Germany Top Migration Land After U.S. in New OECD Ranking

Germany has risen to become the world’s number two destination for permanent migration, overtaking the U.K. and Canada, after the sovereign-debt crisis spurred southern Europeans to leave home, according to a survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

While the U.S. still draws the most settlers, Germany jumped from eighth place in 2009 to second in 2012, with permanent migration rising 38 percent on the year, according to an OECD study entitled “Migration Policy Debates,” published today. Germany attracted 400,000 permanent immigrants in 2012.

“Such a strong increase from one year to another has been rarely observed in any major OECD country,” Thomas Liebig, one of the study’s authors, said by e-mail.“We can clearly speak about a boom of migration to Germany without exaggeration.”

Germany, which has Europe’s oldest population and the second-lowest birthrate, after Monaco, has adapted immigration policies since 2000 to attract more high-skilled labor. Twenty-five years after former Chancellor Helmut Kohl declared that Germany “is not and can never be an immigration country,” one in three migrants within Europe now moves to the nation in search of work, according to the OECD. That compares with one in 10 in 2007.

Adding Fuel

Germany, the euro area’s largest economy, is key to the 18-nation currency bloc’s drive to sustain a recovery from its longest-ever recession amid weak price growth. The nation’s gross domestic product expanded more than economists forecast last quarter, offsetting an unexpected stalling in France and contractions from Italy to the Netherlands.

Spain has experienced the greatest immigration decline since 2007, with the number of migrants dropping to 275,000 from 692,000, according to the OECD. The organization defines permanent immigrants as foreigners settling in a country who have acquired the right to permanent residence.

A greater portion of immigrants moving to Germany is classed as “highly educated” -- 34 percent in 2012 compared with 30 percent in 2007, according to the study. The employment rate among immigrants has also increased in that period, to 69 percent from 66 percent.

Europe still lags the U.S. and Canada in attracting workers with a university-level education. Immigrants represented 31 percent of the increase in Canada’s highly educated labor force between 2000 and 2010, compared with 21 percent in the U.S. and 14 percent in Europe, the findings showed.

Costing Revenue

A shortage of qualified employees is costing small and medium-sized German companies 31 billion euros ($43 billion) in lost annual revenue, according to a report in January by Ernst & Young LLP.

Without growth in the German working-age population, including through immigration, as many as 1.5 million fewer people will be available to the workforce by 2020, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said in September. Such a decline would cost Germany almost 70 billion euros in annual output, he said at the time.

German companies have a lack of experience in hiring from abroad even though the country’s immigration rules are now among the most lenient in the OECD, the group said last year. In a 2011 survey of more than 1,100 employers, nearly 50 percent said they had never considered the possibility of hiring abroad and more than 30 percent said the process was too complicated.

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