Immigrant Integration: Priorities for the Next Decade (Transatlantic Council Statement)
This statement resulting from the fourth plenary meeting of the Transatlantic Council on Migration reflects on how policymakers can shift focus back onto immigrant integration as a continuous and interactive process, even amidst the tumult of a persistent economic crisis.
As countries grapple with the legacy of the Great Recession—in most instances soaring unemployment for immigrants, minorities, and youth; competition for society’s resources; and spikes in anti-immigrant sentiment—the consequences of our actions today will be felt for decades during the long recovery that lies ahead. Considering the continuing, and in many instances rising, need for immigrants, losing momentum on integration is not an option.
Participants at the Transatlantic Council meeting considered the critical question of how to invest intelligently in a new world that confronts two competing realities: increased integration needs and reduced spending capacity.
Looking forward, the Council’s analyses and discussions made clear that policymakers must be prepared for more funding shortfalls ahead. National and subnational budget crises are far from over, and extraordinary and sustained job creation will be necessary before unemployment begins to approach pre-Great Recession levels. The economy will also be appreciably different, with many employers in the manufacturing sector demanding workers with better skills relative to those needed prior to the recession (a product of capital investments and other production-process adjustments made during the downturn) and with construction (among other sectors) claiming a smaller share of the job market in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, and Ireland.
What does this mean for immigrants in the labor market? Unemployment has been particularly vicious for minority and immigrant youth, and the danger of substantial and long-term “economic scarring” is great; that is, workers who either attempt to enter the labor market or who lose their jobs during a recession are likely to suffer permanent income and mobility disadvantages relative to the rest of the workforce. Yet there is little appetite for increased investments to bridge these gaps; the winding down of stimulus funds and growing concern in many countries about high levels of public debt are likely to exacerbate concerns that immigrants compete with natives for diminishing public expenditures designed to cushion the effects of the recession for workers and families.