International Migration Reaches Record Highs in 2022

In 2022, permanent migration to OECD countries reached 6.1 million, marking a 26% increase compared to 2021, and the highest level since at least 2005. Notably, 15 out of the 38 OECD countries saw their highest levels of permanent migration over the past 15 years.

A significant contributing factor was the rise in labour migration, as migrant workers helped alleviate labour and skills shortages in OECD countries, according to year’s OECD Outlook.  


Asylum applications in the OECD also reached a record high in 2022, with over two million new applications, surpassing the previous record of 1.7 million in 2015 and nearly doubling the 2021 level. This surge was largely driven by increased applications in the United States and Europe, with the conflict in Ukraine resulting in millions of Ukrainian refugees in OECD countries.


The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlighted that tight labour markets and labour shortages in many of its member economies were primary drivers of increased migration, along with both humanitarian and managed labour migration, accompanied by family members.

Labour market outcomes for migrants also saw significant improvement, with employment rates for migrants reaching 72.3% across OECD countries in 2022, nearly on par with the native-born population. This was particularly true for both migrant men and women, demonstrating the vital role migrants have played in addressing labour and skills shortages.

To address these trends, several OECD countries, including Australia, Germany, and Spain, are planning substantial changes in their labour migration frameworks.


Additionally, the report highlights the specific challenges faced by immigrant women, particularly immigrant mothers who encounter significant disadvantages in terms of employment. Addressing these gender issues in migrant integration is emphasized for the potential economic and social benefits it can bring. Reducing the employment gender gap for immigrant women to match that of the native-born population in OECD countries could lead to an additional 5.8 million immigrant women gaining employment.

This data underscores the increasing importance of migration in addressing labour market needs in OECD countries and the significance of addressing gender disparities in immigrant employment and integration.


  • Family migration remained the main category of permanent migration to OECD countries, accounting for 40% of the total. The growth in family migration was driven by accompanying family of labour migrants.
  • Free movement within EU/EFTA and between Australia and New Zealand remained below the 2019 level, just over 1.1 million.
  • As of June 2023, there were around 4.7 million displaced Ukrainians in OECD countries. Germany, Poland and the United States host the highest number of refugees in absolute terms, while Estonia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania have received the highest number of refugees as a share of their population.
  • Temporary labour migration to OECD countries went slightly over pre-pandemic levels. More than 2.4 million work permits and authorisations were granted in OECD countries (excluding Poland) representing a 77% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, Poland registered about 2 million requests for different types of work authorisations (including renewals), which also correspond to a record high.
  • While arrivals of working holiday makers and intra-company transferees are still below pre-pandemic levels, the number of seasonal workers and other temporary labour migrants in 2022 was larger than in 2019.
  • Million workers were posted within the EU/EFTA in 2021, including 2.1 million under Article 12 (-9% compared to 2020).
  • Approximately 1.9 million residence permits were issued for international tertiary-level students across the OECD in 2022. This is 42% more than in 2021, 24% more than in 2019 and the highest number ever registered. In 2020, 4.3 million international students were enrolled in the OECD area.
  • The number of new asylum seekers to OECD countries nearly doubled in 2022 compared to the previous year, reaching over 2 million – the highest figure on record. The surge was driven primarily by the United States, which received over 700 000 applications in 2022. Across the OECD, the main origin countries were Venezuela, Cuba, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Syria.
  • Humanitarian admissions also grew rapidly over the year, with 625 000 people granted protection in OECD countries in 2022. This is the highest annual level since 2017.
  • In 2022, in the OECD, 145 million people lived outside their country of birth, a quarter more than ten years earlier. The foreign-born represented about 10.6% of the total population of OECD countries compared with 8.9% in 2012.
  • Having replaced China as the main country of origin of new migrants to OECD countries in 2020, India maintained first place in 2021 and, according to partial data, in 2022.
  • Acquisitions of citizenship in OECD countries reached a record level in 2022, at 2.8 million, according to preliminary and partial data. More than 100 000 Syrian citizens acquired their host country’s nationality in 2021.
  • Canada contributed a third of this increase, with a record 375 000 new Canadian citizens in 2022 (+174% compared to 2021 and +50% compared to 2019).


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