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Joblessness contributes to fall in immigration

Immigrants are sworn in as new U.S. citizens at a ceremony in Mount Vernon, Va.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: The global financial crisis changed a lot about the way money and goods move around the world. And today we find it's also changed the way people move as well. Immigration to the wealthiest countries, including the United States, fell during the meltdown. In fact in 2008, immigration to developed nations as a whole dropped 6 percent from the year before. The BBC's Rebecca Singer is with us live this morning to talk about this trend. Good morning, Rebecca.

Rebecca Singer: Good morning.

Chiotakis: Is this decline really a surprise to anybody?

Singer: Well it did come as a bit of a surprise, because according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which publishes these figures, immigration over the past five years has risen significantly, and especially if you look at 2007 just before the crash. But obviously as the economic crisis hit, the number of people moving to the richest countries fell, and one of the reasons being given is the rising unemployment rate. Obviously immigrants traditionally work in industries which have suffered most during the slowdown, like construction, hotels and restaurants, and so there's actually less impetus for them to move to find work in developed nations.

Chiotakis: And they're not finding the opportunities, obviously. So now Rebecca, is there a belief this trend is permanent, a permanent change? Or could immigration start to grow again?

Singer: Well most recent data from the national governments for 2009 shows immigration probably continue to fall during that period. But it's a situation the international body the OECD hopes doesn't continue, and it's especially worried about the economic problems we're having at the moment that could be used as an excuse to restrict immigration further. So what it's doing is urging governments to assist immigrants who have lost their jobs, they want them to be given unemployment support and help to find new work. Because as we know and the OECD explains, immigration is essential for industrialized countries to maintain growth, and especially as the economy starts to recover, we'll need those immigrants to fill the labor shortages in things like construction and the hospitality industry.

Chiotakis: All right. The BBC's Rebecca Singer reporting from London for Marketplace. Rebeecca, thanks.

Singer: You're welcome.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.
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