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Migration to Western Countries

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as much as 12% of the population in OECD countries were foreign born. Countries like Australia, Canada and Ireland top the list, with more than 20% foreign populations.

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Migration to Western Countries

Migration to Western Countries

On average, migration has contributed to half of the population growth in OECD countries over the last ten years. Consequently, many OECD countries face the challenges of the economic and social integration of immigrants and their children. Developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America find themselves suffering from a brain-drain. Among those deciding to leave their country are some of the best educated people. This is particularly the case in the health sector, science and IT.

However, the migrant population cannot be seen as a well–educated group as a whole. In terms of education, migrants differ from the average native population in the sense that they are either better qualified, like high skilled Indians and Chinese, or have less or no education than the native born. Migrants therefore emerge as a very complex and divided group.

The recent OECD report also states that skilled immigrant workers are likely to get lower skilled jobs than what they are qualified for, and that the OECD countries receiving lots of immigrants still have a long way to go to integrate immigrants socially and in their work life.

Tasks and Activities


  1. How important is it for immigrants to learn the language of their new country?
  2. What is the difference between a mother tongue and a language that you learn as a lingua franca? How are they used differently?
  3. What is good and what is bad about moving to a different country? List your expectations, and compare and discuss them with a partner.
  4. You are moving to a different country. Which personal belongings would you bring along? List the most important items. Compare your list to your partner’s and discuss your choices.
  5. You have lived in your new homeland for 3 years. Discuss whether you find the following statements likely or not:
  • People grin when I speak my new language.
  • I keep in touch with my family and friends back home.I still support my old favourite team.
  • I have not changed my way of clothing.
  • I still listen to the same music.
  • I spend my money on trips back home.
  • I still eat the same food.
  • I read newspapers from my old country.
  • I have a job and a fiancé.
  • I love my freedom. Nobody knows me here.
  • I spend most of my time with people from my old country.
  • I live in an ethnic neighbourhood.
  • I make an important contribution to my new country.
  • I want to return home to my old country.
  • I have the same Facebook profile.


  1. Write a letter to your family back home, telling them about your life. Use your answers in the discussion task above as a starting point.
  2. In which ways could Facebook be valuable in your situation as an immigrant? Write a 5 paragraph essay.
  3. Search for pictures on immigration on the Internet. Present 3 of them, and explain how they convey such themes as hope, affluence, possibilities, fear, human rights, freedom, dreams, change etc.
  4. Use photo-story to voice an immigrant’s experience.
  5. After 3 years in your new country, you have become quite a prominent blogger on immigrant issues. Write at least 3 entries proving your position as the most widely read blogger on these issues. Give your blog a suitable name.


  1. Search for pictures on immigration on the Internet. Present 3 of them and explain how they convey such themes as hope, affluence, possibilities, fear, human rights, freedom, dreams, change etc.
  2. Use Photo-Story/Moviemaker to voice an immigrant’s experience.

Research 1

At the following link, OECD iLibrary , search for "Society at a Glance 2009". Open the pdf document "Society at a Glance 2009: OECD Social Indicators". Study the diagrams on page 69, and find the following information:

  1. Which country had the smallest percentage of foreign-born population in 2006? How can this be explained?
  2. Which country had the highest percentage of foreign-born population in 2006? How can you account for this?
  3. What was the percentage of foreign-born residents in Norway in 2006? Does this surprise you? Explain why/why not.
  4. Explain the concepts of net migration and gross migration.

Research 2

  1. Use various internet sites to find statistics on the population development in Western countries in recent years. Decide on three countries to do research on. Look for trends, changes and significant changes in the populations in your research.
    Make sure you state your sources, especially whenever you find contradictory figures and facts. Present your findings in a written report or as an oral presentation.
    Some useful search terms: European Union, population, demographics, fertility, birth rates, statistics. Two sites you may find useful:
  2. The big majority of European immigrants are Muslims. Study this BBC presentation to find out where they come from, where they settle and how they are doing.
    Make a table where you list facts, figures, challenges and achievements for at least 3 countries. Muslims in Europe


Summary - Migration to Western Countries

Sist oppdatert 13.05.2018
Tekst: Knut Inge Skifjeld (CC BY-SA)



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