OECD report deploys facts against anti-migrant alarmism

By staff writers
11 Sep 2008

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a policy research body bringing together the world's richest developed countries, has suggested that fears about migration and hostility towards migrant workers are unjustified.

A new report from the OECD says that in 2006 there were four million permanent migrants, and 2.5 million temporary migrants admitted by its members. But it adds that the rate of increase in migration is slowing, and it expects the looming economic slowdown in Western nations will lead to lower flows of migrants.

This view stands in contrast to the alarmist predictions of new UK anti-immigration group called Balanced Migration, backed by ex-archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and an assortment of politicians.

Many rich countries are trying to encourage permanent migration by highly skilled migrants, while restricting less-skilled immigrants to temporary status, the OECD comments. Secretary General Angel Gurria says this requires careful planning and adjustment, not a panic or 'heads in the sand' approach.

The OECD points out that most migrants decide to return home regardless of government policy. It estimates that 20% to 50% of migrants leave the host country within five years.

In the longer term, with declining populations in many OECD countries, it suggests that there will be an increased need for both skilled and unskilled labour which migrants will need to fill.

A number of OECD countries - including the US, UK, France and Italy - have tightened up their immigration policy in recent years in response to political pressures and popular concerns as the economic slowdown has intensified, reports the BBC. Others, such as Spain and Ireland, are considering such measures.

Changes have included tighter checks on employers who are hiring illegal immigrants, additional requirements for professional skills or education before being admitted, and tougher border controls.

However, the number of asylum seekers admitted has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years, with just 282,000 admitted by the 30 nations of the OECD.

The biggest increase in the last five years has been in the number of foreign students admitted, which has gone up 50% from 2000 to 2005 across the OECD as a whole - especially in the US, the UK, Australia and France.

The OECD points out that there has been little planning for how countries might benefit from such temporary migration. This is one of the longer-term stability issues that needs tackling.

The report also points out that the majority of immigrants to European OECD countries come from within Europe or North Africa.

Around 60% of sub-Saharan African migrants, and 80% of migrants from Asia, go to other OECD countries like the US and Australia.

Just over one in 10 people in OECD countries are migrants, with Finland and Austria seeing the biggest increase.

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See also on Ekklesia: 'Are immigration controls moral?', by Vaughan Jones - http://ekklesia.co.uk/research/280405immigration

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