Published on People Move

Migration is a fact of life and more people than ever are moving

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The OECD published on October 23rd its annual report on migration – International Migration Outlook. The report, now in its 47th edition, shows that migration flows to OECD countries and employment of immigrants are at record highs in 2022.

All migration categories, in most countries, are on the rise. This is the result of a combination of factors, both structural and conjunctural. The Post Covid-19 recovery and reopening of borders has led to a catch up in delayed admissions in a few countries notably in Asia and Oceania but also sizeable unmet labour needs, notably in Europe and North America. Recent policy changes in a few countries (Canada, Japan, United Kingdom) and persisting competition between OECD countries to attract talent also contributed to this result.

Permanent migration to OECD countries reached 6.1 million in 2022, a 26% increase compared with 2021, and its highest level since at least 2005. 15 out of the 38 OECD countries registered in 2022 their highest levels of permanent migration over the past 15 years.

This is not even counting the 4.7 million displaced Ukrainians in OECD countries. Germany, Poland and the United States host the highest number of refugees from Ukraine in absolute terms, while Estonia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania have received the highest number as a share of the population.

Temporary labour migration to OECD countries is also on the rise and already exceeds pre-pandemic levels. More than 2.4 million work permits and authorisations were granted in OECD countries (bar Poland) representing a 77% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, Poland registered about 2 million requests for different types of work authorisations (including renewals), which also correspond to a record high.

Students are an additional inflow. Approximately 1.9 million residence permits were issued for international tertiary-level students across the OECD in 2022. This is 42% more than in 2021, 24% more than in 2019 and the highest number ever registered.

Asylum applications in the OECD were also at a record high in 2022. Over 2 million new applications were lodged in OECD countries in 2022, the highest number recorded so far, well above the previous record – in 2015/16 - of 1.7 million and twice the 2021 level. The increase was largely driven by soaring applications in the United States, at 730 000 compared with less than 190 000 in 2021.

The good news is that these record inflows have not had a detrimental effect on the economic inclusion of immigrants, as we also observe record high levels for migrant employment and naturalisation.

The employment rate of migrants rose to 72.3% across OECD countries in 2022, catching up almost with that of the native-born population. Employment rates increased both for migrant men and for migrant women. In more than 80% of OECD countries, migrants’ employment levels have either returned to or surpassed their pre-pandemic level. In more than half of countries, the employment rate of migrants is the highest in more than two decades.

Relative to previous waves of refugees, the new arrivals from Ukraine have been able to integrate more quickly into the labour market. Allowing them immediate access to employment, coupled with higher levels of qualifications and the presence of sizeable diaspora networks, has facilitated their integration.

What is more, 2022 has also been a record high in naturalisations, which are a sign of longer-term successful integration. Acquisitions of citizenship in OECD countries reached a record level in 2022, at 2.8 million. Canada comprised a third of this increase, with a record 375 000 new Canadian citizens in 2022.

Migration is not a threat but a fact of life and it affects all of us. The populations and economies of our countries are increasingly connected. At the same time, in many countries, we observe increasingly divided public opinion with strong prejudice against migrants and migration. Clearly increasing migration flows may contribute to fuel this anxiety.

This is why this OECD report is so important as it clearly shows that most migration is safe, orderly and regular. The record inflows have been managed and are largely the result of migration policies, of internationally agreed conventions and of economic needs. Obviously, we can and should always do better to make the most of migration and migrant potential while minimizing migrant vulnerabilities and the risk of abuse and of trafficking but the year 2022 also clearly shows key destination countries can absorb more new immigrants without any negative impact on their socio-economic inclusion and on host communities. This clearly supports a message of hope regarding our collective capacity to deliver on the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees.


Jean-Christophe Dumont

Head of the International Migration Division, OECD

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