Emigration from the Americas to OECD Countries

As highlighted above, migration in the Americas remains very much an Americas issue, although large numbers of emigrants have been choosing Spain in recent decades. Italy, Germany, Canada and Chile5 have each admitted approximately 300 to 400 thousand immigrants from the Americas in the last ten years (see Box 2).

Box 2: Statistics on emigrants from the Americas to OECD countries

The statistics shown in Table 5 are based on official national immigration statistics for each OECD country. However, the definition of what constitutes a migrant in these countries depends largely on the source and the country and may not reflect a comparable population in all countries. For example, in the United States the immigration statistics incorporated in Table 5 essentially count people who have received “green cards” during a certain year, that is, the right to permanent residence. People who entered the United States on a so-called “nonimmigrant visa,” which includes temporary workers and students, among others, are not counted in this measure.

German statistics, on the other hand, are based on municipal population registers and define an immigrant as a person who arrives with the intention of residing for more than a certain period of time (usually 3 months or less) and who has a residence permit consistent with that intention. This immigration measure clearly has a much broader coverage than the “green card” measure because it includes many short-term temporary movements as well as international students.

The statistics for Spain are also based on municipal registers and count as an immigrant anyone who arrives from abroad and registers their habitual residence with the municipality. Unlike most municipal registries, in Spain they do not require the person registering to have legal status. Therefore, the entries in the registry for Spain include unauthorized immigrants. Spain is possibly the only country for which immigration statistics include unauthorized immigrants.

The OECD compiles a series of standardized permanent migration statistics for its member countries, but this series is not yet available by nationality.

Due to the use of various definitions, the sum of the immigration statistics of the OECD member countries, as was done in Table 5, may be the aggregation of statistics with considerably different coverage. The statistics presented in the table are intended to be indicative and should be interpreted with care.

The economic crisis has had a significant effect on migration from the Americas, in particular to Spain, reducing migration to that country by almost 36% between the periods 2005 to 2007 and 2008 to 2010, from approximately 860 thousand to 550 thousand .

Authorized immigration to the United States, on the other hand, has decreased by just 4%. However, it should be remembered that the immigration statistics for the United States only cover the so-called “green cards” and it is in temporary immigration in the United States and in unauthorized immigration where the greatest falls have been recorded (OECD, 2012). Many of the “green card” migration categories are capped and oversubscribed, so even a recession as severe as the recent one has had little effect on movements, as possibly people who would have If they have gotten a place in line for a green card, they may be reluctant to pass up the opportunity, even if financing migration becomes more complicated.

Economic difficulties in Spain and the United States appear to have had the effect of redirecting migratory flows from the Americas to other OECD countries of destination.

Emigration to other OECD countries outside Europe6 has increased by 8% and to other European countries by approximately 14%. However, the importance of this phenomenon should not be exaggerated. The total increase in movements to these two areas between 2005-2007 and 2008-2010 reaches approximately 105,000, which compensates for less than a third of the decrease of 360,000 movements observed in Spain and the United States. In addition, a significant fraction of these movements that redirect their destiny involves citizens of the United States, for whom the difficult conditions in that country may result in greater emigration. Even so, increases to parts of the OECD that do not include Spain or the United States are perceived for most countries of origin in the Americas, which suggests that the phenomenon is in fact of a general nature. A notable exception is that of emigrants from Brazil to non-European OECD countries, which has decreased by almost 60% and evidently reflects the drop in migration of people of Japanese origin from Brazil to Japan.

The destination countries where movements from the Americas have increased especially are Mexico (+43 thousand), Italy (+27 thousand), Korea (+26 thousand) and Chile (+17 thousand). Movements to Mexico from different parts of the Americas, including the United States, have increased from the period 2005-2007 to 2008-2010. Some of these movements are of nationals from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, for whom Mexico, due to difficult conditions in the north, has possibly become more of a country of destination than of transit. The Andean region is responsible for most of the increase registered in Italy and, on the other hand, represents approximately half of the immigration in Chile. Almost all of the increase in immigration to Korea is due to citizens of the United States, whose movements to that country have increased by more than 40%.

The largest decreases in emigration to OECD countries between the period 2005-2007 and 2008-2010 were observed in migrants from the Andean Region (above 180,000 movements throughout the period) and from the Southern Cone (also fell by more of 180,000 movements). Central America has seen almost no change in authorized emigration (-1%), and Mexico, the largest emigration country in the Americas, experienced a small 3% increase in authorized migration. Caribbean countries have actually experienced an 11% increase, largely due to migration from Haiti, and especially from the Dominican Republic to the United States.

The changes observed in migratory movements as a result of the crisis may have consequences for new movements in the near future. The “discovery” of opportunities elsewhere outside of Spain and the United States may mean that communities

(Table 5: Emigration from the Americas to OECD countries, 2005-2007 and 2008-2010)

migrants of various origins are becoming more numerous, albeit only slightly, in countries where they may have previously had a smaller presence. This greater presence contributes to facilitating more movements, due to a better knowledge of employment opportunities for potential migrants in destination countries, as well as migration channels and procedures. Employers themselves may use current employees as a recruiting channel for other workers from the same backgrounds.

Although economic conditions have become more difficult in almost the entire OECD area, migratory movements from the Americas have remained at a relatively high level, that is, at more than 3 million people during the three years of the period 2008 to 2010. This represents a fall of only 8% compared to the level of movements during 2005 to 2007, that is, the three years prior to the economic crisis. Not even the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression has been able to significantly reduce migratory movements, which continue and will undoubtedly increase as demographic imbalances in developed countries begin to make their effects felt more strongly.

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