The world’s largest economies admitted nearly two million international students in 2022 for the first time as migration reached “unprecedented levels”, according to new data from the OECD.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found student flows into these nations “bounced back” last year after the pandemic, with numbers reaching their highest levels ever in 2022 in around half of the organisation’s 38 member states.
Over 24% more visas for students were issued than in 2019, but a minority of countries remained below pre-pandemic levels, including New Zealand, Estonia, Portugal, Sweden and Luxembourg.
For the fourth consecutive year, the United Kingdom was the top receiving country of new international students out of all OECD countries, ahead of the United States.
Canada, Australia and Japan complete the list of the top five receiving countries.
In total, the USA hosts almost 20% of all international students in the OECD, followed by the UK (14%) and Australia (9%). Outside of English-speaking countries, Germany and France are the primary destination countries, jointly hosting around 15% of all international students.
It comes as many OECD countries attempt to tackle widespread skills shortages and the challenges related to ageing populations. At the same time, overall migration to richer countries has reached record levels.
“International migration to OECD countries was higher in 2022 than in any other year since data had been available,” OECD secretary-general Mathias Cormann said at a press conference.
“Several countries including Australia, Germany and Spain are planning major reforms to their labour migration frameworks to better link labour migration with labour and skills shortages,” he added.
“Without the influx of migrants, our economies might not be able to sustain the pace of economic growth”
Governments are taking international students into account when looking at long-term labour planning. One focus area of the Australian government’s ongoing migration system review is to consider how “high-potential” international students educated in Australia can be encouraged to remain.
“Without the influx of migrants, our economies might not be able to sustain the pace of economic growth we all wish to reach,” said Stefano Scarpetta, director of the directorate of employment, labor and social affairs.
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