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Countries Must “Future-Proof” Their Immigrant Selection Systems to Stay Competitive in a Changing World of Work
Press Release
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Countries Must “Future-Proof” Their Immigrant Selection Systems to Stay Competitive in a Changing World of Work

WASHINGTON — Artificial intelligence, automation and digitization are reshaping labor markets and will soon disrupt them beyond recognition. As these trends change how and where people work, advanced economies unwilling to adapt how they select foreign workers risk stifling future economic growth.

Aging populations and the prospect of shrinking workforces and dwindling tax bases bring new urgency to questions about how to meet future skill and labor market needs and support social protection systems, with immigration one of the answers as governments seek to mitigate these trends.

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration notes the careful balancing act that will be increasingly required in the design and regulation of immigrant selection systems amid an uneven employment picture. In many countries, knowledge- and service-intensive sectors are booming, creating new opportunities for highly skilled professionals. At the same time, workers without in-demand analytical and technical skills are finding it more difficult to secure reliable work that pays family-sustaining wages.

Tackling this mismatch will require policymakers to update and frequently revise education, training, social protection and regional economic development systems, and to critically re-evaluate how economic-stream immigrants are selected, MPI authors Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Meghan Benton and Kate Hooper argue. Governments will need to get better at anticipating future labor market needs and spreading the benefits of immigration beyond major metropolitan centers.

The report, Equipping Immigrant Selection Systems for a Changing World of Work, concludes a Transatlantic Council series focused on ways in which countries can build migration systems for a new age of economic competitiveness. Earlier reports include case studies that examine the evolution of points-based systems in Canada and Australia—the latter particularly timely as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week raised the idea of an Australian-style points system for the United Kingdom.

To “future-proof” their immigrant selection systems, governments must create and maintain flexible and responsive selection systems, take advantage of digital and other innovations to streamline and adjust the applications process, rigorously evaluate and adapt to integration and employment outcomes for recruited foreign workers, focus on lifelong education and training for all workers and take global competition for foreign talent seriously.

“To maximize economic competitiveness, immigration rules must be clear, predictable and well enforced, thus enabling employers to plan their workforce strategically,” the Council Statement concludes. “But immigration systems must also be flexible enough to adapt to a fast-changing labor market and sophisticated enough to identify and assess myriad intangible skills.”

Read the Council Statement here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/immigrant-selection-systems-changing-world-work.

For the other reports in the series, see: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/transatlantic-council-migration/building-migration-systems-competitiveness.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels. MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community.