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Two Years into Global Recession: New Report Reveals Disproportionate Impact on Immigrants, Particularly Men and Youth

Press Release
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Two Years into Global Recession: New Report Reveals Disproportionate Impact on Immigrants, Particularly Men and Youth

WASHINGTON/LONDON — Immigrants, particularly men and youth, have been hit disproportionately by the global economic crisis that began in autumn 2008 and now confront a reality of dwindling budgets for public services and immigrant integration programs, a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report for BBC World Service finds.

The study published Thursday, October 7 — Migration and Immigrants Two Years after the Financial Collapse: Where Do We Stand? — reports that the unemployment gap between immigrants and the native born has widened in many countries (Germany being a notable exception), with wide variations by country. The gap proved largest in Spain, rising to 12.2 percent in the second quarter of 2010 compared to 4.4 percent before the recession’s onset.

Released as part of BBC’s Hard Times season, which looks at austerity measures across the world, this new report is a follow up to last year’s MPI study for BBC World Service — Migration and the Global Recession — which examined the impact of the global recession on migration flows, remittances, employment and poverty rates.

The latest report reveals that the toll has been particularly hard for migrant men, who are often concentrated in the sectors that experienced the most serious contractions (notably construction and manufacturing) and immigrant youth (ages 15-24). Unemployment among foreign-born youth has reached 41 percent in Spain, 37 percent in Sweden and 20 percent in Canada. By contrast, immigrant women have fared better than immigrant men in almost all wealthy countries.

The report, which offers a particular focus on five North Atlantic countries — Germany, Ireland, Spain, the United Kingdom and United States — also finds that certain immigrant groups and minorities have lost the most ground economically during the recession: Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in the United Kingdom, North African and Andean immigrants in Spain and Hispanics in the United States.

Among the study’s other findings:

  • Overall immigration to developed countries has slowed sharply as a result of the economic crisis. Unregulated flows such as illegal immigration and free movement within parts of the European Union have experienced the largest decreases. Immigration to Ireland from new EU Member States fell by 60 percent from 2008 to 2009 while overall EU inflows to Spain fell by two-thirds, for example. Meanwhile, border agencies at the U.S. and EU southern borders report dramatically fewer illegal entries.
  • Are immigrant-destination countries now becoming countries of emigration? Some immigrant-destination countries that historically have been countries of emigration, such as Ireland and Greece, may be reverting to earlier trends. Ireland re-emerged as a country of net emigration in 2009 for the first time since 1995 — reporting the highest net outflows of both immigrants and natives in the European Union.
  • Immigrant-receiving countries have not resorted to protectionism. While some countries have made some modest adjustments to their employment-based immigration policies, immigrant-receiving countries have not resorted to the protectionism that many initially feared. Enforcement efforts to remove unauthorized migrants are up, however, in many countries. The U.S. government deported 10 percent more unauthorized immigrants in 2009 than the year before. And Italy and France have increased enforcement measures (including controversial deportations of Roma immigrants from France to Eastern Europe).
  • Long-term high unemployment predicted for migrants. While the recession may be over in almost all advanced industrial nations, the ongoing jobs crisis in many countries is likely to have a pronounced effect on the long-term economic prospects for immigrant workers and their families. High unemployment among the most vulnerable of these groups could persist for some time, with long-lasting “economic scarring” for more recently arrived immigrants who entered the job market during the downturn.

“The economic boom of much of the last two decades drove robust growth in many countries’ immigrant populations, but the foundations for this growth have now been shaken, with public skepticism about immigration greater and barriers to immigrants’ integration higher than before the economic crisis,” said MPI President Demetrios Papademetriou. “The question is: Have advanced nations reached an inflection point with respect to immigration, or, as economic growth returns, will the pre-recession migration trends and patterns return?”

Migration and Immigrants Two Years after the Financial Collapse: Where Do We Stand?  is available here.

Notes to Editors:
If using any of the material from the report, please credit: BBC World Service/Migration Policy Institute - Migration and Immigrants Two Years after the Financial Collapse: Where Do We Stand? report

About: Migration and Immigrants Two Years after the Financial Collapse report:
The BBC World Service report commissioned from MPI explores how, two years after the onset of the global economic crisis, migrants have fared in select labor markets in Europe and the United States. The report offers a particular focus on five North Atlantic countries – Germany, Ireland, Spain, the United Kingdom and United States — examining immigration policies and program cuts those governments have implemented as well as migration and remittance flow changes. The 126-page report compares migrant and native worker employment, providing data on migrants by age, gender, education and region of origin.

For a copy of the report, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Michelle Mittelstadt, +1 202-266-1910, [email protected]
Penny Crook, +44 (0)207 557 1142, [email protected]

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The Migration Policy Institute, based in Washington, D.C., is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, visit www.migrationpolicy.org. For notice of future MPI research, sign up here.