Spanish and Greeks move north due to austerity, crisis: OECD

Brain-drain with 'long-term consequences'
By Anders Melin
||Last Updated: 06/13/2013

BRUSSELS (Reuters) — Greeks and Spaniards are moving to northern Europe in growing numbers, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Thursday, as soaring unemployment rates and fiscal austerity erode living standards in the south.

In its annual report on migration, the OECD said the number of Greeks moving to Germany rose by more than 70 per cent to 34,000 between 2011 and 2012, while Spanish and Portuguese migration there increased by half.

OECD secretary general Angel Gurria said the number of migrating highly skilled workers from crisis-hit economies had risen, possibly weighing on any economic recovery.

"This is a brain-drain which has long-term consequences," Gurria said.

Spain and Greece have the highest unemployment rates in the European Union, with more than one-half of young people without jobs, after years of recession caused by the sovereign debt crisis.

Before the debt crisis, people in the European Union (EU) chose the security of staying home over moving to other countries, with the rate of migration falling by 40 per cent between 2007 and 2010.

But this trend is beginning to change, with the number of people moving within the EU rising by 15 per cent in 2011, the Paris-based group of mostly wealthy countries said.

The crisis has been tougher on immigrants than native born-citizens, and high unemployment rates particularly among the young have fuelled a growing debate in some states on the overall cost of immigration.

But the OECD's first analysis of immigrants' impact on national economies showed "migrants have a positive or, at worst, neutral fiscal impact" that rarely exceeds 0.5 per cent of gross domestic output, Gurria said.

Tax receipts and social security contributions from immigrants offset the costs of their benefits in a majority of OECD member states, OECD research shows.

Most notably, immigrant households in Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom on average make a larger net contribution to government finances than native-born households, it showed.

The OECD said increasing employment among immigrants to native citizens levels would yield significant fiscal gains, particularly in Belgium, France and Sweden.

The OECD also said the number of people seeking asylum in OECD countries had increased by 28 per cent in the past two years, particularly from Syria and Libya.

France and Germany were the top European destinations for asylum-seekers, while Luxembourg, Sweden and Switzerland also experienced high inflows relative to total population.

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