Immigrants were key drivers behind the economic boom, as they added skills and productivity to lift performance. Now, almost everywhere migrants are feeling the brunt of the crisis. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable during prolonged economic downturns, and this crisis has had the effect of throwing many immigrant workers out of work at a higher rate than for native-born workers. One reason is that immigrants tend to work in sectors which are sensitive to swings in the economic climate, that is, where demand for workers rises sharply in good times and drops fast during bad.
Unemployment among the foreign-born labour force has soared in all OECD countries, according to the OECD’s latest International Migration Outlook 2010. In the last quarter of 2009 unemployment rates of the foreign-born labour force were over 15% in Belgium, Ireland, Finland, France and Sweden. These were all somewhat higher than for the corresponding unemployment rate among the native-born workforce (our chart). In Spain immigrants’ unemployment is 1.7 times higher than natives, as shown by the ratio in our chart, which represents the gap between unemployment among natives and immigrants. In the US, though, local and foreign-born rates were roughly the same–foreign-born unemployment doubled from 4.3% in 2007 to 9.7% in 2009. As for Hungary, arriving immigrants tend to have jobs waiting, which explains why their unemployment rate is slightly lower than the local-born average.
Overall, legal immigration of foreign nationals into the OECD fell 6% in 2008, the first decline after five years of averaging 11% growth.
- OECD work on migration: oecd.org/migration