On the move

OECD Observer

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Record numbers of people are moving to OECD countries to find jobs or join their families, despite an economic downturn in some countries. More than a million permanent immigrants entered the US in 2001 and 2002, some 25% more than in 2000, according to the latest issue of the OECD’s Trends in International Migration.

It was a similar story in Europe, where several countries, including Austria, France and Switzerland, admitted about 15% more immigrants during the same period, while Canada and New Zealand also saw sharp increases in their immigration flows. Only Japan, Korea and northern Europe saw smaller increases. Migration for jobs increased significantly in 2001-2002 across all types of employment, particularly in the health sector, due to national labour shortages.

The health sector now employs 21% of all foreign workers in Norway, 19% in Sweden, 14% in the UK, 12% in the Netherlands and 11% in the United States. Such migration of highly skilled workers, in health care, education and new technologies, has raised questions as to whether it is leading to a “brain drain”, causing the home countries of migrants to suffer. After a study of health care in South Africa, the report concludes that emigration may not be the main reason for such difficulties facing developing countries, but it aggravates the problem.

©OECD Observer No 242, March 2004

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