Inmigration to Chile: a characterization of inmigrants in Chile and a look at the (lack of) impact of the 2007-2008 amnesty for undocumented workers
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Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the strength and stability of the Chilean economy relative to its neighbors has spurred the entry of immigrant workers into the Chilean labor market. Although the magnitude of immigrants in Chile remains quite low, the rapid increase in immigration in the 1990s, the large concentration of immigrants in the Metropolitan Region, the expanded media coverage, and a growing concern about the presence of undocumented immigrants have brought immigration into the spotlight as a public policy issue. This latter concern regarding undocumented immigrants served as the catalyst for the recent regularization program implemented by the Chilean government between November 5th, 2007 and February 5th, 2008. This paper seeks to characterize recent immigration to Chile, to conduct a descriptive comparison of immigrants and natives and to examine briefly the potential impact of the regularization on the incomes of sectors with relatively large concentrations of immigrant workers. Despite the recent attention that the regularization drew to immigration, Chile remains a country of few foreign-born. According to the Census of 2002, there are approximately 184,000 foreign-born residing in Chile compared to 450,000 Chileans that live abroad. In other words, only 1.2% of the population is immigrants while 3.2% is emigrants.1 To put the former in context, the percentage of immigrants over the total population of the United States is 10 times that of Chile (12% in 2002).2 In Argentina, immigrants account for 4% of the total population.3 More recent estimates cite larger immigrant numbers in Chile, although still relatively small. According to an article in El Mercurio, there are currently an estimated 290,000 foreign-born individuals living in Chile, equivalent to 1.6% of the population.
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