Importing low skills

While OECD countries compete to attract high-skilled immigrants, the 2008 International Migration Outlook finds that employers increasingly rely on immigrants for low-skilled work. Just a fifth on average of the low-educated workforce in 21 OECD countries in the report is foreign-born, whereas the EU25 average is 14.1%.

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The highest share of foreign-born workers is in Luxembourg, where more than half (52%) of the low-educated workforce is foreign-born. Switzerland and the US follow with 43% and 38.7%. Immigrants form over a quarter of the low-educated workforce in Germany and Austria.

In almost all of the countries studied, the proportion of immigrants among the low-educated workforce has increased since 1995, even in countries that have limited the entry of low-educated migrants. In Spain, their proportion has increased six-fold since 1995, reaching 12.4% in 2006. Greece and Norway have also seen large increases and now over 10% of the low-educated workforce is foreign-born in both these countries.

Sectors such as food preparation and services, agriculture and fishery, personal and home care as well as construction and transportation are especially reliant on loweducated immigrants, according to the authors of the report. Low-skilled occupations are expected to grow over the next decade, in part due to an ageing labour force, the report says.

Order International Migration Outlook 2008 at, ISBN 978-92-64-04565-1

©OECD Observer No 269 October 2008

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