Pandemic impact on immigration significant – report

The steps taken to halt the spread of COVID in the midst of the pandemic has had a significant impact on the scale of international immigration new analysis has found with a warning that the slowdown risks unbalancing the economies of major nations across the world.

Border closures, lockdowns, and other mobility restrictions have likely had a negative impact on international migration in 15 high income countries across the world, and in doing so shifting the necessary balance in countries with aging populations.

In a new study led by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), researchers quantified the impact of COVID-19 on immigration flows in 15 high-income countries during 2020. They used statistical modelling to forecast immigration counts in the absence of COVID-19 and compared these to the actual immigration counts.

The study analysed immigration changes in 12 European countries, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and The Netherlands, as well as Australia, Canada, and the United States. They then explored how each potential driving force, such as travel restrictions, mobility restrictions, lockdowns, work and school closures, and increases in unemployment might have affected immigration counts.

“A few studies speculated about the mechanisms of how the pandemic may have impacted migration or how travel disruptions may have affected migrants’ plans,” says Miguel González-Leonardo, the lead author of the study and a researcher in the IIASA Population and Just Societies Program. “However, this is the first empirical paper providing evidence of how the pandemic impacted immigration across countries and exploring the underpinning potential driving forces of these changes, such as travel restrictions and other stringency measures.”

The researchers found that immigration declined in all countries, except Finland. The extent of the decline varied greatly between countries, with Australia showing the largest drop in immigration with a 59.9% decrease. Spain and Sweden recorded drops of 45.4% and 36.4% respectively, while immigration decreased by between 15% and 30% in seven other countries, and by less than 15% in four nations where results were not statistically significant.

The researchers found that international travel restrictions, mobility restrictions, and stay-at-home requirements were associated with immigration declines, while work and school closures and unemployment showed no effect.

“Immigration helps to prevent or mitigate depopulation and brings labour force and skills to where they are needed. Thus, understanding changes in the global network of international migration is essential to ensure appropriate policies in aging societies,” concludes Michaela Potančoková, study co-author and a researcher in the IIASA Population and Just Societies Program.