Preliminary data show that OECD countries received slightly more than 5 million new permanent legal migrants in 2017. This represents the first decline in migration to the area since 2011 (down by around 5%, compared to 2016). This is due, however, to the significant reduction in the number of recognised refugees in 2017 while other migration categories remained stable or increased.
After two years of record-high numbers of asylum applications to OECD countries, there was a significant decline in 2017, with 1.23 million claims. This figure is still well above any other recorded year, prior to 2015. The top three origin countries were Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. In 2017, the United States received the highest number of asylum applications in the OECD (330 000 applications), followed by Germany (198 000).
Accounting for almost 40% of permanent migrants, family migration (family reunification and formation as well as accompanying family members) remained the most important migration channel to the OECD area. The sharp increase in this category in the period 2015/16 reversed a decline that started in 2010.
Labour market integration of immigrants
Between 2016 and 2017, the unemployment rate of migrants in the OECD decreased by more than 1 percentage point to 9.5%, and the employment rate increased from 65.7% to 67.1%. The improvement was more marked for foreign-born women.
Specific migrant groups are showing particularly high employment rates. For example, in the European Union, the employment rate of EU migrants is higher than that of natives by 5 percentage points. In the United States, for the first time in recent years, migrants from Mexico and Africa outperformed migrants from Asia by 1 and 3 percentage points, respectively.
Across OECD countries, the creation of integration programmes for newly-arrived migrants and refugees continues, focusing largely on language and skills acquisition. Many countries have also developed measures intended for the most vulnerable, notably unaccompanied minors and children who arrive late to the education system.
Labour market impact of refugees
European countries received 4 million new asylum applications between January 2014 and December 2017, three times as many as during the previous four-year period. During the same period (2014-17), about 1.6 million individuals were granted some form of protection.
For European countries as a whole, the relative impact of recent refugee inflows on the labour force is estimated to be quite small, at less than 0.25% by December 2020. Specific groups (young, low-educated men) in the most affected countries (Austria, Germany, Sweden) are, however, more exposed.
In the absence of any migrant returning to their countries of origin, the total number of rejected asylum seekers could reach 1.2 million by end 2020. The effect on the informal labour market will depend on the level of voluntary returns and the efficiency of enforcement measures.
Illegal employment of foreign workers
Illegal employment of foreign workers is most likely to affect men of a relatively young age. The sectors most concerned by such illegal employment are agriculture, construction, manufacturing and domestic services.