Home Impact of immigration — 2. Filling the job gaps Next page  (3. The employment impact)

Impact of immigration

Filling the job gaps

Immigrants allow an economy to work more smoothly by filling vacancies across the jobs spectrum, at both the top and the bottom.

At the top of the jobs market, immigrants can provide much needed professional skills, particularly in fast-growing economies like Singapore. But the main countries of settlement, including Australia, Canada, and the USA have also gone out of their way to recruit skilled people. And even European countries that have not considered themselves countries of immigration, including Germany and the UK, are now taking a more realistic view of their need for immigrant professionals.

At the other end of the skill spectrum are the millions of unskilled jobs — the 'dirty, dangerous and difficult' work that local people reject. Many more young people in the richer countries now go to college or university and are less interested in manual work particulary in industries such as construction. This is creating labour shortages. Immigrant workers can fill these gaps, not only by meeting immediate needs, smoothing out the peaks and troughs, but also by releasing local people to do other work. The clearest example of this is using immigrants as nannies so that mothers, can go out to work as high-powered executives.

Another use of immigrants is to keep old businesses afloat. The classic 'sunset' industries in the richer countries are textiles and garments. Although most textiles and garments are now produced in developing countries, these industries also survive to some extent in richer countries — often using sweated immigrant labour. As well as providing work for immigrants this also provides work for managers and many other people working in related industries.

Filipino nurses

Filipino health professionals are among the most sought after migrant workers in the world.
© IOM 2007 - MPH0137 (Photo: Angelo Jacinto)