Matching Economic Migration with Labour Market Needs

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This publication gathers the papers presented at the “OECD-EU dialogue on mobility and international migration: matching economic migration with labour market needs” (Brussels, 24-25 February 2014), a conference jointly organised by the European Commission and the OECD. It provides new evidence on the role that international migration has played in Europe and in selected other OECD countries over the past decade in terms of labour force; educational attainment; and occupational changes. It analyses the availability and use of migrants’ skills based on an in-depth literature review as well as new data analyses for Europe and the United States, Canada and the OECD as a whole, taking advantage of the International Survey of Adult Skills – PIAAC. Finally, several chapters discuss the potential role of international migration in meeting current and future labour market needs in Europe, in the United States and in the European Union. This work shows that although migration can make an important contribution to labour force growth, its role in counterbalancing the effects of population ageing will depend on the capacity of countries to match labour needs to migrants’ characteristics.

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Migration in Europe

An overview of results from the 2008 immigrant module with implications for labour migration

According to a new recent data source, it would appear that only a fraction of labour migrants in EU countries are actually recruited as labour migrants from abroad and that more high-skilled jobs are filled by migrants recruited in the country than those recruited from abroad. This same source suggests that retention rates for immigrants having the most favourable labour market outcomes tend to be lower and that half of highly skilled labour migrants are no longer in the same jobs for which they were initially recruited after five years.

These results suggest that shortage lists and labour market tests may not always be as relevant as generally considered as tools for regulating labour flows according to needs. Protection of domestic workers may best be ensured by seeing to it that wages and working conditions of first immigrant jobs are according to domestic standards.

In addition, ensuring greater retention, encouraging migrants to come with their families and inducing potential candidates to learn national languages will require more significant incentives than are currently offered. For this the right of permanent residence upon entry seems a likely candidate. Generally, the ability to obtain good employment and to demonstrate language proficiency needs to be rewarded far more than is currently the case in most countries.

It seems likely that the low levels of highly skilled labour migration in many European countries have less to do with low attractiveness than with the fact that employers are not recruiting significantly from abroad.

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