The year 2010 saw the first signs of recovery after the Great Recession of 2008-2009 in several countries around the world. In particular, in the Americas, GDP growth rates increased significantly, from an average of –0.4% in 2009 in the countries covered by this report1 to an average of 5.6% in 2010. The latter is comparable to the rate of average growth seen in 2006 and 2007 before the Great Recession. However, international migration patterns do not always reflect this evolution, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In Canada and the United States, temporary immigration, particularly of workers, having experienced a 12% drop in 2009, registered a 5% increase in 2010 with improving economic conditions (Table 1). Permanent migration in these countries, on the other hand, largely determined by the numerical limits specified by the respective governments of both countries and without having adjusted its levels in recent years in response to changes in economic conditions, did not experience almost no change in 2009 and a small drop in 2010.
Immigration in the rest of the hemisphere, despite improving economic conditions, fell overall by 9% and 6% respectively in permanent and temporary movements between 2009 and 2010 (Table 1). Most of this is the consequence of the falls recorded in two countries, namely in Brazil, where the fall in permanent migration in 2010 reflected the effect of a regularization carried out in 2009 that created an increase in the statistics that year, and Argentina, which experienced a drop in temporary Mercosur movements between 2009 and 2010.
However, the overall decline represents the continuation of a nearly steady decline in immigration growth rates in Latin America and the Caribbean from the rates observed in 2007, which were already based on low levels of immigration. Migratory movements in the different countries of Latin America and the Caribbean seem to have little connection to changes in the state of the national economies of many countries. Indeed, in countries whose economies have evolved in a similar way from 2009 to 2010, both large increases in temporary migration (Brazil and Mexico) and large decreases (Argentina and Peru) are perceived. It would seem that immigration in several Latin American countries still does not respond to a great extent to the state of the national economy.
It is difficult to know to what extent this is due to imperfect coverage of immigration in the official statistics of destination countries (see Table 1), to the fact that labor needs that are not met in the internal labor market they are relatively uncommon or because emigration may be determined as much and perhaps more by conditions in the countries of origin than those in the countries of destination.
Box 1: National statistics on immigration
For the most part, the immigration statistics in Table 1 are based on the visa and/or immigration permit statistics of the destination countries (see statistical annex). The exceptions are Brazil, where the statistics come from the registry of the Federal Police, and Ecuador, where they are based on the entries and exits of people registered by the Department of Migration. Occasionally, certain countries have regularized unauthorized migrants who enter the permit systems and may appear in the immigration statistics for a given year, which is generally not the year when they entered the country.
It is unknown to what extent data from administrative visa or permit systems cover the full range of migratory flows. Unauthorized migration exists in all countries and is by definition excluded from official sources of information. A part of this migration is uncovered with the regularization processes, although it may not cover all cases, because people in this situation may not present themselves or if they do, they could be denied legal status because they do not meet all the criteria for migration. regularization. This is not an exclusive situation for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean; many OECD countries are in the same situation and it is the magnitude of the regularizations in countries like Greece, Italy and Spain,
Statistics on permits often include so-called changes of status (immigration status), that is, people who were already in the country on a temporary basis and changed it for a permanent status. In general, these people have not entered the country in the year in which they appear in the permanent immigration statistics. However, they will be implicitly included when the text refers to “immigrants” or “entries” since for the countries of destination it is the change to permanent status that signals the entry of the resident population.
Keep in mind that “permanent” does not always mean that you have the right to permanent residence. In some countries, people can receive temporary permits as long as they are considered by the country of destination as part of a path that will eventually lead to permanent residence. To the extent possible, migrants are classified in this report as “permanent” at the time of entry or registration, recognizing that some of them may not actually remain in the country indefinitely.
However, this is also true for people who receive the right of permanent residence at the time of registration. It is estimated, for example, that between a quarter and a third of permanent immigrants in Canada eventually leave the country, most in the first few years after arrival.
In any case, immigration levels in almost all Latin American countries tend to be low, leaving considerable room for idiosyncratic movements to offset those that respond to general economic conditions. Only in Argentina and Belize do permanent migration levels tend to approach those of the United States, which in the OECD is one of the countries with the lowest rates of authorized migration on a per capita basis (Chart 1a).2 Barbados is unique among the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that have very high levels of temporary migration, higher per capita even than Canada, with the majority coming from CARICOM countries and in particular from Guyana.
The low levels of immigration in Latin America and the Caribbean are partly a consequence of its demographic situation. In general, it is true that, all other things being equal, countries with high rates of natural growth have low rates of immigration (Figure 1b), although the relationship is not very strong, partly due to confounding factors such as differences in income levels between countries of origin and destination. Uruguay, Argentina, and Barbados stand out as countries with low natural growth rates, but their net migration rates are close to zero or negative, meaning they are losing as many people through migration as they are gaining.
Barbados’ situation is of particular interest because it has been meeting many of its labor needs through temporary labor migration, a goal shared by many destination countries around the world for low-skilled jobs. However, temporary labor migration is an appropriate strategy when labor demand is temporary, but may be less so when employers’ labor needs are more protracted. Historically, it has generally been the case that where labor needs are not temporary, economic considerations make it difficult to impose a temporary labor migration regime. In such cases,