People movement

International Migration Outlook
OECD Observer

Some 3-3.5 million immigrants, including those already living in their new country on a temporary basis, became official long-term residents in OECD countries in 2004, according to the 2006 edition of International Migration Outlook, an annual report that analyses population movements and policies both overall in the OECD area and on a country-by-country basis.

Immigration rose sharply to the US (+34%), Italy (+28%) and the UK (24%) during 2004, the latest year for which comparable figures are available. By contrast, immigration dropped sharply in Finland (-25%), Germany (-15%) and New Zealand (-14%). Over the same period, the number of asylum seekers arriving in OECD countries declined by more than 20%, continuing a trend that has seen a 35% drop since 2000.

The number of temporary, seasonal, and contract workers has been increasing over the past ten years as OECD countries continue to recruit temporary foreign workers. The increase in the number of foreign students is also significant, particularly in New Zealand, Japan, Australia, France and Germany.

International Migration Outlook examines other new developments, too. For instance, since EU enlargement in May 2004, only three member states–the UK, Ireland and Sweden–have opened their labour markets to nationals of the new accession countries. The upshot has been clear. From May 2004 to the end of December 2005, 345,000 workers from the new member states registered in the UK. In Ireland, for so long a country of emigration, the figure was 83,000, or some 4% of the Irish labour force.

Security and the fight against irregular migration clearly influence policies to control migration flows. In parallel, new measures have been adopted to develop or improve the integration of newcomers. These include obligatory language courses, ethnic diversity promotion within firms as in many countries, and overt campaigns against discrimination or for equal opportunities.

International Migration Outlook scrutinises in some detail the merits of migration policies and programmes which set quotas and numerical limits. It notes that these systems can be difficult to manage if the levels set do not take account of existing family or humanitarian migration as well as unauthorised movements.

©OECD Observer No 256, July 2006

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