1. Recent developments in international migration movements and labour market inclusion of immigrants

The number of new permanent-type immigrants in the OECD, reached an all-time high of 6.1 million in 2022 (Figure 1.1). This is about 26% more than in 2021 and 14% more than in 2019.1 Note this is excluding Ukrainians under temporary protection which are not included in this section due to the temporary nature of the international protection they receive (see Box 1.1).

All top four destination countries (The United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain) registered large year-on-year increases, between 21 and 35%. The increase was smaller in Canada (8%) the fifth destination country (Table 1.1). The United States alone accounted for 1.05 million new permanent-type migrants, and the other four countries for between 440 000 and 650 000 each.

In all top five countries, permanent-type migration was higher in 2022 than in 2019, pre-pandemic. This is notably the case in the United Kingdom, Spain and Canada (between 19 and 38%). In these countries, permanent-type migration was at a higher level than in any of the previous 15 years.

This is also the case for several European OECD countries such as Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Luxembourg as well as Mexico. New Zealand experienced the largest year-on-year percentage increase in permanent-type migration, counting a total of 155 000 new permanent-type migrants, almost triple the record of the past 15 years. This increase was due to an exceptional pathway to permanent residence for temporary labour migrants in 2021 – the “2021 residence visa”- which accounted for 50% of permanent-type migration in 2022.2

Only a few countries (Australia, Sweden, Japan, Korea, Norway, Estonia and the Czech Republic) received fewer permanent-type migrants in 2022 than in 2019. Australia represents a special case in this list. Australian figures are for Australian fiscal years (July of the previous calendar year through June) and reflect decisions under the annual planning levels. Border closures meant that effective entries were delayed during the pandemic, while the increase in planning levels from mid-2022 are not yet apparent in this series.

According to unstandardised national data, several other European countries experienced record levels of migration, such as Hungary, Iceland, Latvia and Poland.

In 2022, OECD countries received on average 10 new permanent-type migrants per thousand inhabitants (Figure 1.2). This ratio is above 15 per thousand only in the three OECD countries with the smallest populations (Estonia (24), Iceland (36) and Luxembourg (44)), as well as in New Zealand (30) and Switzerland (17). The Slovak Republic and Mexico are the OECD countries where the ratio is the lowest, at 0.6 per thousand.

In most OECD countries, permanent-type migration relative to population was higher in 2022 than over the period 2013-19. This is particularly true in Estonia and Iceland, which received increasing inflows in the last years, and New Zealand, due to the exceptional increase in permanent-type migration in 2022.

In 2022, family migration remained the primary category of entry for new permanent-type migrants, representing 40% of all permanent-type migration, a relatively stable share over time (Figure 1.3). The share of labour migration has increased over time. While in 2022, labour migration represented 21% of permanent-type migration, it accounted for only 16% in 2019. Conversely, the share of free movement migration (within the EU-EFTA and between Australia and New Zealand) has decreased since 2020. It accounted for 21% of permanent-type migration in 2022, compared with 28% in 2019.

Family migration has been the largest category of entry of permanent-type migrants in the OECD over the last decade, and represented between 1.7 and 2 million new permanent migrants per year before COVID-19. While family migration suffered the largest fall in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it recovered quickly in the following two years. In 2022, OECD countries received almost 2.2 million family migrants, 200 000 more (9%) than in 2021.

The United States remains the primary OECD destination for family migrants. In 2022, 723 000 migrants obtained lawful permanent resident status in the United States for family reasons, a 14% increase compared with 2021 but still 8% below 2019, and lower than in any year since 2005. Family migration to the United States accounted for one-third of total family migration to the OECD in 2022, down from 39% pre-pandemic.

Family migration increased significantly relative to 2021 and to 2019, in the United Kingdom and Canada, the second and third destination countries for family migration, respectively. Canada admitted 217 000 permanent residents under the different family categories, +32% compared to 2021 and +18% above the previous record of 2019. The United Kingdom received 242 000 family migrants in 2022, one-fifth more than in 2021, and 72% more than in 2019. Family migration increased also significantly in New Zealand (+229% relative to 2019), Mexico (+78%), Finland (+51%) and Estonia (+29%).

The increase in family migration observed in 2022 was mostly driven by the increase in the number of accompanying family members of labour migrants (Annex Table 1.A.1). While accompanying family members represented 27% of all family migration in 2022, they only accounted for 17% in 2019. This is visible notably in the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

Migration movements within free-circulation areas (within the EU/EFTA, and between Australia and New Zealand) were affected by the COVID-19 crisis and the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU but the total remained above 1 million in 2021, rising to 1.1 million people in 2022. Within the EU/EEA, free mobility flows increased by around 13% in 2022, suggesting a pickup in the pace of the post-2020 rebound.

The top destination for flows under free mobility agreements within Europe remained Germany, which received 29% of all internal movements (321 000, +3% compared to 2021). Other key destinations saw substantial growth in intra-EU inflows in 2022, including Switzerland (+20%), Denmark (+19%), Austria (+16%), Sweden (+29%) and Ireland (+38%). Iceland registered a jump of 56% (10 000) over the past year. By contrast, several OECD countries in Central and Eastern Europe saw inflows decrease in 2022, including the Czech Republic (-20% compared to 2021), Hungary (-14%) and Estonia (-15%).

In Oceania, migration flows under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (between Australia and New Zealand) doubled in 2022 led by a surge in arrivals from New Zealand to Australia (+174%). Nevertheless, free-movement migration remained significantly lower than in 2019 (-44%).

Humanitarian migration in OECD permanent-type migration flows includes recognised refugees under the 1951 UNHCR convention or other forms of protection but does not include Ukrainians under the Temporary Protection Directive in the EU or similar schemes in other OECD countries (see Box 1.1).

Independently of the large inflow of Ukrainians fleeing the war of aggression of Russia against Ukraine, humanitarian migration to the OECD increased by 40% in 2022 to 580 000. Humanitarian migration was the least affected category during the COVID-19 crisis, and it had already increased by 13% in 2021. The number of new humanitarian migrants was second only to the record levels of 2016 and 2017.

Due to the delay in asylum application processing, taking into account the record high level of asylum applications registered in 2022 (see below), it is likely that the number of humanitarian migrants will reach a new historical high in 2023.

Germany and the United States were the top two destinations for humanitarian migrants, granting international protection to over a third of all new humanitarian migrants in the OECD, 128 000 and 92 000 migrants respectively. Canada and the United Kingdom received an additional 74 000 and 54 000 humanitarian migrants. All top four countries registered significant year-on-year increases: nearly double for Germany and the United States and a 25% increase for Canada and the United Kingdom.

Humanitarian migration increased in Australia and New Zealand relative to 2021, bringing levels back to the mid-2010s levels. In Austria and the Netherlands, humanitarian migration more than doubled relative to 2019. In the Netherlands, the number of humanitarian migrants was second only to the 2015 and 2016 levels. Humanitarian migration was stable in Mexico although at a level 2.5 times higher than in 2019 and earlier. In contrast, Sweden and Norway received fewer humanitarian migrants. Humanitarian migration was at a 15 year low in Sweden.

Permanent-type labour migration to OECD countries continued to increase following a trend since the mid-2010s. There were over 1.1 million new permanent-type labour migrants in OECD countries for which statistics are harmonised in 2022. This represents a 36% year-on-year increase and a 53% increase relative to 2019.

Labour migration increased in almost all OECD countries. While the increase in labour migration relative to 2021, in Australia, Japan or Korea, meant a return to pre-pandemic levels, in most OECD European countries and in the United States, labour migration in 2022 was at a 15 year record level. Year-on-year increases in the primary destination countries were striking: the number of new permanent-type labour migrants doubled in the United Kingdom and increased by 59, 39 and 26% in Germany, the United States and France. The ten-fold increase in labour migration in New Zealand was driven by the exceptional pathway to permanent residence created in 2021 mentioned earlier in this chapter. Canada is among the few countries where permanent-type labour migration slightly decreased in 2022. Nevertheless, the level remained higher than in any year prior to 2021.

Several million temporary labour migrants are migrating to the OECD every year. These flows tend to reflect short-term changes in demand for labour and skills. There is a large diversity in temporary migration channels and programmes across the OECD, targeting different types of workers and sectors and offering quite different duration of stay and entry conditions.

The statistics presented in this section aim to be as exhaustive as currently available data allow. They include categories such as seasonal workers, working holiday makers, trainees and intra-company transferees but also other country-specific temporary foreign worker programmes.

Annex Table 1.A.2 and Annex Table 1.A.3 list the national temporary labour migration programmes presented in this section. The specific case of posted workers within the EU/EFTA free movement area is considered in the next section.

More than 2.4 million work permits and authorisations were granted in OECD countries (excluding Poland) representing a 77% year-on-year increase.3 Temporary migration was 14% above 2019 levels, after an unprecedented fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Figure 1.6).

Data for Poland are not fully comparable as they include a number of work authorisations that may not lead to entries and cover a large number of “notifications of entrusting work” (Law of March 2022) which are made by the employer within 14 days of hiring the employee (mostly of Ukrainian nationality). Adding Poland would however bring the total inflow of temporary workers to over 4 million (Box 1.2).

The United States became the top destination, receiving approximately 40% of all temporary labour migrants bar Poland. In all top receiving countries, the number of permits issued increased significantly, with levels twice as large or more in Australia, Canada and Japan. In the EU, temporary labour migration increased by 18% and 4%, relative to 2021 and 2019, respectively.

Seasonal migration programmes constitute the main category of temporary foreign workers across the OECD. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the recruitment of seasonal workers from abroad – crucial for harvesting activities in OECD countries – was less disrupted than other categories of temporary workers. Seasonal migration flows declined by 12% in 2020 and increased significantly in 2021 (50% year-on-year increase). In 2022, recruitment of seasonal workers in the OECD (excluding Poland) increased again by 40% to nearly 630 000 (Figure 1.8).

The United States was by far the largest recipient of foreign seasonal workers (300 000 new H-2A issued in the agriculture and 123 000 H-2B for non-agricultural activities), followed by Canada (37 000) and the United Kingdom (34 000). The United States increased its H-2A visa for agricultural seasonal workers (+15%) and its cap on the H-2B visa for temporary non-agricultural workers for seasonal needs and other temporary needs (such as one-time occurrence, peak-load or intermittent needs) (+30%). Similarly, Canada and the United Kingdom recorded significant increases in the intake of seasonal agricultural workers (+9% and +17% respectively). Other OECD countries, with smaller programmes, also experienced significant changes in 2022 – Austria (+30%), France (+68%), Norway (+104%) – but also Australia (+69%) and New Zealand (+6%). Korea introduced a new seasonal programme in 2022 with an intake of 8 200 foreign workers.

Working holiday maker (WHM) programmes are exchange programmes that allow young individuals to travel and work in the destination country. In some OECD countries, WHMs contribute significantly to selected sectors, such as agriculture or in accommodation and retail trade services.

In 2022, the number of WHMs in the OECD increased four-fold, to a total of 420 000. Nevertheless, given the sharp decrease in WHMs in 2020 and 2021, the 2022 level remains lower than in 2019 (-12%). This was the case in all major receiving OECD countries (Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom), except for New Zealand, where 2022 levels are above 2019. In France, inflows of WHMs remain lower than in 2019, by about half.

Trainee programmes, aiming to facilitate short-term skills transfers and promote familiarity with specific processes or equipment. The primary objective of these programmes is not to employ trainees as regular workers, but rather to enhance their knowledge and capabilities. Even if many countries have such programmes, Japan is by far the main destination country for foreign trainees.

Recruitment of foreign trainees has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and border closure. Despite a more than fourfold increase in 2022, overall trainee flows were still 8% below 2019 levels. This trend is driven by flows to Japan, which receives more than 9 out of 10 international trainees, virtually all under Japan’s “Technical Intern Trainee” Programme (183 000 in 2022, 9% below its 2019 level).

Intra-company transferee programmes enable multinational companies to move key staff across borders between different entities. To be eligible, migrants are generally required to have been working in the company for at least one year. They may be allowed to stay in the host country for several years (one to three years in the framework of the EU Directive; up to seven years with a L-1 visa in the United States; unlimited time in Japan and Korea).

Mobility within multinationals has been markedly reduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of permits to ICTs in 2022 was twice that in 2021. However, levels remained 11% below those of 2019. Canada and Germany stand out as exceptions with 2022 Levels 17% and 31% higher than in 2019, respectively.

Although the United States receives the largest number of ICTs (81 000 in 2022), the United Kingdom, followed by Canada, Germany and Japan are also major destinations.

Other national temporary foreign worker programmes cover a variety of skills profiles and sectors. In 2022, the number of permits issued under these programmes increased by 84% year-on-year, to a Level 23% higher than in 2019. The top three receiving countries – the United States, Australia and Canada – account for more than 700 000 permits issued in 2022, around two-thirds of the total across the OECD.

In 2022, the number of permits issued more than doubled in Australia, Canada and the United States. In the United States, three-quarters of visas issued to temporary foreign workers (referred to as non-immigrant visas) were H-1B visas for specialty occupations. The number of new foreign workers in the H-1B programme is capped. While the cap is set at 65 000 (regular cap) plus an additional 20 000 for foreigners who have earned a US master’s degree or higher, there are also exceptions for foreigners hired by certain categories of public and non-profit employers. The number of initial approvals of H-1Bs was 123 000 in US FY2021 and 132 000 in FY2022, but due to visa issuance delay, there were only 105 300 H-1B visas issued abroad in calendar year 2021 compared with 241 500 in 2022.

Canada has two main streams for temporary migrants: the International Mobility Programme (IMP) and the Temporary Foreign Worker Programme (TFWP). This section covers all relevant sub-streams of these programmes, except programmes for WHMs, seasonal workers and ICTs, which were covered above, and a couple of humanitarian categories, notably the IMP programme dedicated to Ukrainians fleeing war. After a fall in the number of permits issued to new migrants in 2020 and 2021, the numbers increased in 2022 to a total 22% larger than in 2019. This is mainly driven by the easing of highly skilled migrants’ recruitment, notably in the health sector.

In Australia the increase is partly due to former students who found a job at the end of their studies as well as other status changes towards “Temporary Resident Skilled” and “Temporary Resident – other employment”.

In Korea, the number of permits issued to temporary foreign workers doubled year-on-year. This increase was driven by the six-fold increase in the number of permits issued under the Employment Permit System (EPS, or E-9 visa) which accounts for two-thirds of temporary foreign worker admissions in Korea. Under EPS, foreign workers are employed in non-professional jobs, mainly in the manufacturing sector. Almost 65 000 permits were issued under EPS, 20% more than in 2019 and more than any prior year.

The number of participants in temporary foreign worker programmes also increased in other OECD countries. An example is Japan, which admitted over 20 000 foreigners for employment under the Specified Skilled Worker Programme (SSW). The SSW, designed to address labour shortages in 12 eligible industries, was introduced in 2019 but border closure and slow roll-out of SSW testing in origin countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic limited arrivals from abroad.

In the EU countries covered in Figure 1.9, the number of permits issued to other temporary foreign workers increased 24% year-on-year to a total 14% larger than in 2019. The largest annual growth rates were registered in Spain (+48%) and France (+68%). In the United Kingdom, numbers nearly doubled in 2022, mainly because of entry clearances delivered to overseas domestic workers and through the government Authorised Exchange Programme.

Inside the EU/EFTA countries, posted workers are defined as salaried or self-employed workers who generally carry out their activity in another member country while staying affiliated with the social security system of their home country. When workers are posted in one single country, the posting cannot exceed 24 months (EC No 987/2009 Article 12), whereas there is no time limit for workers posted in two or more countries (EC No 987/2009 Article 13), taking place mostly in road freight transport. Note that the United Kingdom is still included in 2021 data, in accordance with the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) signed by the EU and the United Kingdom at the end of 2020.

2019 saw a large increase in posting, largely due to change in the registration method. Data are not directly comparable with previous years. Since then, there has been a sharp decline in posting. This was very clear in 2020 in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but contrary to other permanent and temporary migration flows posting did not fully bounce back in 2021.

In 2021, 2.1 million postings under Article 12 (posting in a single country) were registered in Europe which correspond to a decline of 9% compared to the previous year. Another 1.3 million postings were issued to workers covered by Article 13 (+8.7% in 2021). Finally, an additional 91 000 fell under other regulations: primarily civil servants, workers under Article 16 (governed by multilateral agreements) and sailors, accounting for 2.5% of the total.

The main receiving country of posted workers under Article 12 remained Germany followed by France, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands (Figure 1.10 and Table 1.2). The overall decline observed in 2021 was primarily due to a sharp decrease in the Netherlands (- 61%) and to a lesser extent to Switzerland (-14%). Posting slightly declined in Austria (- 5%) and increased in Germany (7%) and to Southern Europe. Flows to Norway more than doubled in 2021, placing postings at a similar level as in Sweden.

On average, in the 19 countries that reported data, postings in one single country lasted 106 days and workers were sent abroad 1.7 times, implying that workers have spent 181 days away on average in 2021. The duration of postings per worker varies widely across countries, from less than 70 days in Belgium and France to more than 200 days in Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Iceland and Norway and 484 days in Croatia.

In 2021, 60% of (single country) postings were issued to provide services in industry (24% in construction alone) and one-third in services (half in the financial and insurance sectors, half in the education, health and social sectors). Agriculture accounted for less than 1% of total Article 12 postings.

Although its share in total employment is modest (0.4% in full-time equivalent) in 2021, postings have a significant impact on some national labour markets. For instance, Slovenia sent abroad more than 1% of its employed population (3.2%). This share is also high in Luxembourg (3.0%), the Slovak Republic (2.0%), Croatia (2.0%), and Poland (1.1%).

After a strong decline in permits issued to international students in 2020, due to partial or full border closures across all OECD countries, international student flows bounced back. Over 1.9 million residence permits were issued for international tertiary-level students across the OECD in 2022 (Table 1.3). This is 24% more than in 2019 and the highest number ever registered.

The number of permits issued to international students in the OECD increased by 42% relative to 2021, and by 30% across OECD European countries. The increase was particularly large in countries where border closures were lifted more recently, such as in Japan or New Zealand.

International student flows have reached in 2022 their highest level ever in about half of OECD countries. In some countries however, such as Estonia, Portugal, Sweden, Luxembourg or New Zealand, the number of permits granted is still below pre-pandemic levels.

For the fourth consecutive year, the United Kingdom is the top receiving country of new international students, ahead of the United States. Canada, Australia and Japan complete the top five receiving countries.

Compared to 2012, the number of first permits issued to international students in 2022 has increased by 61% in the OECD, and more than doubled in Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Japan, Korea, Lithuania and the Netherlands.

In 2021, 4.3 million international students were enrolled in OECD countries, of which 49% (2.1 million) in a European OECD country (Table 1.4). Almost one-fifth of international students in the OECD are hosted by the United States. The United Kingdom hosts 14% of all international students, followed by Australia (9%). Outside English-speaking countries, Germany and France are the primary destination countries and host about 15% of all international students in the OECD, and 30% of international students in European OECD countries.

Most international students in OECD countries come from Asia. In 2021, close to 60% of international students in the OECD came from Asia, mostly from China and India. Compared to 2014, the share of international students from Asia has increased, while the share from Europe has decreased. This increase was particularly strong in the European OECD countries, where the share of Asian students increased from 30% to 36%.

The top countries of origin of international students in OECD countries are China (885 000 students), India (424 000), Viet Nam (133 000), Germany (123 000) and France (101 000) (Figure 1.11). Outside of Asia and Europe, Latin America is the largest region of origin of international students in Spain, Portugal and OECD Latin American countries, whereas Africa is the main continent of origin in France only.

Many Asian countries of origin have seen strong increases in the number of international students to OECD countries between 2014 and 2021. The number of students from India, Viet Nam and Nepal has more than doubled. Furthermore, the number of Syrian students increased almost ten-fold, partly driven by international study as a complementary migration pathway for displaced populations.

International students accounted for 6% of tertiary students in 2021 in the OECD. The top destination countries, as a share of the total number of students, are Luxembourg, where international students account for 49% of all students, Australia (22%) and the United Kingdom (20%).

The concentration of international students increases with level of study in most countries. Exceptions are Latvia, Lithuania, the Slovak Republic, Türkiye and Australia, where international students account for higher shares of master-level than doctoral-level students (Table 1.4). In more than three-quarters of countries, there are at least twice as many international students at doctoral level than at tertiary level. In Luxembourg, Switzerland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, more than 40% of doctoral students are international students, compared with 24% in the OECD as a whole.

Asylum applications in the OECD were at a record high in 2022. The number of new asylum seekers to OECD countries nearly doubled (+91%) from 2021 to 2022. Over 2 million new applications were lodged in OECD countries in 2022, the highest level recorded so far and larger than the 2015/16 previous record of 1.7 million (Figure 1.12).

The EU27 also saw a considerable year-on-year increase of 64%, with nearly 900 000 new applicants. This was the third highest level on record, after 2015 and 2016. Early EU figures for the first quarter of 2023 suggest a continuing increase in applications, which are 36% over those for the corresponding period in 2022.

The remarkable surge in demand for asylum in OECD countries was driven by soaring applications in the United States. In 2022, the United States alone received over 730 000 new asylum applications, approximately as many as the next five countries combined (Table 1.5). This represented almost a four-fold increase relative to 2021, and a 2.4-fold increase relative to 2019. The United States has been the main OECD destination country for asylum seekers since 2017. While in 2021, asylum applications in the United States comprised 17% of all asylum applications in the OECD, in 2022 they accounted for 35%.

The largest number of applications in the United States was from citizens of Cuba (157 000) and Venezuela (139 000), whose numbers surged by a factor of 12 and 5, respectively, relative to 2021. Together, the two nationalities accounted for over 40% of all asylum applications to the United States. Arrivals from Cuba were at their highest level in decades with many migrants arriving by land through Nicaragua – which stopped requiring an entry visa for Cubans at the end of 2021. Next, citizens of Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Colombia accounted for between 43 000 and 32 000 applications each, all of them sharply up from 2021 (+600% for Nicaraguans). Applications by Afghans also jumped, counting 25 000 in 2022 compared with an average in the hundreds in previous years. Some of these sudden increases in asylum applications led to the establishment of special humanitarian parole processes for selected nationalities, including Afghans, Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans (see Box 1.3).

Germany, the OECD country with the second-most asylum applications, received nearly 220 000 applications in 2022. This is well below the record levels of 2015/16, when Germany received over 1 million applications in 2 years, but above the number of applications received in any other year. In 2022, asylum applicants came mainly from Syria (71 000, +30% relative to 2021), Afghanistan (36 000, +55%) and Türkiye (24 000, +240%), whose citizens have become the third-largest group of applicants, surpassing Iraqis.

France nearly received 140 000 asylum requests in 2022 catching up to pre-pandemic (2019) levels (Figure 1.13). Afghanistan remained the main country of citizenship among applicants (23 000, +40%), but numbers for several other groups have also shown a rapid increase, including citizens of Bangladesh (10 500, +70%) and Türkiye (10 000, +100%).

Costa Rica and Mexico complete the top five OECD receivers of asylum requests in 2022, with nearly 130 000 and 120 000 applications respectively, continuing the upward demand trend for international protection in Central and South America in recent years. In Costa Rica, 92% of asylum applicants come from Nicaragua. In Mexico, there was a marked increase in the number of applications by Cubans (+118% relative to 2021), Venezuelans (+140%) and Nicaraguans (+208%).

Similar to the United States, Canada experienced a four-fold increase in asylum applications in 2022 relative to 2021, with a record level of 94 000 applications. Applications primarily came from citizens of Mexico, Haiti and Türkiye, with record levels for each of these top three origin countries.

The OECD as a whole received about 1 500 new asylum requests per million population in 2022, a 10% increase year-on-year. As in previous years, Costa Rica saw by far the highest numbers of asylum seekers relative to its population (25 000 per million). The next main recipients relative to population size were Iceland and Austria (both with over 10 000 asylum seekers per million inhabitants), followed by Luxembourg (4 000).4 Slovenia, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany all received around or under 3 000 asylum requests per million inhabitants. Sweden, which was in the top three until 2019, ranked 17th in 2022 with a ratio of 1 400 asylum requests per million inhabitants.

The top origin countries for asylum applicants within the OECD in 2022 were Venezuela (221 000), Cuba (180 000), Afghanistan (170 000), Nicaragua (165 000) and Syria (126 000) (Figure 1.14). There was a notable year-on-year increase in the number of asylum-seekers from all top 10 origin countries. Cuba rose from 12th to second place as the number of Cuban applicants to OECD countries surged by a factor of seven. Venezuela became the top asylum origin country in 2022 as the number of Venezuelan applicants tripled. The number of asylum seekers from Colombia (88 000), and Türkiye (72 000) also tripled compared to the previous year. Finally, India became tenth-largest origin country for asylum in the OECD in 2022 through a five-fold increase in numbers.

Following a slow rebound in 2021, grants of international protection rose in 2022 to reach their highest level since 2017, with a nearly 50% increase (Table 1.6). The two main hosts, Germany (133 000) and the United States (102 000) each granted protection to twice as many refugees as in 2021. Canada, the third top host, welcomed 74 000 new refugees (+23%), followed by the United Kingdom with 54 000 (+23%) and France 39 000 (+8%). In Spain, the number of positive decisions reached 36 000, an increase of 73% compared with 2021. Several countries showed a notable increase over the year in the number of protection grants issued (Table 1.6). For some of these, including Australia (13 000), New Zealand (4 000) and the United States, the increase constituted a return to pre-pandemic levels. For others, such as Japan (2000), Iceland (950) or Estonia (2 100), these relatively higher figures are more novel.

Looking over the decade, trends in the volume of international protection granted across the main host countries and regional country groups echo some of the trends for asylum applications (Figure 1.15). From a regional perspective, the overall surge in international protection grants by European OECD countries in 2022 was largely driven by Germany, although excluding Germany there was still a 25% increase in the rest of the region.

Resettlement programmes for refugees are designed as a durable solution and a responsibility-sharing mechanism among the international community. They are designed to transfer the most vulnerable refugees from a country of first asylum to another country that grants them long-term protection. On average, since 1982, 105 000 refugees per year have been resettled to OECD countries. During the worst of the pandemic, transfers could not take place, so these programmes came to a halt, and resumed in 2021. Resettlement transfers continued to rebound in 2022 (+87% relative to 2021, +239% 2020), reaching 117 000, slightly above the 2019 pre-pandemic level (Figure 1.16).

Canada remained the top OECD resettlement country, receiving over twice as many refugees (48 000) through this pathway as in 2021, and accounting for over 40% of all resettlement arrivals to OECD countries in 2022. Resettlement figures also grew considerably in the next two countries, the United States (29 000, +112%) and Australia (+17 000, +418%), the latter returning to third place after a particularly strong drop in 2020-21. However, resettlement arrivals decreased in some of the main European host countries, such as Sweden (5 000, -21%), Germany (4 800, -29%) and Norway (3 100, -14%). France is the main exception, with 3 200 (+65%) resettled refugees in 2022.

In 2021, six OECD countries received more migrant women than men. The share of migrant women was highest in the United States, Australia, Ireland and Israel. In these countries, the share of women in migration flows remains relatively stable, reflecting the predominance of family migration (Figure 1.17). The share of women is however lower, close to 40%, in Germany, Austria, and in most Central and Eastern European countries.

In 2021, the composition of migration flows by country of origin returned to its pre-COVID-19 rankings, although China (227 000) has not reached its previous level and remains far behind India (407 000) (Table 1.7). The third country is again Romania (215 000) just before Ukraine which was already the fifth country of origin in the OECD with around 189 000 entries recorded, excluding all temporary Ukrainian workers who were employed in Poland.

Major increases were recorded for Iran (+140%), Uzbekistan (+120%) and to a lesser extent for Iraq (+100%). Conversely, important declines were registered for Venezuela, Viet Nam and the United Kingdom.

Obviously, variations between 2020 and 2021 need to be considered with some caution as they partially reflect changes in the reopening of borders in major destination countries and not only relative change in push factors in countries of origin.

In 2022, 145 million people in the OECD area lived outside their country of birth, a quarter more than ten years earlier. The foreign-born represented about 10.6% of the total population of OECD countries in 2022 compared with 8.9% in 2012.

Most immigrants lived in North America (38%) and in European OECD countries (37%) (Figure 1.18). The United States alone hosted a third of the total. Germany was the second main destination country with 14 million immigrants (10%), followed by the United Kingdom (9.6 million, 7%), France and Canada (6% each).

The two OECD countries in Oceania, Australia and New Zealand, accounted for over 6% of immigrants in the OECD area, while the four Latin American OECD countries hosted 5.1 million foreign-born residents (4%), and the two Asian OECD countries 4.6 million (3%). Türkiye is home to 3.2 million immigrants (excluding most Syrian refugees however) and Israel to 1.8 million.

In the decade to 2022, the share of immigrants in the population increased in almost all OECD countries (Figure 1.19). Immigrants account for more than 10% of the population in two-thirds of OECD countries. The OECD countries with the highest shares of immigrants were Luxembourg (50%), Switzerland (31%), Australia (29%), New Zealand (26%), Canada (22%), Austria (21%), Ireland and Sweden (20% in both).

In 2012, the foreign-born represented less than 3% of the population in seven OECD countries. In 2022, this is only the case in three countries: Mexico (1%), Japan (2.2%) and Poland (2.5%).

Large increases were observed in Iceland (8.4 percentage points) and in Luxembourg (8.3 percentage points). The increase in the share of the foreign-born population in Luxembourg follows a longer-term trend. Iceland has received large inflows of free movement migrants driven by Iceland’s economic growth and has in the last few years received also humanitarian migrants.

The share of immigrants multiplied by 10 in Colombia over the period and more than tripled in Chile mostly due to the inflow of Venezuelans. By the end of 2022, 2.5 million Venezuelans had completed a pre-registration for temporary protection in Colombia. Venezuelans have become the largest immigrant community in Chile. Estimates from the Chilean National Statistics Institute indicate that the number of foreigners almost doubled between 2017 and 2021 alone.

Partial data for 2022 suggest that the number of acquisitions of citizenship in OECD countries was at record levels. Indeed, at an estimated 2.8 million, they are well above the 2.2 million observed in both 2021 and 2019 (Figure 1.20).

This represents a 25% increase, and a major departure from the relatively stable figures registered since 2010, which fluctuated between 1.8 and 2.2 million acquisitions per year. Canada accounted for a third of this increase, with a record 375 000 new Canadian citizens in 2022 (+174% compared to 2021 and +50% compared to 2019). The main countries of birth of new Canadians were India (60 000), the Philippines (42 000), Syria (20 000) and Pakistan (15 000).

The second largest absolute increase was observed in the United States, which granted citizenship to 970 000 people in 2022 (155 000, +19%), the highest level since 2008. More than 180 000 persons were granted Spanish citizenship in 2022, and 167 000 German citizenship (+37 000 and +28%), more than in any year since 2001.

The acquisitions of citizenship relative to the size of the foreign population was stable on average across the OECD at 2.3%. Sweden remained the top country, with a ratio of 9.5% up from 8.6% in 2021 (Figure 1.21), Norway ranked second with 6.8% double that in 2021, followed by the Netherlands (5.3%), Canada (4.5%) and Portugal (4.2%). On the other hand, the Slovak Republic, Baltic countries and Asian OECD countries granted citizenship to less than 1% of their foreign population.

India has been the main origin country of new citizens in OECD countries since 2019. This was despite a recent drop of -15% compared to 2019. In 2021, 133 000 Indian citizens acquired the nationality of an OECD country (Figure 1.22). As in previous years, these acquisitions took place mostly in the United States (56 000), Australia (24 000) and Canada (21 000). Mexico again ranked second in 2021, with 118 000 of its nationals granted nationality of another OECD country, virtually all of them becoming US citizens.

Philippines and China were replaced by Syria and Morocco as third and fourth countries of origin. Many of the Syrian citizens who left their country during the war in the mid-2010s have reached the required duration of residence in the host country to apply for citizenship. More than 100 000 Syrians were granted citizenship of an OECD country in 2021 (+154%), of which 31 000 were in Sweden, 27 000 in the Netherlands and 19 000 in Germany. The 2022 total of acquisitions of citizenship by Syrian citizens will exceed 100 000 with in particular 48 000 new German citizens. In 2021, 91 000 Moroccan citizens acquired an OECD citizenship: 42 000 acquired Spanish citizenship (55 000 in 2022), 19 000, French and 17 000 Italian citizenship.

It is well established that migrants’ labour market outcomes are more sensitive to the business cycle and that, despite an over representation in some key front-line workers, migrants were disproportionately negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in most OECD countries compared to their native-born counterparts (OECD, 2020[5]).

However, the impact of the health crisis on migrants’ labour market situations has come to an end and OECD economies have rebounded sharply in 2021 with labour and skills shortages apparent in many sectors and countries. In most countries the total employment rate was higher at the end of 2022 than before the COVID-19 pandemic, end 2019 (OECD, 2023[6]).

As a signal of strong recovery after a sharp decline, which was already evident in late 2021 (OECD, 2022[7]; OECD, 2022[8]), the labour market outcomes for migrants continued to improve in almost all OECD countries. The average employment rate of migrants in OECD countries increased from 69.9% in 2021 to 72.3% in 2022, with 25 out of 30 OECD countries (with data available for both 2019 and 2022) surpassing their pre-crisis levels.

What is more, in 17 out of OECD 32 countries with available data, employment rates reached the highest level recorded for at least two decades (see Annex Figure 1.A.1 for selected countries). The positive trend was both observed in major migrant-hosting countries such as Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as in Central Eastern European countries including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia. It was also observed in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland and Sweden). Notably, Australia, Canada and Ireland achieved employment rates of over 75% for the first time, while the Czech Republic and Hungary maintained their high migrant employment rates above 80%. Along with the increase in employment, migrants’ unemployment rate decreased substantially, from an average of 9.3% in 2021 to 7.6% in 2022 (Table 1.8).

In two-thirds of OECD countries, the gap in employment rates between migrants and native-born individuals narrowed significantly in 2022. As a result, at 72.3%, the average employment rate of migrants in OECD countries almost caught up with that of the native-born population (72.7%). However, the average unemployment rate for migrants remained 2.4 percentage points higher. This narrowing of the gap in labour market outcomes seems at least partly due to a mix of cyclical effects which disproportionately benefits occupations in which migrants are overrepresented, an increase in return migration among recent migrants with weaker labour market attachment, and greater job mobility across sectors for settled migrants (OECD, 2019[9]; OECD, 2022[8]).

While migrants in most OECD countries have experienced a favourable evolution of their labour market situation, the degree of improvement has varied, partly depending on the domestic labour market situation and the composition of the immigrant population. Despite an overall reduction, a gap in the employment rate between migrants and the native-born still persists, particularly in Western European countries such as the Netherlands (-13.7 percentage points), Germany (-9.1 percentage points), and France (-7.6 percentage points), in contrast to other OECD countries such as the United States (+3.2 percentage points) and Latin American countries where migrants have higher employment rates than the native-born. For example, the employment gap in Chile and Costa Rica was +15.1 and +7.6 percentage points, respectively. The employment rates of both groups are now at roughly equal levels in Australia (-0.4 percentage points), Canada (-0.6 percentage points), Japan (+0.7 percentage points), and the United Kingdom (0.3 percentage points). In the EU-27 overall, the employment rate of the native-born remains 3.5 percentage points lower than that of migrants.

In most OECD countries, migrants are also more likely to be unemployed than the native-born, except for the United States (-0.4 percentage points) and Australia (-0.3 percentage points). While the employment rate of the native-born population increased and unemployment rates decreased in 33 OECD countries with available data for both 2021 and 2022, the employment rate of migrants showed an increase in all countries, with the exception of Poland. In Poland, the decrease of -5.3 percentage points seems attributable to the high inflow of refugees from Ukraine. In fact, the number of migrants from Non-EU/EFTA countries captured by the labour force survey in Poland has increased by 69% from 2021 and 2022.

While it is not clear to which degree these recent arrivals are already captured in the labour force survey, as Ukraine is not individually identified as an origin country, they appear to be included at least in part. Available evidence however suggests that most Ukrainian refugees, mostly women, found in 2022 a first job in their host country, demonstrating a much faster labour market integration than most other refugee groups (see Box 1.3).

Employment rates for migrants between 2021 and 2022 increased the most in Greece (+6.0 percentage points), Iceland (+5.9 percentage points), and Ireland (+5.2 percentage points). The native-born in these countries also experienced the particularly high increases in employment rates, reflecting more favourable labour market conditions than the year before.

Three-fourths of OECD countries recorded an increase in the foreign-born employment rate compared to the pre-COVID situation, and 80% of these countries also experienced a simultaneous decrease in the unemployment rate. The increase in the employment rate of the immigrant population since 2019 is particularly significant in Greece (+7.6 percentage points), Denmark (+6.9 percentage points), and Finland (+6.2 percentage points). Only in a few countries, such as Germany, the improvement in the employment rate of immigrants in 2022 was not sufficient to offset the negative impact of the crisis.

Among Latin American countries with 2022 data available, Chile (+1.5 percentage points) and Costa Rica (+4.8 percentage points) experienced growth in immigrant employment rates that were higher than those of the native-born. Finally, the employment rate of migrants residing in Korea, where labour migration has been limited due to long border closures (ADBI/OECD/ILO, 2023[10]), has not yet recovered to pre-crisis levels.

The labour force participation rate of migrants in OECD countries, which had declined in 2020 due to limited access to the labour market for migrant workers and subsequent return migration to their countries of origin, also continued to increase in 2022, reaching an average of 78.2%, almost 2 percentage points higher than that of the native-born population. While almost half of OECD countries have a higher participation rate among migrants than among the native-born, this gap is particularly significant in Chile (+15.1 percentage points), Luxembourg (+10.5 percentage points), Portugal (+8.5 percentage points), and Costa Rica (+7.5 percentage points). On the other hand, the gap is negative in the Netherlands (-12.0 percentage points) and Germany (-7.1 percentage points).

Among unemployed migrants, the share of those who have been unemployed for 12 months or more decreased in several European OECD countries, Canada and the United States. The most significant decreases were observed in Portugal (-11.5 percentage points) and Ireland (-7.8 percentage points). However, the reverse was observed in several Central and Eastern European countries such as the Slovak Republic (+18 percentage points), Hungary (+10 percentage points) and Slovenia (+9.8 percentage points).

Immigrants remain more at risk of long-term unemployment than their native-born counterparts. In six out of ten OECD countries, long-term unemployment rates for immigrants exceed those of the native-born. The gap was particularly significant in Sweden (+20.2 percentage points), Luxembourg (+18.9 percentage points), and Belgium (+16.7 percentage points).

In the EU27 countries, the prevalence of long-term unemployment for immigrants decreased from 4.6% in 2021 to 3.7% in 2022, still a higher share than that of the native-born population. Migrant women are more likely to be in long-term unemployment than their male peers.

While the decrease in long-term unemployment rates was mostly driven by migrant women in the Czech Republic (-14.9 percentage points for women only), Norway (-9.7 percentage points), and Latvia (-8 percentage points), the opposite was observed for Portugal (-21.6 percentage points for males only), Ireland (-15.6 percentage points), Poland (-11.3 percentage points), and Greece (-8.8 percentage points). In the United States, 16.8% of unemployed foreign-born individuals were unemployed for more than 12 months in 2022, a decrease of 6.4 percentage points compared to 2021. In Canada, the long-term unemployment rate improved more significantly for migrants (-6.5 percentage points) than for their native-born counterparts (-4.8 percentage points).

Figure 1.23 illustrates the changes in employment rates by gender, age, level of education, and duration of stay in the EU27, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Regarding differences by gender, the employment rate of migrant women increased more than that of men in non-European OECD countries, while the reverse was true in OECD-Europe despite some improvement in the labour market inclusion of migrant women. The increase in the employment rate of migrant women was particularly significant in the Nordic countries, such as Finland (+7.3 percentage points), Iceland (+8.6 percentage points) and Denmark (+4.2 percentage points), and in some Eastern European countries. Only Poland experienced a decrease in employment rates (-7.7 percentage points), attributable to the high inflow of refugee women from Ukraine.

Foreign-born women in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States have reached their highest employment rates on record. However, the gender gap in employment rates persists even in these countries (Annex Figure 1.A.2). That said, the migrant gender gap in employment has been diminishing in these three countries, while this is not the case in Europe.

Looking at labour participation rates, the gender pattern is even more apparent (Figure 1.24). The labour market participation rate of migrant women has increased in virtually all OECD countries, except Korea, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The rate for migrant men has also increased, but in a smaller number of countries and to a lesser degree. Overall, the labour market participation rate growth of migrant women was higher than that of migrant men in two-thirds of the OECD countries considered.

While Poland experienced a significant decline in participation rates of migrant women, Denmark and Finland each saw the participation of migrant women increase by 4 percentage points or more, resulting in a notable reduction of the migrant gender gap in participation in these countries. In Finland, the rise in the participation of migrant women was accompanied by a decline in the participation of migrant men.

While the employment rate of young migrants was still below the pre-crisis level in 2021, by the end of 2022 it had fully recovered, surpassing pre-crisis 2019 levels in most countries (Panel B of Figure 1.23). In the EU, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and Australia, young migrants’ employment rates increased faster than those of their native-born peers. The exceptions to this trend were Canada, where employment rates increased for both foreign- and native-born youth, but more so for the native-born, and Korea, where the employment rates of young migrants decreased (from 54% to 50%).

In the EU, at 37%, the employment rate of foreign-born youth exceeds that of native-born youth (34%). In Korea, the substantial foreign-born advantage in youth employment rates decreased (from +10 to +3 percentage points) between 2021 and 2022. In both the United States and New Zealand, migrant youth’s employment rates (at 47% and 62% respectively) slightly surpassed the rates of native-born youth in 2022. In the United Kingdom and Australia, migrant youth had lower employment rates than their native-born counterparts in 2022, although with a narrower gap in both countries (a gap of 10 percentage points and 6.5 percentage points respectively) than in 2021. In Canada, the gap in employment rates between young migrants and their native-born peers widened in 2022 (from -5 to -7 percentage points).

That said, for youth the most relevant indicator is the share of young people not in education, employment, or training (NEET rate). This rate stayed similar between 2021 and 2022 among native-born youth (at over 10%) while decreasing slightly (from 19% to 17%) among migrant youth, resulting in a slightly narrowing gap between the two groups (Figure 1.25).

Within Europe, the NEET rate among young migrants decreased the most in Italy (31% to 25%), which nevertheless remains the country with the highest NEET rates overall. Migrants’ NEET rates also decreased in Germany (from 18% to 15%), although both countries maintain a gap of nearly 10 percentage points between foreign- and native-born youth. In some European countries, migrants’ NEET rates worsened in 2022, including Greece (12% to 19%) and Switzerland (18% to 24%), widening the gap with native-born youth as a result. In the United Kingdom, the NEET rate of migrants stayed around 8%, while that of native-born youth increased to 10%. In the United States, after improving in 2021, the NEET rate for young migrants increased slightly in 2022 (from 15% to 16%), while decreasing for their native-born counterparts. In Canada, NEET rates decreased slightly for both migrant and native-born youth, though more slowly for the former (13% to 12%).

In the EU, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, the employment rates of highly educated migrants had already nearly recovered in 2021 and went on to surpass their pre-crisis 2019 levels in 2022 (ranging from 78% in the EU to 86% in the United Kingdom). The employment rates of low-educated nearly reached 2019 levels in the United Kingdom and Canada, and surpassed those in the United States and the EU (where they grew from 53% to 55%). As shown in (Panel C of Figure 1.23), in most countries the employment rates of migrants improved faster than those of the native-born population across levels of education, save for the medium-educated in the United Kingdom, and the low-educated in Canada. Among the low-educated in the United Kingdom and the highly educated in Canada, employment rates increased for migrants while decreasing for the native-born. Overall, in 2022, the employment rates of low-educated grew more strongly than those of their native-born counterparts grew further in the EU, the United Kingdom and the United States, while New Zealand achieved parity.

Canada, Korea and the United States recorded an increase of 3.2, 2.4, and 2.9 percentage points, respectively, in the employment rate of settled immigrants in 2022. However, among these countries, the employment rate of recently arrived migrants improved only in Canada while it declined in Korea and the United States (Panel D of Figure 1.23).

Migrants’ labour market situation varies significantly depending on their region of origin for a variety of reasons. Migration category, gender composition, levels of education, size of the diaspora community and seniority of migration tend to vary significantly by country and region of origin across key OECD destination countries.

Table 1.10 shows changes in employment, unemployment, and participation rates by migrants’ region of origin in 2022. In most OECD countries, the employment situation of migrants generally improved over the year. That said, the direction and extent of change varied also considerably depending on migrants’ regions of origin. Looking at general trends across host contexts, employment rates improved for almost all groups in almost all destination countries considered.

Employment rates of migrants from Asia improved more than those of other migrant groups in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Foreign-born from Europe generally saw an improvement in employment rates during 2022, with the exception of non-EU European-born migrants in the United Kingdom. For migrants from Central and Southern America and the Caribbean, employment rates improved in all major OECD host countries or regions (EU27, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada). Employment rates of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East improved in most examined contexts (Australia, Canada, EU27, the United States, and partly in the United Kingdom), although migrants from these regions still tend to have much lower employment rates than migrants from other regions of origin. Moreover, in both Korea and Japan, migrants from China have the lowest employment rates among the groups examined.

In the United States, all migrant groups had higher average employment rates than the native-born population in 2022, ranging from approximately 75% for Canadians and Europeans to around 71% for Mexicans. All groups saw an improvement in their employment rates, save for Canadians, who nevertheless remained the group with the highest employment levels. African-born migrants saw the strongest improvement, from below 70% in 2021 to over 74% in 2022.

In Canada, immigrants from Oceania, Europe and Central and South America remained above the native-born in terms of their employment rates (despite a slight decrease for Oceanian immigrants). Meanwhile, despite improvements overall, employment rates of immigrants from Africa (75-72%), the United States (72%) and the Middle East (67%), remained below native-born levels.

Within the EU27, intra-EU migrants continued to show the highest employment rates, at nearly 75%. Migrants from North America reached an employment rate similar to that of the native-born (70%), while migrants from Central and South America, Asia and non-EU/EFTA countries had rates in the range of 68-66%. Despite improvements over the year, migrants from the Middle East and North Africa region remained the groups with the lowest employment rates, at 58% and 54%, respectively.

In the United Kingdom, nearly 83% of EU-born migrants of working-age were employed. Employment rates of migrants from the Americas and Sub-Saharan Africa were also above those of the native-born, at around 76% each. While several groups experienced a decrease in employment rates in the United Kingdom, North African immigrants experienced the largest decline in employment rates of all groups examined in Table 1.10, from 64% in 2021 to 60% in 2022.

In Australia, migrants born in the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, other Oceanian countries and Europe retained employment rates higher than the native-born population, reaching around or over 80% each in 2022. The only group with a substantial disadvantage in this regard were migrants from North Africa and the Middle East, whose employment rates remained below 60%.

In Japan, migrant employment rates ranged from 94% for migrants from Viet Nam to 69% for those from China, while native-born employment was at 77%. In Korea, employment rates improved the most for China-born ethnic Koreans, who emerged as the origin group with the highest employment rate (77%). In contrast, other China-born migrants remained the group with the lowest employment rate, with a rate below 38%, despite a slight improvement since 2021.


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[2] De Wispelaere, F., L. De Smedt and J. Pacolet (2022), Posting of workers - Report on A1 Portable Documents issued in 2021, European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2767/199888.

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[3] USCIS (2023), Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit Parole for Individuals Outside the United States, https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/humanitarian_parole (accessed on 16 June 2023).

[4] USCIS (2023), Processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans, https://www.uscis.gov/CHNV (accessed on 13 June 2023).