A boat carrying Tunisian migrants enters the port of Lampedusa, Italy | Photo: ANSA
A boat carrying Tunisian migrants enters the port of Lampedusa, Italy | Photo: ANSA

There are 630,000 Tunesian emigrants living in OECD countries. A new study by takes a closer look at these migrants. What the researchers learned: Most of them are young (under 35!) and have settled in the European Union, in particular in France, Italy and Germany.

A reported 83 percent of Tunisians who have left their home country and are living in countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have settled in France, Italy and Germany. Overall, 500,000 Tunesians have been registered as residents of a European Union country. Most Tunisian migrants are under 35 years of age. This is what a recent study carried out by the OECD found. 

The paper, called "Talent Abroad: A Review of Tunisian Emigrants," provides updated statistics on the Tunisian diaspora. 

Tunisian Social Affairs Minister Mohamed Trabelsi said that the data would help in the development of a database in Tunisia to define migration policies. 

Recent trends in emigration 

Focusing on recent trends in Tunisian emigration, the "Talent Abroad" study stressed that between 2000 and 2013, legal migration flows from Tunisia towards OECD countries increased by 73 percent to nearly 27,000 per year. Between 2013 and the present, emigration has remained relatively stable. 

The researchers found that migration from Tunisia towards OECD countries is still dominated by so-called "family flows." However, the number of migrants moving for professional reasons is increasing.

The number of Tunesian students in OECD countries doubled between 2008 and today, the study said. Over 6,500 study permits were released in 2016-2017. 

Socio-demographic characteristics 

The study reported a stark difference in education levels between Tunisian migrants and their offsprings. Second-generation migrants are vastly more educated. In OECD countries, 47 percent of Tunisian migrants had a low level of education. But 77 percent of descendants of Tunisian migrants had intermediate or high education levels. 

However, most recent Tunisian emigrees are young and qualified. 

Employment situation varies according to country 

According to the OECD research, Tunisian emigrees have different experiences in the labor market depending on which country they relocate to. In North America or Switzerland, they usually have no problem finding a job. In the main countries of destination in Europe (France, Italy or Belgium), however, their employment rate is quite low. But Tunisians with a higher degree don't report more problems in having their degree recognized compared to those who stay home. 

The study also noted that the total number of Tunisians who returned to their home country after a period of at least 15 years abroad totaled 60,000 people in 2014. Two-thirds of those returnees previously resided in an OECD country. 

Key contributors to Tunesian economy

The researchers concluded their paper by saying that Tunisians who return home, as well as Tunisians living abroad, contribute to the economic development of Tunisia through the money they send home, through investments and through the creation of businesses - key factors in creating new jobs. 

The OECD worked on the study in partnership with the Lemma project. This project is the result of the "mobility partnership" signed by the European Union and Tunisia on March 3, 2014, with the aim of providing technical assistance connected to migration to Tunisian public institutions. Funded by the EU, it is implemented by Expertise France. 

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