Migration has plummeted during the pandemic

IF THERE IS one thing that people remember about the covid-19 pandemic, it is the experience of sheltering in place. Those looking to move abroad have had little choice but to stay put, too. A new report from the OECD, a think-tank, shows that travel restrictions introduced in response to the pandemic caused migration to rich countries to fall by half in the first half of the year, compared with 2019.

The sharpest declines occurred in East Asia and Oceania. Rich countries there have succeeded better than most at stopping the spread of covid-19. This is in part because they were quick to recognise the threat and institute strict travel restrictions. Some countries in the region, including Japan, South Korea and New Zealand have just about stopped accepting new immigrants entirely.

In America, restrictions were not introduced until March. It has since largely stopped issuing visas for permanent residents, but is still accepting temporary migrants. Most European countries halted migrant flows around the same time as the United States. Many have carved out exceptions to let in health-care workers and seasonal agricultural labourers.

Economic factors have also played a part in reducing migration. Restaurants and hotels, which have been devastated by the pandemic, employ a disproportionate number of migrants. Even in countries with generous furlough schemes, migrants have lost their jobs at higher rates than native-born residents. With fewer job opportunities, fewer people now have an incentive to move abroad, even if they were allowed to do so.

There is one country where immigration has not fallen much: Sweden. There, the government has rejected draconian lockdown measures imposed in virtually every other rich country. Although Sweden issued fewer visas this spring compared with the same period in 2019, migration has since returned to pre-pandemic levels.

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Author: | Post link: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/10/21/migration-has-plummeted-during-the-pandemic
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