Dienstag, 30. Juni 2009

Migration in OECD Countries

The OECD has collected data on migration flows during the period 1998 to 2007. While the quality of local population data (i.e. registration of immigrants and emigrants) varies wildly from country to country, some interesting observations can be made:

- In 2000, 12.5 % of Germany's population was foreign-born. That put Germany at the top of the list of "big countries", higher than the US.

- By 2007, Germany's foreign-born population had increased less than 10 % compared to 2000. But many other countries saw big jumps:

* Spain tripled its foreign-borns (4.9 % -> 13.5 %, 2 m -> 6 m)

* Ireland doubled them (8.7 % -> 15.7 %, 329,000 -> 682,000)

* Norway added 46 % (6.8 % -> 9.5 %, 305,000 -> 445,000)

* the Czech Republic also added 46 % (4.2 % -> 6.2 %, 434,000 -> 636,000)

* the UK added 40 % (7.9 % -> 10.2 %, 4.7 m -> 6.2 m)

* Austria also added 40 % (10.5 % -> 14.2 %, 0.8 m -> 1.2 m)

- The countries with the highest shares of foreign-borns in 2007: Luxembourg had 36 %, Switzerland 25 %, and Australia also 25 %.

- In terms of flows, Germany has lots of immigrants coming, but also lots of people leaving. Other countries appear to see fewer people leaving (if they register departures correctly).

- In recent years, the countries with the highest inflows were Spain (>2 % of population in 2007), Ireland (> 2 %), Switzerland (>2 %), Luxembourg (>2 %), Norway (>1 %), Sweden (>1 %) and Austrria (>1 %). In comparison, Germany had an inflow of 0.7 % (the UK was only slightly higher at 0.8 %).

- Most of the countries with high inflows are comparatively small, so it's natural that they have a higher inflow in % of population, because large countries have more domestic migration due to their bigger size (moving from Munich to Berlin is domestic, but moving from Luxembourg to Brussels is international).

- However, Spain is a big country, and it is at the top of the 2007 inflow list. Also, while small size explains higher inflows, it doesn't explain why these countries have low outflows: In terms of net inflow, all the above countries were big gainers in 2007. And the UK, in spite of having similar inflows, saw less than half of Germany's outflows and recorded a much bigger net gain.

- Strangely, both Italy and France record very low inflows in % of population (their outflow data for some reason isn't available), though I suspect that in the case of Italy, the quality of the data is bad and many immigrants go unrecorded.

It will be interesting to see if/how these figures change due to the crisis. There is anecdotal evidence of foreigners leaving the UK, Spain and Ireland, but no hard data is available so far.


  1. Germany had a lot of immigration in the 90s, when all the Aussiedler came from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

  2. To confuse matters further, it seems that lots of British people are moving back home after living on the Spanish coast for many years.


  3. Yes, there was lots of immigration from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 80s and early 90s. At the time, Germany's population growth was very strong due to all those immigrants.

    As for British people residing in Spain, I have no idea how many of them there are, and how many of them are returning to the UK. Can that really be a material number?