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OECD International Migration Outlook 2020: What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigrants and their children?

The OECD International Migration Outlook analyses recent developments in migration movements and policies in OECD countries (and some non-member countries), as well as the evolution of the labour market outcomes of migrants. This 2020 edition finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has put migration and progress on integration at risk and disproportionately affects migrants and their children.

Migration itself has decreased significantly since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, according to OECD, with adverse effects on both countries of origin and destination. The report finds that it is essential governments do not stop spending on integration, to ensure migrants continue to contribute to society and the economy.

In the future, migration, integration and inclusion policies will be key to ensuring strong social and economic recovery, on both an international and national scale. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, launching the report with European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, said:

'Migration will continue to play an important role for economic growth and innovation, as well as in responding to rapidly changing labour markets... We need to avoid rolling back on integration and reaffirm that migration is an integral part of our lives.'

How has COVID-19 changed processes of migration and integration?

Before the crisis, permanent migration flows to the OECD reached 5.3 million in 2019, with similar figures in 2017 and 2018. Although refugee admissions fell overall in 2019, permanent labour migration saw a rise of more than 13% and temporary labour migration saw more than 5 million entries to the OECD. Now, many developments in integration and some migration flows may be erased altogether by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, almost all OECD countries restricted admission to foreigners. This led to issuances of new visas and permits in OECD countries plummeting by 46% in the first half of 2020: the largest drop ever recorded. In the second quarter of 2020, this decline stood at 72%.

Migrant essential workers

Migrant workers have been on the frontline of the crisis:

Figure 1. Share of the employed population who can work from home, by place of birth

Source: OECD calculations based on Basso et al (2020[6]), The new hazardous jobs and worker reallocation.

Posted by:
Olivia Long (Migration Policy Group)