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Germany Sees Immigration Surge From Southern Europe Amid Crisis

Immigration to Germany from southern Europe surged over the past two years as the unemployed from Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy traveled north to seek work in Europe’s largest economy, a report showed.

Net migration of foreigners into Germany almost doubled to 302,900 in 2011, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said today in its “International Migration Outlook.” In the first three quarters of 2012, inflows were up 38 percent from Italy, 64 percent higher from Greece and almost 50 percent from Spain, the Paris-based OECD said.

“Immigration of citizens of European countries with high unemployment increased considerably,” the OECD said, citing a 90 percent increase in flows from Greece and a 52 percent increase from Spain in 2011, the last full year for which data is available.

Unemployment has surged across southern Europe since the onset of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis almost four years ago, with the jobless rate reaching 27 percent in Greece and Spain, and 17 percent in Portugal. In Italy, the rate reached a 36-year high of 12 percent in April.

At the same time, Germany, benefiting from a labor-market overhaul carried out a decade ago by then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, has seen its unemployment rate plummet to about 5.4 percent, according to International Labor Organization methodology.

‘Hard Truths’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month called on Germans to face ‘‘hard truths” in accepting changes to immigration and education policy to keep the nation’s economy competitive even as its native population shrinks.

“It’s high time to start” tackling the generational challenges, Merkel told an audience in Berlin on May 14. Projections that Germany will have 6 million fewer working-age people by 2025 mean that “we can surely do more to be open to immigration,” she said.

Germany has for the past 40 years coupled one of the most competitive economies in Europe with one of the region’s lowest birth rates, leaving fewer workers to support an increasingly aging population.

The OECD said that a German government program to promote occupational mobility is helping to prepare unemployed and skilled workers from other European Union countries to fill vacant jobs in Germany.

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