Rich nations should invest in immigration for longterm economic growth. That’s the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) message this week to its 31 member countries—the globe’s most developed nations.

A report released by the OECD Monday documented that in 2008, 4.4 million people migrated to its member countries, a 6 percent decline compared to the year prior. That decline’s a bad thing, says OECD, because rich countries need immigrants to stay rich.

“It is important to recall that migrants are valuable contributors to the national economy especially when times are good,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Current economic difficulties will not change long-term demographic trends and should not be used as an excuse to overly restrict immigration. It is important that immigration policy has a long-term perspective.”

Around half of the 2008 migrants went to Europe, a third to North America, 10 percent to Japan and Korea, and 8 percent to Australia and New Zealand.

Those who have migrated—especially male immigrants who work in sectors hit hard by the recession, such as construction, hotels and restaurants—have tasted the bitterness of unemployment at a higher rate than those native-born. Some countries reported a rise of employment for women immigrants, but the OECD attribute the rise to women taking jobs to substitute their spouse’s lost income.

To ensure a healthy economy, the OECD suggests “governments should make every effort to assist immigrants who have lost their jobs, both by ensuring they have the same rights to unemployment support as native workers” and providing support for job searches and language-training to aid in integration. Translation: Invest in immigrants like a valuable economic asset, rather than treating them like a burden.

Photo: Getty Images/Joe Raedle

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