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The labor market situation of migrants from the Americas in Europe and the United States

It has become commonplace to state that the 2008-2009 economic crisis was the most serious one since the Great Depression in many countries. However, the effects of the crisis varied considerably across countries, with in particular a significant impact in the main destination countries for immigrants from the Americas, namely Spain and the United States. The recovery, however, has been uneven. While unemployment rates in the United States have finally returned in 2014 to levels not seen since 2008 (below 6%), rates in Spain at close to 24% remain stubbornly at 3 times their pre-recession levels.

In the previous edition of this publication (OAS/OECD 2012), the labor market situation of migrants from the Americas was seen to be tracking with that of workers born in Spain in 2010-2011, even if the signs of recovery were scarcely visible. However, the European debt crisis at about this time and thereafter, especially in the southern European countries, and the resulting austerity measures plunged the labor markets in those countries, if not always further into decline, then often further from recovery.  What has been the evolution since that time?  

The labor market situation of immigrants from the Americas in recent years has evolved largely in line with overall developments in the labor market of the main countries of destination, Spain and the United States. Spain has seen a further deterioration of the condition in its labor market from 2010-2011 to 2012-2013, with a decline in the employment rate of the native-born of 4 percentage points among men and 2 percentage points among women (Table 11).  The evolution for immigrants from the Americas in Spain was similar for men (5 points), but considerably larger for immigrant women (a decline of 6 percentage points). This is reflected as well in a much larger increase in the unemployment rate among immigrant women from the Americas than native-born women (8 vs. 5 percentage points). Unemployment rates for immigrants are now near the 32-35% level, compared to about 36-37% for immigrants from other continents and 23-24% for native-born workers.

Table 11. Labor market outcomes of emigrant workers from the Americas, by country of birth and gender, 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 averages

  2010-11 2012-13
  Men Women Men Women
  Participation rate Employment rate Unemployment rate Participation rate Employment rate Unemployment rate Participation rate Employment rate Unemployment rate Participation rate Employment rate Unemployment rate
Canada 80.67394 75.06028 6.958452 66.6204 62.0646 6.83845 81.50802 77.24089 5.235228 67.43972 62.99002 6.598046
United States 80.36637 76.33224 nr 61.4011 58.17795 nr 80.81268 75.69186 nr 63.40833 59.23808 nr
Canada and the United States 80.58498 75.4282 6.399181 65.12443 60.9506 6.409014 81.30058 76.77876 5.561849 66.23267 61.86664 6.59196
Antigua and Barbuda 85.61874 79.30957 nr 78.10798 nr nr 81.18839 nr nr 89.71653 85.36636 nr
Bahamas 75.35452 63.62508 nr 66.63955 55.14516 nr 76.96349 71.36906 nr 75.60098 68.01645 nr
Barbados 90.32615 77.104 nr 81.33412 72.94323 nr 76.06017 66.19424 nr 77.85806 74.2746 nr
Cuba 80.93316 68.56718 15.27926 69.23656 58.31668 15.77183 82.28334 71.96492 12.54011 69.86913 59.17207 15.31014
Dominica 79.08492 72.92538 nr 79.71404 71.39259 nr 80.15508 72.3904 nr 77.68063 72.17545 nr
Dominican Republic 79.92932 66.60493 16.67022 69.13457 58.87899 14.83422 80.77431 68.83583 14.78004 70.7059 58.5569 17.18245
Grenada 83.77248 76.33792 nr 81.7676 75.24454 nr 78.20558 72.32543 nr 76.68002 69.03867 nr
Guyana 82.65765 74.4651 9.911439 75.37128 66.81831 11.3478 82.09721 71.96978 12.33589 74.78056 66.34349 11.28243
Haiti 79.4479 66.18013 16.69996 76.29428 63.36866 16.9418 82.241 71.14246 13.49515 75.5234 64.41502 14.70853
Jamaica 81.17951 68.42409 15.71262 80.32154 71.48286 11.00413 80.64847 69.21698 14.17447 80.19319 72.25175 9.902888
Trinidad and Tobago 83.66285 71.96183 13.98592 76.35694 68.4894 10.30364 83.50909 73.64469 11.81237 74.79633 65.67982 12.18844
Caribbean 80.87923 68.49673 15.30987 73.53754 63.293 13.93104 81.49628 70.62524 13.33931 73.84566 63.66835 13.78187
Belize 76.76432 64.73881 nr 73.16338 66.6637 nr 80.06216 72.07857 nr 71.51955 60.38792 nr
El Salvador 89.58707 80.63595 9.991538 70.89365 62.47136 11.88018 89.66417 84.21494 6.077375 70.89964 63.64957 10.22583
Costa Rica 86.58459 78.89817 nr 65.0703 54.53722 nr 86.20119 78.64876 nr 65.61065 59.54585 nr
Guatemala 90.08074 82.16474 8.787676 62.51232 53.62992 14.20903 90.23692 83.96967 6.945337 64.37516 56.48361 12.25869
Honduras 87.37046 77.44955 11.35499 70.2884 60.35136 14.13752 87.00418 79.4059 8.733244 69.39813 59.77229 13.87047
Mexico 87.03143 79.17629 9.025631 56.24591 48.52972 13.71866 87.14803 81.27863 6.734983 56.64005 49.90401 11.89272
Nicaragua 86.89175 77.44558 10.8712 73.74276 65.33852 11.39669 87.4403 79.15128 9.479631 71.23201 63.7988 10.43522
Panama 76.40308 66.06105 nr 73.88195 65.58474 nr 82.00233 73.78622 nr 71.0808 65.3362 nr
Central America 87.33849 79.26074 9.248785 59.0806 51.12315 13.4688 87.51217 81.51644 6.851307 59.42345 52.4454 11.74293
Bolivia 89.18942 70.14052 21.35781 85.3951 75.13793 12.01141 84.93856 61.69682 27.363 83.29341 69.98172 15.98168
Colombia 86.02692 67.76768 21.22503 74.69979 60.67425 18.77588 83.40762 69.74846 16.3764 74.07928 59.96886 19.04773
Ecuador 86.78112 66.58129 23.27675 76.03918 61.72129 18.82962 82.79677 63.34208 23.49692 75.98062 57.35296 24.51633
Peru 86.57182 72.05174 16.77229 77.40426 67.34566 12.99488 86.72864 75.53727 12.90389 75.49381 63.39868 16.02136
Venezuela 84.84685 73.60873 13.24518 69.01182 57.26991 17.01435 83.06593 70.54523 15.07321 69.39257 56.30404 18.86157
Andean Region 86.49648 69.03164 20.19139 75.92777 63.20229 16.75998 83.97836 68.34992 18.61007 75.19296 60.47941 19.56772
Argentina 85.97142 71.9437 16.31672 70.36456 58.44909 16.93391 82.98949 68.72492 17.1884 70.96159 57.08342 19.5573
Brazil 85.66454 76.47604 10.72614 68.45348 57.45496 16.06715 85.00769 75.313 11.40449 68.02548 55.54776 18.34272
Chile 84.64078 73.39898 13.28178 67.32623 55.06796 18.20727 82.00824 68.19376 16.84524 72.17525 61.04017 15.42784
Paraguay 90.79935 75.22369 nr 75.98943 68.72249 nr 81.52553 56.20207 nr 82.95989 71.07708 nr
Uruguay 86.58436 73.72269 14.85449 71.9896 58.78203 18.3465 88.5136 68.74654 22.33222 77.44414 57.68459 25.51458
Southern Cone 85.85749 74.28587 13.4777 69.50283 58.1612 16.31823 84.09533 70.75488 15.86349 71.11778 57.95324 18.5109
Destination countries: United States and European OECD countries                        
Born in Americas 85.88931 75.82339 11.71965 65.50548 56.30723 14.04196 85.64906 77.29333 9.755773 65.80418 56.67883 13.86743
Born elsewhere 81.79228 72.11711 11.82895 64.15659 56.12992 12.51107 82.00913 71.95531 12.2594 64.50383 56.07699 13.06408
Native-born 76.18101 68.6325 9.908648 66.82759 60.61427 9.297535 76.3875 68.84445 9.874715 67.54292 61.16763 9.438869
All persons 77.1882 69.33749 10.17087 66.48605 59.98817 9.773293 77.3873 69.60885 10.05132 67.15276 60.49292 9.917451
Destination country: United States                        
Born in Americas 85.99075 77.62475 9.72895 63.2849 55.36574 12.51351 86.11744 79.81904 7.313731 63.58235 56.56837 11.03134
Born elsewhere 81.69195 74.75835 8.487498 66.60647 60.57062 9.061958 81.69525 76.17381 6.758574 66.28305 61.19644 7.674078
Native-born 73.79795 65.14905 11.7197 68.82022 62.03228 9.863292 73.82726 66.57891 9.817989 68.65733 62.7126 8.658554
All persons 75.55933 67.06305 11.24451 68.15144 61.32066 10.02295 75.59268 68.56371 9.298481 68.00949 62.03732 8.78137
Destination country: Spain                        
Born in Americas 87.52867 60.08995 31.34827 80.27316 61.27874 23.66223 83.87505 54.72564 34.75337 80.85582 55.11629 31.83386
Born elsewhere 85.64935 58.35611 31.86625 66.3941 43.8146 34.00829 85.37724 54.01949 36.72846 68.42 43.46258 36.4768
Native-born 79.51545 65.14854 18.06807 65.39228 52.69648 19.41483 79.25735 60.85582 23.21744 67.22714 50.99741 24.14163
All persons 80.62499 64.17468 20.40349 66.73624 52.63601 21.1283 80.09365 59.86395 25.25756 68.41367 50.629 25.99578

 

The shading in Table 11 allows one to take in the situation at a glance for workers from the Americas. Grey/blue shading indicates that the labor market situation of immigrants has deteriorated/improved, respectively, by at least one percentage point, whether this concerns the participation rate, the employment rate or the unemployment rate.[1] While this characterization of increase/decline may be clear in the case of the employment and unemployment rates, it is less obvious in the case of the participation rate, whose evolution can be affected by the “added worker effect”. This refers to the tendency of married women to enter the labor market when their spouses lose their jobs, in order to make up for the resulting decline in family income. An increase in the participation rate can thus be less an indication of increased opportunities in the labor market than of declining family incomes.

This is observed in Table 11 for emigrants from the Southern Cone, where for almost all countries; women have maintained or increased their participation in the labor market in 2012-2013 compared to 2010-2011, in the face of deteriorating economic conditions.

The labor market situation of immigrants from the Caribbean and from Central America, on the other hand, has profited from the improvement in economic conditions in the United States since 2010-2011, which is the destination country for most of the migrants. Overall the employment rate has risen by 3 points for immigrant men from the Caribbean and Central America but only by about 1 point for women from these regions. Likewise the unemployment situation has improved more for men than for women.

By contrast, the labor market situation of immigrants from the Andean Region and the Southern Cone has tended to deteriorate from 2010-2011 to 2012-2013, reflecting the greater concentration of immigrants from these regions in Spain. There are two notable exceptions to the general pattern, however, namely for immigrant men from Colombia and Peru, who have seen significant improvements in their labor market situation, for reasons which are not entirely clear.

Immigrant women from the Southern Cone appear to be showing signs of the “added worker effect”, particularly in Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, with strong increases in the participation of women, at the same time that the labor market situation of men from these same countries has taken a turn for the worse.

The general picture then is of a return to normality in the United States labor market, with positive impacts on the work situation of immigrants from the Americas, but a continuing decline in Spain, with unemployment affecting almost a third of the immigrant labor force from the Americas. This is evidently a rather different labor market from the one the immigrants found upon arrival and although the departure rate from Spain is more than five times what it was in 2005, the returns could not yet be characterized as massive in 2013.

2014 saw the first signs of improvement in the labor market situation in Spain, but it is slow, so that the level of departures observed in 2013 may well maintain itself. Still the situation in Spain provides almost a case study in how even an exceedingly unfavorable labor market has not strongly affected the settlement intentions of migrants from the Americas, at least not to the extent which one might have expected given the circumstances.



[1] Evidently a deteriorating situation is represented, on the one hand, by a decline in the employment rate but, on the other, by an increase in the unemployment rate.