Immigrants, who helped drive the developed world’s economic growth during boom times now face exclusion as the global financial crisis pummels economies and drives unemployment to 50-year highs, an OECD report warned Tuesday.

As the global recession unfolds, governments have begun taking measures to protect their native workers, leaving the immigrant work force more exposed to unemployment, discrimination and xenophobia, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said in its annual report on international migration.

Since the beginning of the crisis, unemployment rates for immigrants have doubled in Ireland, Spain and the United States, the agency noted. The unemployment rate among immigrants in Spain was 27.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2009, compared to 15.2 per cent for natives.

The Czech Republic, Japan and Spain have gone as far as implementing policies to offer unemployed immigrants money to return home.

“Migration is not a tap that can be turned on and off at will,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria wrote in the report. “In tackling the jobs crisis, governments need to make sure that immigrants do not fall prey to increasing xenophobia and that discriminatory practices do not worsen an already difficult situation for them.”

Looming labour shortage
Anti-immigration policies are particularly troubling considering that as early as 2015, the number of workers moving into retirement will outnumber those entering the work force in developed nations. Encouraging immigration is a potential solution to that looming labour shortage, the report suggested.

The organization advised governments to maintain or strengthen their immigrant integration programs and reinforce their efforts against discrimination.

“Governments need to be vigilant, to ensure that deteriorating immigrant labour market outcomes do not mortgage the possibility of further migration when growth resumes,” the report said.

Soaring unemployment hurts immigrants disproportionately because they are over-represented in the very sectors of the economy that have been hardest hit by the crisis such as construction, manufacturing and retail, the report found.

Reference: CBC News