 000 to 961 000. Since 2000, the foreign-born population has doubled, although most of the foreign-born are Mexican citizens, as inflows of foreigners over the past decade have been more limited. Permanent immigration of foreigners to Mexico increased by almost 10% in 2010 compared with 2009, to around 26 000 persons. The top origin countries were the United States, (4 000 immigrants), followed by Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala and China, (about 2 000 immigrants each). The number of seasonal workers entering Mexico in 2010 decreased by 10% on an annual basis, to 27 400, almost all from Guatemala.

    • Netherlands

      Inflows to the Netherlands rose by 5% in 2010 to 154 400, the highest figure in three decades. 30% of these entries were Dutch nationals. Outflows also increased, to 91 400. Out of the emigrants, 56% were Dutch nationals. Overall net migration decreased slightly compared with 2009, with a surplus of 33 100 after correction for unreported emigration.

    • New Zealand

      In total, net migration in 2010/11 was positive, although it fell to 3 900 from 16 500 the previous year, as more New Zealanders left and fewer returned. New Zealand citizens who had previously held off migrating during uncertain economic times and those leaving Christchurch after the 22 February 2011 earthquake, contributed to the increase in departures in 2010/11. Most went to Australia, which had a net gain of New Zealanders of 30 500 in 2010/11, up from 16 700 in 2009/10.

    • Norway

      In 2010, the total inflow of persons to Norway increased by 13% compared with 2009, to reach the record level of 73 900, representing a migration rate of 15 per thousand inhabitants. 88% of entries were foreigners and 12% Norwegians. The increase in 2010 was mainly due to more inflows from Lithuania (+105%), Sweden (+26%) and Poland (+8%). Poles continue to be the largest immigrant group, with 11 350 immigrants, followed by Swedes (7 600). Lithuanians, with 6 550 inflows, remained third. Overall, 64% of immigrants came from EU member countries, and 38% from the new members in Central and Eastern Europe. Emigration of foreigners also reached a record level in 2010, at 22 500. Net migration of all foreign nationals was 42 600, close to the 2008 peak.

    • Poland

      Registered migration inflows to Poland decreased by 12% in 2010, to around 15 200. Outflows also fell, by 6%, to about 17 400. Outflow from Poland recorded by the Central Population Register reflects permanent emigration, that is, Polish citizens who deregister. 2010 was the fourth consecutive year of decline in registered outflows, which were three times smaller than in the peak year 2006.

    • Portugal

      Exact data on migration flows for Portugal continue to be difficult to obtain, because available sources combine different categories (e.g. new entries and status changes) and do not capture some inflows, especially that of EU nationals. However, estimates based on new long-term visas and residence permits suggest that overall migration inflows declined 12% in 2010, to 30 000. Portuguese emigration has been on the rise since the mid-decade. Estimates suggest more than 70 000 departures per year, more than half of whom are under 29 years of age.

    • Romania

      Romania’s migration pattern is mainly characterised by emigration, especially following accession to the European Union on 1 January 2007. The number of Romanians working abroad in 2010 is estimated to be around 3 million persons. However, data on emigration of Romanian citizens or persons born in Romania is limited.

    • Russian Federation

      The most recent data on the stock of foreign-born persons in the Russian Federation date back to the 2002 Census, which counted 12 million foreign-born persons, about 8.3% of the total population. Many of these people were born in other republics of the former Soviet Union (FSU) before its dissolution. Close to 90% held Russian nationality; only 1.4 million were foreigners.

    • Slovak Republic

      In 2010, immigration to the Slovak Republic increased only modestly on an annual basis, remaining roughly at the same level as in 2009, when immigration, which had been steadily rising since 2004, was interrupted by the economic crisis. According to national statistics, the inflow of foreign nationals in 2010 was 6 400, compared with 6 300 in the previous year. Despite restored GDP growth – up to 4% from –4.7% in 2009 – the labour market situation continued to worsen and the unemployment rate continued to grow in 2010, reaching 14.4%.

    • Slovenia

      At the beginning of 2011, just under 230 000 foreign-born persons were living in Slovenia, representing 11% of the total population. Almost all – more than 86% – of the foreign-born population is originating from the successor countries of the former Yugoslavia, with Bosnia and Herzegovina (42%), Croatia (21%), Serbia (11%) and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – FYROM (3%) being the main origin countries of foreign-born. 58% of the foreign-born are men, while the foreign population is evenly divided between men and women.

    • Spain

      Migration inflows to Spain continued to decrease in 2010, although at a much lower rate compared with 2009. Around 431 000 entries were recorded, 8% less than in 2009 (470 000) and 40% less than in 2008 (690 000). In parallel, migration outflows continued to increase, from 290 000 in 2009 to almost 340 000 in 2010. Those trends, the consequence of the economic downturn which hit Spain particularly hard, led to a net inflow of less than 95 000 in 2010, almost half the 2009 level.

    • Sweden

      After reaching a record high in 2009 (102 000), immigration to Sweden declined slightly in 2010, to 98 800. As in 2009, the largest component of the inflow was returning Swedish citizens (20 000, 7% more than 2009), followed by citizens from Somalia (7 000), Iraq and Poland (each at around 4 500). The inflows from Iraq halved compared with 2009, as a result of fewer asylum applications. Total emigration increased by one-fourth, to almost 49 000 persons, although the increase is partly due to the harmonisation of population registers with the actual population. Individuals with an unknown residence for more than two years were deregistered and counted in the emigration figures. Overall net migration decreased to 53 000 persons.

    • Switzerland

      In 2010, long-term immigration flows to Switzerland remained at levels similar to 2009, with a slight rise from 132 000 to 134 200 individuals. This is about 14% lower than the pre-crisis level in 2008. Inflows rose 6% to 142 400 in 2011. Citizens of EU/EFTA countries continue to comprise the majority (67%) of migration flows. Germany and Portugal are the main countries of nationality of immigrants, respectively 23% and 9.6% of inflows in 2010, although fewer immigrated than in 2009. Immigration of Italian citizens (7.5% of the total) has been increasing since 2007. Outflows of foreigners from Switzerland increased 20% in 2010 compared with 2009, and remained at the same level in 2011. The stock of foreigners resident in Switzerland rose 3.3% in 2010 and 4.1% in 2011, to 1.77 million.

    • Turkey

      Statistics on migration flows in Turkey are limited to certain categories. There is no direct and reliable data source on total flows in and out of the country.

    • United Kingdom

      According to ONS estimates published in November 2011, total inflows to the United Kingdom in 2010 were 591 000, an increase of 4% compared with 2009. Over the same period, outflows decreased by 8%, to 339 000. Total net migration rose by 27%, to 252 000, the highest figure ever recorded. A net outflow of 43 000 UK nationals was compensated by a net inflow of 294 000 non-UK nationals. Net migration increased for all foreign groups except for EU15 citizens.

    • United States

      Permanent immigration to the United States declined 8% in the US Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 with more than 1.04 million beneficiaries. The previous year had seen a 2% increase. Employment-based (EB) preference immigrant admissions grew 5% in FY2010, to 148 000, as a result of an increase that year in the annual limit for the EB categories. Most immigrants granted permanent residence based on employment were family members of principal workers, and 92% were already in the United States on a temporary visa.

    • Sources and notes of the country tables of Part IV

      OECD countries and the Russian Federation: sources and notes are available in the Statistical Annex (metadata related to Table A.1 and B.1).

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  • Statistical annex

    Most of the data published in this annex have been provided by national correspondents of the continuous reporting system on migration appointed by the OECD Secretariat with the approval of the authorities of member countries. Consequently, these data are not necessarily based on common definitions. Countries under review in this annex are OECD countries for which data are available, as well as the Russian Federation. The continuous reporting system on migration has no authority to impose changes in data collection procedures. It is an observatory which, by its very nature, has to use existing statistics. However, it does play an active role in suggesting what it considers to be essential improvements in data collection and makes every effort to present consistent and well-documented statistics.

  • List of correspondents of the Continuous Reporting System on Migration
  • List of OECD Secretariat members involved in the preparation of this publication
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