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OECD recommends that lower-skilled workers be included in immigration policy

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Canada, like most OECD countries, has a selective immigration system that focuses on highly skilled candidates. This has created gaping holes in the lower-skilled Canadian workforce, where many employers are struggling to find workers. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) International Migration Outlook 2008 report recommends that OECD countries adapt their immigration and labour migration policies to be more in line with likely future demand for workers in all economic sectors; both high-skilled and lower-skilled.

To satisfy the need for lower-skilled workers, 2.5 million temporary workers migrated to OECD countries in 2006, about three times more than permanent labour immigrants.

Most OECD countries have temporary work permit programs in place to manage the recruitment of lower-skilled migrants. In Canada, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been expanded in recent years to make it easier for employers to recruit the needed lower-skilled workforce on a temporary basis.

Though these programs are responding well to short-term problems, they do not address permanent labour needs, says John Martin, Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the OECD.

“At least some of the current and future labour needs in OECD countries concern low-skilled jobs and many of the needs are likely to be long-term in nature.” He states that there are few legal permanent entry options for badly-needed workers in the home care, construction, and food processing sectors.

“Constructing a country’s migration policy on the assumption that labour immigrants will only stay for a short time is not the way to go.  It is neither efficient nor workable,” says OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria. “Mastering migration will bring us a big step closer towards making globalization work for everyone.  Tailoring immigration to future needs is vital. But it is also vital to treat it as an economic and social phenomenon which, if well managed, can provide solutions to some of our present challenges.”

The report goes on to note that integration of immigrants into the labour market is a predominant issue for most OECD countries.

In 2006, a little more than one in ten people in OECD countries was foreign born, which is an 18 per cent increase over 2000.  OECD countries received about 4 million permanent migrants in 2006.  Of these, 44 per cent were driven by family reunification and 14 per cent by employment.

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