Q REPORTS – A new report from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) found that in most Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries, immigrants, while often highly skilled, often work in low- to medium-skilled jobs, preventing them from contributing to their host communities to the fullest extent of their abilities.
The publication “Cómo les va a los migrantes en América Latina y el Caribe?” (How are migrants doing in Latin America and the Caribbean?) maps the socioeconomic integration of the migrant population in 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay) based on 41 indicators such as labor market informality, self-employment, youth employment, educational levels, reading skills, and living conditions.
The report also includes an analysis of policy indicators to contextualize the relationship between the policy decisions made regarding the integration of the migrant population in each of the 12 countries covered and their results in terms of the integration achieved, measured by quantitative indicators.
The study, based on the OECD’s experience with Settling In (a series of comparative reports, produced jointly with the European Commission, on the integration outcomes of immigrant characteristics in OECD countries) measures differences between outcomes for immigrant and native-born populations within each country for which data is available.
When the results of migrants are less favorable than those of the native population, it may reflect a failure to take advantage of the opportunities that migration can offer. Regularization and labor market
The regularization of migrants is one of the main tools used to facilitate their integration into host societies, promote their human rights and generate peaceful, just and inclusive societies. In the last 10 years, countries such as Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic have implemented special permits and visas to regularize the situation of immigrants. In the 12 LAC countries included in this study, all regular migrants can work in the formal labor market if they obtain work permits, including refugees.
Although it is difficult to discern general trends that hold for all countries in the region, the report finds that in most LAC countries, immigrants, particularly those aged 15-34, are more likely to participate in the labor market than their native peers. In half of the LAC countries, immigrants are less likely to be unemployed than natives. Furthermore, in most countries, the foreign-born experience less long-term unemployment than the local population. And highly-skilled occupations are more prevalent among the foreign-born than the native-born on average.
Despite this rather favorable picture, on average in LAC countries, immigrants are more likely to have an informal job than natives (52% and 45%, respectively). Furthermore, immigrants not only face significant barriers to finding formal jobs, but also high-quality jobs. In most LAC countries, immigrants are more likely to have temporary contracts and work more hours (50 hours or more per week) than native people.
Furthermore, in LAC countries, a higher proportion of highly educated immigrants who are employed perform jobs for which they are overqualified compared to natives.
Regarding the prevalence of (relative) poverty, a lower incidence is observed among immigrants, especially in Chile, Panama and Peru. Regarding housing conditions, in around half of the LAC countries analyzed, the foreign-born are more likely than their native-born counterparts to live in overcrowded and substandard housing with a lack of basic services.
Education, a regional challenge
In almost all the LAC countries analyzed, by law, children and adolescents have the right to compulsory public education and public early childhood care, regardless of their immigration status. Schools, however, face numerous challenges in welcoming and integrating immigrant children, especially in cases of mass influx. In half of the LAC countries analyzed, children born abroad are less likely to be in school than their native peers.
This holds regardless of age group. Foreign-born youth are more likely than native-born youth to lack basic reading skills by the age of 15, (in some countries the difference between the groups is greater than 10 percentage points). They also tend to drop out of school earlier and, after completing their studies, are more likely to be out of school or out of work (NEETs) than native-born youth.
While foreign-born children currently have lower educational outcomes than native-born ones, immigrants who arrived in LAC countries as adults tend to have higher levels of educational attainment than their native-born counterparts. In eight out of twelve LAC countries, the proportion of immigrants of working age (15-64 years) with tertiary education is higher than that of natives (28% and 23%, respectively). Similarly, the proportion of immigrants with a low educational level is much lower than among the autochthonous population (33% versus 41%, respectively).
Although the migrant population in Latin America and the Caribbean is characterized by having an even ratio between men and women, on average the education and employment indicators show an unequal integration between men and women.
For most countries, the data shows that migrant women tend to be more educated than migrant men, on average, by almost 3 percentage points. However, employment indicators show that the proportion of migrant men of working age who have a job exceeds that of employed migrant women by more than 27 percentage points.
This translates into 4 percentage points more unemployment for migrant women, and involuntary inactivity among migrant women exceeds that of men in six of the eleven countries analyzed by more than 4 percentage points.
Integration of the migrant population in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the country with the largest percentage of migrant population with respect to its total population (12%) of all those analyzed in the document. However, its migrant population of around 500,000 people is one of the smallest among the study countries.
The migrant population in Costa Rica has a participation rate in the labor market close to 80%. However, it also has an unemployment rate of almost 20% among economically active migrants. However, having a high temporary employment rate (50% among migrants and 55% among natives), unemployment tends to be short-term, only 5% of the unemployed (migrants and natives) last more than 12 months in this condition.
In terms of education, young migrants obtain better results in the PISA tests than their native peers and have the highest schooling rate among those aged 15 to 18 in the region.
Although migrant women in Costa Rica tend to be more educated than men, the difference in unemployment between the two genders is almost three times larger than the regional average, they work fewer hours than men and they work in low-skilled jobs.