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2 Nov, 2010

OECD Report Highlights Bid to Attract Students

Faced with ageing populations, OECD countries are increasingly adjusting their migration policies to attract more international students and making it easier for them to stay on, according to the latest 2010 edition of the OECD migration report released earlier this month.

On the flip side, the number of temporary workers entering the OECD countries has declined, largely due to economic conditions, the report said. These include working holiday-makers as well as other categories badly needed by the travel & tourism industry, such as short-order cooks and hotel workers.

The report notes that 2005-2015 is a transition period in OECD countries with respect to the demographic impact of the baby-boom on the working-age population and the labour force. Persons born after 1945 have been entering their sixties and will be retiring soon.

The countries which are aging the most are Germany and Japan, the countries of southern Europe but also Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland. Hence, migrants are needed at both the skilled and less-skilled ends of the spectrum.

According to the report, many OECD countries are adopting a “two-step migration” policy, under which migrants are first attracted as international students and then retained as highly-skilled long-term workers in a second step.

Many OECD countries and universities have introduced measures to make international study more attractive, for example by reducing tuition and other costs connected with the stay, offering English-language instruction, facilitating credit transfers and also allowing part- time work while studying.

The most recent numbers indicate that OECD countries receive between 2 to 2.5million international students from around the world, which corresponds to about 84% of all students studying abroad.

On average across countries, the number of international students has doubled from 2000 to 2007. Compared to 2000, all OECD countries have seen increases in the number of international students, with the largest increases being observed in Korea and New Zealand, where the increases were almost ten- and eightfold respectively within seven years.

According to the report, the United States, Japan, Australia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom remain the main destination countries for international students in both tertiary education and in advanced research programmes. Together these six countries account for about 75% of all international students in the OECD.

Most countries have adapted their migration policies so as to retain international graduates. Such potential migrants have the advantage of local degrees recognised by employers, knowledge of local work practices and regulations and better language proficiency, and an understanding of social and cultural norms.

Among the measures taken by OECD countries are support for the transition from student to worker status, for example, by providing courses in the language of the host country, such as in Finland with Finnish and Swedish language courses, or by mediating internships for international students, such as is done by the Public Employment Service in Japan.

Many OECD countries have also facilitated visa procedures for international students and graduates, by allowing applications for permanent migration to be lodged in Australia, which had not been previously permitted.

Some countries, such as Finland and Norway, amended their naturalisation acts and now take the years of residence as students into account for the assessment of eligibility. The facilitation of and permission to work during studies in many countries, including Sweden, Norway, the Czech Republic and Australia, also allow the retention of graduates.

International students working part- time in companies may be kept on as regular employees after graduation. Most OECD countries now allow international students to search for work for a specified period following the completion of study.

The time period varies from six months in France, New Zealand or Finland to up to one year in Germany or Norway, and has been extended in recent years in some countries, for example in the Netherlands, from three months to one year. In Canada, permanent residence has been also facilitated for international graduates.

The report admits that the recent recession has slowed migration, especially that driven by labour demand, but that will change. “There is no escaping the fact that more labour migration will be needed in the future in many OECD countries as the recovery progresses and the current labour market slack is absorbed.”

In a reference to the social problems that tend to accompany increased immigration, the report says, “It is important to remember that migrants were contributors to the national economy when times were good; they should not be seen as a burden when times are bad.”

It says, “Many lesser-skilled jobs are not finding enough takers among young entrants to the workforce. Immigrants are the ones who often have been taking on these jobs in food processing, cleaning, hotels, restaurants and construction. Without immigrants, services in these areas would be harder to obtain and prices higher.

“Personal care is another sector where there will be large labour needs, both to look after dependent older persons but also after children whose mothers wish to pursue their careers or enter the workforce.”

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