Local economics

OECD countries sent 92% more workers to Chile in last 5 years

Dynamic growth, high quality of living and a functioning immigration system attracted more professional immigrants than ever before.

Friday, March 23, 2012 Category: Business
Santiago’s Barrio El Golf is a popular neighborhood for young professionals from abroad. (Photo by f Santiago’s Barrio El Golf is a popular neighborhood for young professionals from abroad. (Photo by ferrando/Flickr)

Whether it’s the promise of a finance position in the cosmopolitan capital or an engineering job in the world’s largest copper industry, immigrants are more interested than ever in working and living in Chile, according to a recent report by the Ministry of the Interior.


Looking at immigration figures from the past five years, the Ministry announced that more than 168,000 immigrants from 138 countries received work visas in Chile. And while Peru continues to send the greatest number of immigrants across its border with Chile, there was a surprising source of immigrants from a new direction: Chile’s fellow members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


The number of professional immigrants from OECD countries increased 92 percent between 2007 and 2011, according to Chile’s Ministry of the Interior. Most recently, the two leading  countries sending immigrants to Chile were the United States and Spain, with 779 and 586 work visas extended last year, respectively.  


Subsecretary of the Interior Rodrigo Ubilla pointed to Chile’s model of economic development and its openness as reasons why Chile is popular with professionals looking to pursue their dream vocation.


Plus, Ubilla added that “a high percentage of immigrants pursue legal status, which contributes to our positive image with potential immigrants who wish to live outside their borders.”


Chilean immigration law made international headlines on multiple occasions in the past 12 months, especially for the special start-up visa awarded to entrepreneurs participating in the lauded seed-fund project, Start-Up Chile.


“Due to Chile’s rapid economic growth in recent decades, there is a vacuum of qualified labor, which means there are jobs available for professionals with the necessary skills from other countries,” said Roberto Machado, managing director of the Michael Page recruitment firm.


Working as a foreigner in Chile


The leading companies hiring foreigners last year were all in the realms of technology, mining and energy. About 10 percent of the workforce are immigrants at IBM, one of the oldest tech firms in Chile, and 15 percent of the workers at tech company IMC are foreign.


In terms of absolute numbers, however, there’s no competing with the mining industry for sheer demand of qualified professionals. The sector employs more than 200,000 people, and projections estimate that by 2015, there will be a deficit of 23,000 mining engineers alone and 69,000 mining professionals in total, including private contractors.


“With the development of new projects, there will be a demand for new professionals. In this sense, local industry needs to increase its number of [workers] in an important way,” said Hernán de Solminihac, the Chilean minister of mining.

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