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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The demography of occupational change and skill use among immigrants and the native-born

Over the past decade, high-skilled occupations have generally grown strongly, lowskilled occupations somewhat less so, while medium-skilled occupations have declined or stagnated.

In rapidly growing occupations, there was a large surplus of new entrants over retirees in new jobs, for which there were many domestic candidates. But many new immigrants were also hired into these jobs, indicating that domestic sources were not sufficient to satisfy all of the needs. At the same time, new immigrants replaced only a fraction of retiring workers in declining occupations. This suggests that observed and future labour and skill shortages are not a simple function of demographic imbalances in the labour force, but depend significantly on the changing nature of demand for particular skills and the extent to which these can be filled from existing sources of supply.

For some immigrants, low levels of education constrained their occupational choices to low-skilled jobs and for others, the education and work experience earned abroad made them sometimes ill-prepared to compete with the skills of recently graduated young workers and of prime-age workers already having made their way in the labour market. EU migrants more often enter higher skilled occupations than non-EU migrants, but the high-skilled share of entries varies across countries. Finally occupational change over the 2000-10 decade shows a tendency towards a feminisation of high-skilled jobs and a greater presence of women in growing than in declining occupations. There were also proportionally more men in strongly declining occupations. The same pattern was observed for immigrants, whether from EU countries or not.

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