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OECD Warns Eurozone Crisis Hurting Immigration

  • Lisa Bryant

Secretary-General of the OECD Angel Gurria, May 22, 2012 (AP).

Secretary-General of the OECD Angel Gurria, May 22, 2012 (AP).

PARIS - The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, reports Europe's economic crisis is taking a toll on immigration, cutting the numbers of migrants and pushing many into the ranks of the unemployed. OECD's newly published findings released a day before a key European Union summit on the economy.

Released Wednesday, the latest migration outlook by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds permanent migration fell in 2010, but began picking up last year, as the world economy began looking up. But at a news conference in Brussels, OECD chief Angel Gurria warned the deepening financial crisis in the eurozone may reverse that trend.

"The European Union is one of the main catalysts for international economic exchanges, including of course, migration. It's prospects for growth, it's prospects for employment, have a direct impact on global migration flows," said Gurria.

Gurria says the outcomes of this week's European Union summit, along with the recent G20 meeting in Mexico, are crucial in determining migration trends and policies. EU leaders will be tackling the ongoing financial and banking crisis in the euro currency union that is now in its third year.

The OECD report shows that immigrants are a critical part of the labor force in many rich nations - accounting for a large chunk of its recent growth in the U.S. and Europe, for example. Now, with a grim economic climate on both sides of the Atlantic, these immigrants are among the hardest hit.

"They were particularly affected by the global jobs contraction," said Gurria. "Young migrants, as I said, in particular, the impact was so strong that migration flows into the OECD countries actually declined."

Struggling eurozone member Spain is a case in point. As its economy nosedived last year, the report found the unemployment rate among immigrants soared to 32 percent.

Yet, Gurria notes, Europe needs its immigrant labor force.

"By 2015, immigration at the current level will not be sufficient to maintain the working-age population in many OECD countries - particularly in the European Union," he said.

The OECD report also shows Asian immigration to OECD countries is growing, rising to about 30 percent in 2010. But it also warns that member states will soon be competing with Asian nations who are increasingly able to offer immigrants attractive jobs closer to home.