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Skills on the Move

Migrants in the Survey of Adult Skills

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Migration has been at the centre of political debate across the OECD in recent years. Drawing on data from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), this report provides new evidence on differences in migrants’ characteristics and contexts and considers how these relate to the skills migrants possess. It also examines the relationship between migrants’ skills and their labour and non-labour market outcomes in host countries. Finally, it sheds new light on how migrants’ skills are developed, used and valued in host country labour markets and societies. Results and lessons gleaned from analysis highlight the way forward for future research on this topic.

The report represents an invaluable resource for policy makers across different sectors as they design and implement strategies aimed at promoting the long-term integration of foreign-born populations in the economic and social life of their countries. The analyses presented allow us to identify the skill composition of foreign-born populations, the labour market and broader social outcomes associated with such skills, and the factors that can promote skill acquisition and skill use.

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Language matters: language disadvantage and the outcomes of foreign-born adults in PIAAC

Chapter 3 illustrates that foreign-born individuals whose mother tongue is different from the language of the test tend to have lower literacy and numeracy proficiency (when these are assessed in the language of their country of residence) and poorer labour market outcomes than individuals whose mother tongue matches the language spoken in the country. However, language penalties in information processing skills and labour market outcomes vary considerably, both across countries and within countries across different migrant groups. This chapter illustrates that the depth of the language penalty in skills and labour market outcomes is related to the degree of proximity between the mother tongue spoken by migrants and the language spoken in the country of destination. Individuals whose mother tongue is very different from the language spoken in their country of residence have very low proficiency relative to the native born if they arrived in the host country after the age of 12, and the negative impact persists irrespective of length of stay. Furthermore, these individuals are less likely to have access to gainful employment, irrespective of their age, gender or educational level.

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