Reports 2014/38

Employment and economic transfers among seven arrival cohorts of immigrants observed through 1993-2010

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The survey shows that employment increases over time for newly arrived immigrants (aged 17-36 years at arrival) who remain resident in the country. After an introductory period of varying length, normally around ten years or so, the growth tends to level out. Men in the earliest arrival cohorts (1990 and 1993) may experience a certain decrease in employment at the end of the observation period (20 years). It generally takes longer for women’s employment to culminate, normally at a somewhat lower level than for the men. Although employment among immigrants as a rule increases with length of residence, it is not necessarily the arrival cohorts with the longest period of residence that have the highest employment levels at the end of the observation period. The advantage of a long period of residence is gradually offset by the disadvantage of a higher age.

Parallel to increased employment with increasing period of residence, the share of public economic transfers of total income tends to be reduced. We believe that this is an equally relevant or more relevant measure of economic dependency as the share of the target group that receives one or more specified public transfers during a year. Even if the employment rate tends to fall during the final years of the observation period in some cohorts, the share of public transfers hardly increases more than a handful of percentage points (maximum 6-7) simultaneously.

The report follows the selected immigrant cohorts (every third from 1990 to 2005) until 2010. Consequently, we get some years at the end of the observation period that are marked by the economic recession following the financial crisis. During this period (2008-2010), the register-based employment among immigrants in Norway fell by 2.6 percentage points (Statistics Norway 2009, 2011). The fall in employment during the final years of the observation period is, therefore, not necessarily a sign of withdrawal from employment due to early retirement or disability. Instead, it might be a backlash of the declining business cycle.

The report traces immigrants who have had problems with access to the labour market and immigrants who were excluded or who deliberately withdrew from the market. In addition to the significance of gender, we have observed disparities due to reason for immigration and country background. Immigrants who migrate for educational reasons – and who do not leave the country after completing their education – as well as labour immigrants achieve high employment levels, but immigrants who come for reasons of education take longer to find employment. Refugees and family immigrants have lower employment levels and a higher share of public transfers than labour and education immigrants. Male family immigrants, however, have a generally high employment rate. The breakdown by country background shows that immigrants from Asia and Africa in particular experience low employment and a higher share of public transfers. There can, however, still be large disparities between individual countries within the same world region.

The decline in employment with length of residence as shown in other studies for Turkish and Pakistani immigrants settled before and after the immigration freeze in 1975 (cf. Bratsberg, Røed and Raaum 2011) re-emerges in our data primarily among men in the cohorts 1990 and 1993, and exceptionally also1996. The phenomenon can be observed among men from East Europe in and outside the EU, Asia and Africa. The relevant individual countries are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Pakistan. The decline in employment, however, is very rarely as extensive as among Pakistani and Turkish immigrants settled before 1975: about 40 percentage points in the course of a 20-year observation period. A decrease of this magnitude is only found among Somali men in our data (36 and 39 percentage points). A fall in employment of around 15 percentage points over the course of a 20-year period is more common among immigrant men in our earliest cohorts from selected world regions and countries. A similar decline among the women in our study is difficult to find, with the possible exception of Bosnian and Turkish women.

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