Migrants’ skills often underused, global study finds

3 Nov 15

Countries that have seen large increases in high-skilled migration could be missing out on the benefits as workers’ capacities are underutilised, the OECD and France’s development agency have said.

The OECD and Agence Franҫaise de Développement (AFD) today published A Global Profile of Diasporas 2015, a study looking at the evolution, characteristics and labour market outcomes of migrant groups in 140 countries worldwide over a 10-year period. It outlines the substantial changes in international migration over the past decade and intends to help both origin and destination countries develop policies to engage and mobilise the skills of migrant populations.

In a foreword to the report, Stefano Scarpetta, OECD director for employment, labour and social affairs and Gaël Giraud, chief economist and executive director of research and knowledge at AFD, said: “Migration is a growing and dynamic phenomenon. Countries of origin have become more diversified over time, while new countries of destination and transit have emerged.

“In addition, migrants today are more skilled than ever and women represent a growing share of migrants, particularly skilled ones.”

High-skilled migration to OECD countries increased by 72% between 2000/01 and 2010/11, and more than half of the 35.6 million migrants in destination countries (both OECD and non-OECD) in 2010/11 were women.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the primary source of origin, followed by Asia and Oceania, Pakistan, Colombia, Poland and Romania.

While these countries are at higher risk of “brain drain” as their brightest minds head elsewhere, destination countries risk wasting the potential of those highly skilled people that arrive on their doorstep.

“Worryingly the phenomenon of over qualification has further grown for migrants over the past decade”, the report said, with close to 8 million migrants with a tertiary education working in low- and medium-skilled jobs.

Almost half of all highly educated migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean are overqualified for their jobs, the report found, although they do fare better in the labour market than their less educated counterparts.

The report said that, while migration trends represent huge challenges and risks to both origin and destination countries, both also stand to gain by harnessing their huge potential.

Migration is here to say, it added, and given these trends it is necessary to introduce policies and build partnerships between countries of origin and destination to manage the mobility of skills and harness the benefits for all parties. 

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