As the recession drags on and the recovery continuing to be just around the next corner, many wealthy nations are seeing unemployment rates rise. They still seem low to me because I grew up in the days when North America and Europe were trying to emulate the Soviet Union on a gradualist basis rather than a revolutionary model. As this unemployment rise continues and the revenue pouring into oil producing nations stalls, there seems to be a chain reaction going on if various observers can be trusted in their observational observances. Now I have not been keeping track of the sources (bad form I know but hard cheese) but recently I have seen articles claiming that Eastern European migrant workers are leaving Western Europe as the jobs dry up and so the Chinese who moved into Poland and the like are moving back to China (now not all of the members of these groups is on the move but a significant fraction is). East Asians and South Asians who went to the Gulf states are returning (or being released from indentured servitude in some cases) and former Central Asian immigrants (e.g. Kazakhstanis) to Russia are headed home with the encouragement of various segments of Russian society. Those at the end of the chains like Kazakhstan are left receiving newly jobless youths, many of whom may have been in their host nations illegally and picked up some criminal survival skills.
Even nations which do not have a high return rate – maybe those who left have been in the host society long enough to put down roots – also have some problems from the combination of their history of reliance on emigration and the recession. People are starting to not leave for greener pastures in the numbers they used to as the pastures become less green. As remaining migrants in wealthy nations worry about the future they have started to send less money back home to the old country. Nations who have grown used to getting by on remittance money, oil revenue and charity might need to think up a new strategy unless recession weary Westerners are willing to drastically increase the charity they send.
Western governments are under rising pressure by worried citizens to limit immigration due to rising unemployment. There is also likely a reduction in pressure from businesses to let in cheap labour and a reduction in applicants wanting to come in anyway. Governments rarely do things when they are hard, they do them when they are easy. Changes to immigration laws are already being adopted (America being a possible exception as it seems to be readying itself to loosen immigration regulations). It will be interesting to see what effect these factors have on immigration rates to Western nations and whether they will reverse when the recession ends. Will the need for cheap labour and reduction in unemployment and public concern cause European nations to go back to more liberal migration laws? Or will companies start moving jobs to where the cheap labour is as the supply of European workers begins to dwindle with rising employment rates? If riots, anti-gay and antisemitic violence, terrorist attacks, fatwas, dubious human rights claims about the word Allah being discovered in advertising logos and calls for Shariah continue it might make European hesitant to return to more liberal immigration laws. Only time… will tell.