Covid crisis sees migration plummet

David Millward
·2-min read
Demonstrators hold placards during a protest demanding "papers, rights, nationality and social equality" for undocumented immigrants in Barcelona - Pau Barrena/AFP
Demonstrators hold placards during a protest demanding "papers, rights, nationality and social equality" for undocumented immigrants in Barcelona - Pau Barrena/AFP

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen migration plummet by nearly 50 per cent this year, according to a study by the  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As coronavirus took hold across the globe, countries sealed their borders, imposing restrictions on foreigners entering their territory.

Prior to the pandemic migration had been rising. In 2019 there was a 13 per cent increase in the number of people migrating permanently compared with the previous year.

Which countries could be quarantined next: Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker
Which countries could be quarantined next: Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker

There was also an increase in seasonal and temporary workers, with the OECD recording more than five million people finding work overseas.

According to the OECD, whose membership is made up of the world's wealthiest countries, the pandemic has had "unprecedented consequences for migration flows."

The first half of 2020 saw a 46 per cent drop in work visas and permits issued by the OECD's 37 members, which include the UK, the US, the EU, Australia, Finland and South Korea.

International migration in 2020 is expected to be the lowest recorded, the OECD report says.

Numbers are not expected to recover to previous levels for some time thanks to a weakening of international labour markets, travel restrictions and growth in teleworking.

Migrants account for a significant proportion of workers in a number of sectors including healthcare, transport and IT.

Even before the pandemic, several countries - including Britain and the US - were tightening immigration rules.

Immigrants are facing a particularly tough time as the labour market tightens, with unemployment among migrant workers increasing faster than their native-born counterparts.

The largest increases for immigrants were recorded in Canada, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United States. 

In Sweden, almost 60 per cent of the initial increase in unemployment fell on immigrants. In the US, the unemployment of immigrants was lower than their native-born peers by almost one percentage point before the pandemic. It is now two per cent higher.