The activities of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2010-2011
| Doc. 12729
| 28 September 2011
- Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population
- Rapporteur :
- Ms Sandra OSBORNE,
United Kingdom, SOC
- Reference to committee: Standing
mandate. Reporting Committee: Committee on Economic Affairs and Development.
See Doc. 12683.
Contribution approved by the committee on 13 September 2011. 2011 - Fourth part-session
of the committee
1 The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population
welcomes the report by Ms Birutė Vėsaitė (Lithuania, SOC), which
reviews the activities of the OECD in 2010-2011 in the light of
the Organisation’s 50th anniversary and its latest annual report,
focussing on the current trends and prospects for the world economy. The
regular debate on the activities of the OECD remains relevant to
the work of the Council of Europe, in particular on issues related
to economic governance which are closely interlinked with the core
values of the Council of Europe and the work of several committees
of the Assembly. In this respect, the committee appreciates the
recommendation in paragraph 3 of the draft resolution requesting
the OECD to keep demanding full respect for democracy, human rights
and the rule of law as accession criteria for its candidate countries.
2 With regard to its own field of activities, the committee
applauds the OECD for the essential work it carries out in the field
of international migration. This work, and particularly the wide
range of migration statistics its Continuous Reporting System on
Migration (SOPEMI) provides, is crucial in the current period of
economic turmoil in a number of OECD member states.
3 The committee welcomes the recent publication of the 2011
edition of International Migration Outlook (hereafter “IMO 2011”),
which presents fresh data on migration flows and formulates policy
suggestions for dealing with the impacts of the economic downturn
on the labour market. Most of the data analysed concerns the year
2009, which explains why some of the more recent developments in
the world, be it the effects of the Arab Spring or of the looming
threat of default in a number of European OECD member states, have
not yet been reflected in them.
4 The committee observes that international migration is affected
by the same global changes that are affecting the world economy.
The driving changes in migration policies and patterns can significantly
influence social stability, inter-state relations and the pace of
global economic recovery. The IMO 2011 states that the emerging
economies of China and India are now the main origin countries of
immigration to the OECD area (accounting respectively for 9% and
4.5% of immigrants), while South Africa is the main destination
country for asylum seekers. As economic growth in developing Asia
outstrips that of OECD countries, regional migration flows are gaining
importance. South–South migration already accounts for about half
of global movements and the competition for talent goes well beyond
the OECD area. Future migration movement are thus unlikely to mirror
completely the patterns of the past.
5 The committee notes the following trends and developments
in the OECD area: in 2009, the economic downturn marked a decline
in permanent regulated labour inflows of about 7%. Free-circulation
movements within the European Union and temporary labour migration
saw the biggest falls: 22% and 16% respectively compared with 2008.
Compared with movements observed prior to the crisis, the largest
absolute declines were recorded for migration from new European
Union member states, most notably Romania, Poland and Bulgaria.
6 Nonetheless, regardless of the severity of the economic crisis,
migration movements have not declined as much as one might have
expected. The OECD argues that this may partly reflect the impact
of current demographic trends, notably in Europe, where ageing populations
and falling fertility rates create an increasing demand for both
skilled and unskilled workers. It also reveals that family and humanitarian
migration are less affected by economic downturns than labour migration
and tend to remain more or less unchanged.
7 The economic crisis has not had an obvious impact on the number
of asylum requests in OECD countries, which stood at about 363 000
in 2009 and remained virtually unchanged in 2010. This, as the report points
out, corresponds to a relatively low level, compared with the historical
highs attained in the early to mid-1990s or even compared with the
levels above 600 000 in the early part of the decade. It remains
to be seen how the 2011 Arab Spring and its consequent events will
affect the numbers of asylum claims in Europe.
8 As already referred to in previous 2009 and 2010 editions
of International Migration Outlook, immigrants have been disproportionately
– and immediately – hit by the economic downturn and consequent
employment crisis. The 2011 report notes that between the first
three quarters of 2008 and 2009, the unemployment rate of the foreign-born
increased markedly in all OECD countries. In Spain, for example,
in the fourth quarter of 2010, the foreign-born unemployment rate
reached 29.3% compared with 18.4% for natives.
9 OECD data confirm that migrant women have been less affected
than migrant men. One reason is that they are concentrated in employment
sectors (for example, social and domestic services) which have not suffered
as much from the economic crisis. Another possible explanation is
that migrant women may have increased their labour force participation
to compensate for income losses from migrant men.
10 Young migrants continue to be in a particularly vulnerable
situation in the labour market. Except in Germany, the employment
rate of young migrants aged between 15 and 24 has decreased in the
past three years and it did so more than the employment rate for
the native-born young people. On average, in European OECD countries,
in the third quarter of 2010, 24.5% of young migrants were unemployed
compared with 19.6% of native-born young people.
11 And yet, despite the negative net job creation, hiring has
not stopped. Immigrant employment has increased in some sectors
(education, health, long-term care, domestic services), while it
has shrunk in others (construction, finance, wholesale and retail
trade, etc.). However, what is not sure is to what degree laid-off migrant
workers can take up new employment opportunities, and this potential
inability accentuates the risk of long-term unemployment for specific
categories of workers, especially low- and medium-skilled men, and
an ever-increasing number of regular (often long-term) migrants
losing their legal status.
12 In this regard, the committee reiterates its concern about
the risk of “normalising irregularity” in Europe. Migrants who lose
their legal status are often forced to accept extremely unfavourable
conditions out of fear of unemployment and destitution. Their situation
also makes them prey for smugglers and trafficking networks.
13 The immigrant population makes a significant contribution
to population growth in many OECD countries. The foreign-born population
in 2009 accounted for 14% of the total population in OECD countries
for which data were available. This is a 13% increase relative to
the year 2006, and a 37% increase over the past decade. In 20 of
the 34 OECD countries, immigrants exceed 10% of the total population.
Traditional immigration countries such as Germany and the Netherlands
(with immigrant populations of 13% and 11%, respectively) have been
overtaken by the new migration countries of Ireland and Spain.
14 The committee shares OECD’s concerns about the lack of readiness
of European societies to accept these structural changes. Recent
elections, in the context of difficult economic conditions, have
revealed discomfort on the part of many voters in OECD countries
at the prospect of increasing levels of international migration.
Anti-immigration rhetoric prevailed in many election campaigns in
2009 and 2010. Several countries adopted restrictive measures on
labour migration. This is the case notably in Spain or Ireland,
but also in the United Kingdom where a change of government brought
a much more restrictive approach to labour migration. Family and
humanitarian policies, as well as border controls, have also been
tightened, albeit for different reasons.
15 The committee warns that imposing restrictive, populist-led
measures or undue or indiscriminate restrictions on immigration
could lead European countries to pay a heavy price in future growth.
It notes, however, with a certain satisfaction, that in many member
states the official policy is in fact favouring more open labour
migration, at least in terms of expecting to recruit greater numbers
of highly skilled migrants in the coming years, in occupations where
the domestic supply is insufficient. Several have implemented reforms
to increase attractiveness as a receiving country, for foreign workers
in general and skilled workers in particular.
16 In this context, the committee believes that the benefits
of migration can only fully be achieved through effective integration
measures, many of which have so far regrettably failed to meet their
objectives. The diversity brought by migration can be a competitive
advantage for the European economies. This would require greater
efforts to offer newly arrived people the possibility to learn the
language of their host country, to get a job or to study. The IMO
2011 nevertheless observes positive initiatives and increasing attention
at policy level to targeting new arrivals, labour market integration,
in particular regarding the recognition of foreign qualifications,
and the integration of children of immigrants.
17 Finally, the committee recalls that one of the keys to satisfactory
employment outcomes and, ultimately, integration for immigrants
is naturalisation. The OECD research shows that naturalised immigrants
enjoy substantially better labour market outcomes across a whole
range of indicators such as a higher employment probability, better
occupational status and access to the public sector, and higher
wages. Governments should, on the one hand, encourage eligible immigrants
to take up nationality of the host country and, on the other, consider
lowering barriers to naturalisation, such as limits on dual nationality
and overly restrictive eligibility criteria.
In the light of the above, the committee supports the four
key recommendations of the OECD contained in the IMO 2011 as regards:
- the relevance of getting the
facts into the public domain, in particular regarding the true picture
of integration of migrants in European economies and societies;
- broader co-operation between OECD and origin countries,
as well as between governments and employers;
- the need for enhancing integration efforts, which should
be seen as a long-term investment and not a short-term cost;
- providing everybody with a fair chance of succeeding though
easier naturalisation programmes and guaranteeing equal rights.
2 Proposed contribution to the draft resolution
Whilst emphasising its support for the draft resolution
tabled by the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, the
Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population proposes to include
the following paragraphs in the draft resolution:
enlarged Assembly expresses its concern over the impact of the lingering
economic and job crisis on international migration. It welcomes
the OECD’s continuing analysis of how the economic situation affects
the origin and destination countries in both the short and medium
term, as well as in advising governments on specific policy responses
to meet this challenge. In this respect, it particularly welcomes
the recent publication of the International Migration Outlook 2011.2. The enlarged Assembly recognises that Europe is an
immigration continent – and it is in its interest to be one. Care
should be taken to ensure that the tightening of border controls
and the denying of opportunities for legal entry or family reunification
do not increase irregular migration and public resentment towards
foreigners. This could lead to xenophobia and sow the seeds of social
conflict as well as cause tension in inter-state relations.3. The enlarged Assembly is convinced that the present
economic crisis could be turned into a great opportunity for laying
the basis for a sound management of human mobility in the future.
The current potential dangers could be minimised through timely
preventive measures. It therefore calls on the member states to
adopt flexible immigration policies congruous with current and anticipated
labour needs, to avoid populist, inward-looking policies, and to
introduce proactive labour-market measures, notably through job