E.g., 10/24/2014
E.g., 10/24/2014

Migration and the Economic Downturn: What to Expect in the European Union

Reports
January 2009

Migration and the Economic Downturn: What to Expect in the European Union

This briefing paper explores the potential effects of the economic crisis with respect to immigration across European Union Member States, and outlines how policymakers might respond to changing patterns of migrant inflows and outflows, and the consequences of the downturn on immigrants and their host communities. Factors that affect, and thus complicate, the sensitivity of immigrant flows to economic conditions—opportunity differentials between host and source country economies, visa policies and processing systems of host countries, the risks and financial costs associated with return migration, the stringency of border enforcement measures, migrants’ social and family ties, and the accessibility of host country welfare benefits for immigrants—are also detailed and examined.

The report’s analysis suggests that while an immigration slowdown due to declining labor market conditions within host countries seems likely in the short run, net immigration flows of variable but significant volume will continue to prevail. Authors predict that immigrants, who are disproportionately low-skilled and ineligible for most state-sponsored benefit programs, will feel the effects of a downturn more severely than natives. Furthermore, authors warn that tensions between immigrants and native workers, fueled by an unsubstantiated but widespread belief that immigrants “undercut” natives in the labor market, may lead to immigrant-backlash and hinder the social and economic integration of immigrants, especially in countries where immigration-related conflicts are already evident. To address these concerns, this report urges policymakers to embrace immigrant integration policies along with concurrent efforts to assist low-skilled native workers; and implement cyclical immigration policies that regulate inflows by requiring job offers for visas, actively selecting immigrants best equipped for rapid integration, raising credential requirements for admission, and facilitating return migration.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Does the Economic Cycle Affect Immigration Flows?

III. How Will Immigrants Fare During the Downturn?

IV. How Does Immigration’s Impact on Natives Change During a Recession?

V. What Are the Policy Implications?