Debates And Controversies On European Migration Policies

Author:Nicolaie Iancu - Elena-Ana Nechita
Pages:1-10
SUMMARY

Unlike the countries self-proclaimed as countries of destination for migrants, such as the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (the so-called “New World”), Europe had a difficult time getting used to the fact that it has become a target for immigration flows and lucidly addressing this phenomenon. Many companies in European countries have been deeply reluctant to accepting immigrants, especially those from non-OECD countries, who are perceived as having a significantly different cultural background and ethnicity. Anti-immigration feelings were expressed by public support for restrictive immigration and asylum policies, the negative presentation of immigrants and asylum seekers in the populist press, the discrimination of ethnic minority residents, or even racist or anti-immigrant manifestations, often leading to harassment and violence.

 
CONTENT
1
DEBATES AND CONTROVERSIES
ON EUROPEAN MIGRATION POLICIES
Nicolaie IANCU*
Elena-Ana NECHITA**
Abstract
Unlike the countries self-proclaimed as countries of destination for migrants, such as
the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (the so-called “New World”), Europe had
a difficult time getting used to the fact that it has become a target for immigration flows
and lucidly addressing this phenomenon.
Many companies in European countries have been deeply reluctant to accepting
immigrants, especially those from non-OECD countries, who are perceived as having a
significantly different cultural background and ethnicity. Anti-immigration feelings were
expressed by public support for restrictive immigration and asylum policies, the negative
presentation of immigrants and asylum seekers in the populist press, the discrimination of
ethnic minority residents, or even racist or anti-immigrant manifestations, often leading
to harassment and violence.
Keywords: policy, migration, debate, labour
1. Arguments for the acceptance of labour migration
Unlike the countries self-proclaimed as countries of destination for migrants, such as
the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (the so-called “New World”), Europe had a
difficult time getting used to the fact that it has become a target for immigration flows
and lucidly addressing this phenomenon.
Many companies in European countries have been deeply reluctant to accepting
immigrants, especially those from non-OECD countries, who are perceived as having a
significantly different cultural background and ethnicity. Anti-immigration feelings were
expressed by public support for restrictive immigration and asylum policies, the negative
presentation of immigrants and asylum seekers in the populist press, the discrimination of
ethnic minority residents, or even racist or anti-immigrant manifestations, often leading to
harassment and violence.
This hostility appears primarily as illogical, since European countries have benefited
to a significant extent from immigration in the past four or five decades. Large-scale
immigration, especially of the low-skilled, in the 1950s and 1960s, was an essential
component of the post-war reconstruction effort and of the industrial boom in Western
2
Europe, and today, labour migration fills critical gaps in the sectors of IT, engineering,
construction, agriculture and food processing, health care, education, catering and
tourism, as well as home services.
The economic justification for the acceptance of labour migration is likely to become
even stronger in the coming decades, for at least three reasons.
First, European governments tend increasingly towards a unanimous recognition of
the importance of skills in generating productivity and economic growth. Human capital
has become the most important determinant of productivity growth in an economy
increasingly based on knowledge. Knowledge and the skills of highly-skilled workers are
vital to innovation and productivity growth and, thus, to creating new jobs. A study on the
impact of the Green Card on IT programmers, for example, estimated that each highly-
qualified immigrant creates, on average, 2.5 new jobs in Germany1. This has led many
governments to reducing restrictions on immigration for employment, to encouraging the
migration of skilled labour, intra-company transfers and the free movement of service
providers in order to attract the best skills. Indeed, there are serious concerns in many
countries about the fact that Europe is not as attractive for skilled workers as North
America, the latter being a magnet for highly-skilled workers, including European
scientists and researchers.
Secondly, despite the substantial structural unemployment in many European
countries, European workers are often selective in choosing occupations and employers’
locations and are also more skilled than they were two to three decades ago. As a result,
although the share of non-qualified and low-qualified workers is decreasing (due to new
production and outsourcing techniques), there are significant shortages in certain
occupations – especially in the agro-food industry, catering and home care services.
There are also acute shortages in some areas of public services, mainly due to inadequate
remuneration or the status perceived as marginal, such as healthcare or education – jobs
that are increasingly occupied by migrant labour.
Thirdly, the aging of population in European countries implies a high dependency
ratio, i.e. a high percentage of the population that is economically inactive, and this will
lead to pressure on the social security and welfare systems, such as health and pensions,
which are becoming increasingly expensive. The aging of population will also lead to
changes in the consumption patterns, particularly an increasing demand for health care
and leisure activities, which will generate, in turn, additional demand for labour in these
sectors.
Thus, despite the persistence of unemployment, the problems of mismatch between
supply and demand and the need to attract highly-skilled workers have created a labour
shortage, which is often alarming. Because migrant labour is sensitive to political
developments and decisions, it is rarely the first choice of governments to cover labour
shortages. Generally, the first option was, and still is, to take measures in order to
influence the labour supply models for the internal market – through education and
*PhD Candidate Lecturer, AGORA University, Faculty of Law and Economics, Department of
Economics, niancu2009@yahoo.com
**PhD Professor, AGORA University, Faculty of Law and Economics, Department of Law,
anaelena2009@yahoo.com
1Boswell, Christina (2005), Migration in Europe, Policy Analysis and Research Programme of the
Global Commission on International Migration, http://www.gcim.org/attachements/RS4.pdf.
3
professional training, by attracting more people into work, by extending the working age,
or by encouraging birth rate. The EU has sought to stimulate the mobility of workers
between Member States, including new members from Central and Eastern Europe, by
removing (gradually and selectively) the restrictions on the free movement of labour.
However, these measures are unlikely to precisely match the evolution of demand and,
thus, the focus moves to finding the best solutions to attract workers with special
professional skills, or workers qualified in fields sensitive for all European countries. As
the shortage becomes more acute, we expect the measures for the liberalization of the
labour market to become an instrument that governments will resort to more and more
often, in order to fill, quickly and efficiently, the gaps in the internal labour market2.
2. Anti-migration reactions
What are the real effects of immigration within the host states and, especially, how
are they perceived by the local people?
The first approach is a demographic one, i.e. assessing the impact of immigration on
the size and structure of the host country population. Migrants are younger and usually
have larger families than the ordinary families of the host states’ population, but the
current immigration levels are not even sufficient to prevent the aging population crisis
that threatens many advanced industrial societies, especially in Europe and Japan3. Ethnic
differences between migrants and the populations of host states have alarmed nationalists
for decades, and historical statistics show that immigrants take at least two or three
generations to be fully integrated in the host states, sometimes less, if there are local and
national integration policies4.
The second approach to assessing the impact of immigration on host states focuses
on the economic impact, measured in different ways. Although the views about the
positive effects of international migration in countries of destination: on labour, support
of the economic growth, etc., are known, there are economists who believe that these
effects are fairly modest as compared to the overall size of the host country economies.
For example, some researchers have estimated that, in the case of the U.S., immigration
has contributed about $ 10 billion per year, i.e. 0.2% of U.S. GDP in 19975, leaving a
wide field for questions, more or less rhetorical, on the immediate usefulness on
immigration in developed countries.
Much more heated political and electoral controversy focus on distribution issues, i.e.
whether immigrants consume more public services than they pay in taxes. Considering
the logic of progressive taxation, it can be assumed that immigrants will be net fiscal
consumers, since the average earnings of immigrants are far below the average income of
natives. Immigrants are likely to be a net tax burden for localities where they are
2 Ibidem.
3 United Nations (2000), Replacement Migration: Is It a Solution to Declining and Aging Populations?
New York: Popul. Div., Dep. Econ. Soc. Aff., UN Secretariat.
4 Joppke C, Morawska E, eds.(2003), Toward Assimilation and Citizenship: Immigrants in Liberal
Nation-States. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
5 Smith JP, Edmonston B, (1998) The Immigration Debate: Studies on the Economic, Demographic, and
Fiscal Effects of Immigration. Washington, DC: Natl. Acad. Press.
4
established, especially given that usually they have young families, with school age
children, who require expensive social services such as education and health care.
Regardless of their overall fiscal impact, there is no doubt that immigrants from EU
represent a tax expense for municipalities with large immigrant communities, but are net
contributors to the central treasury.
Finally, political and economic concerns bring into question the way the costs of
migration (eg, the pressure to lower wages, increased competition on employment) are
distributed among different segments of the local population. The Heckscher-Ohlin
model suggests that migration, equated with an international trade of abundant unskilled
labour from the South (the generic name for the countries of origin of migrants) and
skilled labour from the North, should bring about benefits both for the skilled workers in
the host states and the unskilled workers from the countries of origin, and that low-skilled
workers in the host states would be the losers, because their salaries are reduced6.
However, these assumptions ignore the possibility of positive externalities of
immigration, including job creation and economic diversification. Empirical studies have
found a significant and substantial correlation between immigration to the U.S. and
falling wages during 1890-19107 and, more recently, between contemporary immigration
and falling wages in Western European countries8.
The steps towards liberalizing the labour market were highly contested in the context
of national politics.
An explanation, even if only partial, may lie in the wrong understanding and
explaining of the economic impact of migration. Despite extensive studies on the gains
that resulted from the use of migration, many of the national workers remain concerned
about the possible effects of displacement (displacement effects), especially if there is
already a high rate of unemployment9. There are also concerns about the socio-cultural
impact of immigration, partly supported by the recognition that the integration of
previous waves of immigration labour is far from complete. Here, one can discern a wide
range of anxieties in the populist media, in posts by the nationalist parties or in the
opinion polls. Europeans are concerned about the “ghettoization” of the ethnic minorities
in poorer cities, the problems arising from inter-ethnic tensions and violence, poor
education and apparently poor performance on the labour market of immigrants and
ethnic minorities, crime and even terrorist activities by ethnic groups and, in a broader
approach, the perception of the fragmentation of social solidarity and collective identity
as a result of increasing cultural diversity.
These fears are exacerbated by the growing difficulties of migration control, given
the extremely controversial and discouraging developments in the past three or four
decades. Measures taken to mitigate labour migration in the early 1970s encouraged
many people to try to enter Europe through the family reunification or asylum systems.
6 Borjas G. (1999), Heaven’s Gate: Immigration Policy and the American Economy, Princeton Univ.
Press
7 Goldin C., (1994, The political economy of immigration restriction in the United States, 1890–1921,
cited in Cornelius, Wayne A. and Rosenblum, M.R. (2004), Immigration and Politics, University of New
Orleans Working Paper, p. 105.
8 Angrist J, Kugler A. (2001). Protective or counter-productive? European labor market institutions and
the effect of immigrants on EU natives. NBER Work. Pap. Ser. 8660. Cambridge, MA.
9 Boswell, Ch., (2005), op. cit.
5
Attempts to restrict access through these “humanitarian routes” gave rise to new patterns
of illegal migration and human trafficking. Irregular migration flows have emerged as a
response to the demand for illegal labour in many sectors, especially in construction,
textile and clothing industry, tourism and work at home. These forms of irregular
movement fueled the alarmist tendencies of populist speech, which tried to strengthen the
idea that Europe is inundated with migrants from the poorest regions and that the states
are no longer able to control access to their resources and their national territories.
An explanation of the success of such positions comes from the fact that this anxiety
is the result of larger socio-economic changes, rather than a rational response to the
impact of immigration itself. One element of this change is the declining role of the state
in ensuring social and economic security.
Since the 1970s, mass unemployment, the deregulation of labour markets and the
reduction of state support for the social welfare systems have raised questions about the
state's ability to provide effective social-economic protection for its own citizens.
Secondly, sociological studies have shown a decline in the traditional categories of
collective identification – social class, church, nation, profession or family. However,
there is significant pressure on individuals to fulfill their lives through personal
achievements in education, career, family life, housing and so on10.
These changes have generated anxiety about social status and identity and about
access on the labour market or to a certain level of welfare. Although these concerns have
been noticed in other democratic countries outside Europe, it was found however that the
European public has shown a special tendency to channel these anxieties on migration
issues. However, trying to reassure voters by (re) asserting control capacity is not a
simple task and here is one of the central paradoxes of the liberal democratic welfare
states. On one hand, there are the attempts to limit migration, on the other, the economic
benefits, respectively, regulatory and institutional constraints. Ruling democratic and
welfare states, governments are responsible for the state of their citizens and voters, who
expect a privileged level of protection – not only as regards personal security and civil
liberties, but also welfare and social services, as well as labour employment.
At the same time, the democratic, liberal, welfare principles, underlying these
systems are based on a logic of equality and nondiscrimination. The historical develop-
ment of legislations in Europe shows that the national provisions on civil rights and
access to welfare were limited to a state’s own citizens, while principles such as that of
equal rights surpassed national boundaries, establishing themselves as fundamental
principles, that became part of national constitutions and judicial practices, as well as
European and international conventions. Thus, for example, international refugee law and
the European Convention on Human Rights made it difficult for developed countries to
ignore the rules of international protection, even at the peak of the “asylum seekers crisis”
in the '90s. The extension of citizen rights to non-nationals was also promoted by the
European welfare state government, on basis of a logic of equality of treatment with the
residents11.
10 Boswell, Ch., (2005), op. cit.
11Guiraudon, V. (2002), The Marshallian Triptych Reordered: “The Role of Courts and Bureaucracies
in Furthering Migrants’ Social Rights”, in M. Bommes and A. Geddes, Immigration and Welfare:
Challenging the Borders of the Welfare State, London and New York: Routledge, p. 72-89.
6
Even if the real effects of immigration on the receiving countries are usually manageable,
many citizens of the receiving states perceive migration by its negative economic and
noneconomic consequences, which leads them to favouring more restrictive immigration
policies. Numerous studies examine public responses to immigration, characterized in the
entire industrialized world by opposition to the existing immigration levels and quite negative
feelings towards the “recent waves” of migrants12. Partly, as a response to the “concomitance”
of phenomena occurred after 1970, i.e. migration resurgence, the global macroeconomic
shocks and an increasing concern about the sustainability of a welfare state, the following
decades were marked by the emergence of new parties and anti-immigrant movements across
Europe and in parts of the United States.
New security challenges arising from the superposition of phenomena such as
globalization and fragmentation, add to the classic forms of risks and vulnerabilities.
Unlike the migration phenomenon from ancient times that was a way of balancing and
improving the livelihoods of people, illegal migration has become a destabilizing factor13.
Extremist anti-immigration parties have seldom enjoyed consistent electoral success
(there are exceptions such as the National Front in France and Freedom Party of Austria),
but they were successful in influencing larger parties to adopt more restrictive
immigration policy. “Stubborn politicians, despite the repeated failure of anti-immigrant
policies at the ballot box, still think this issue has the potential to mobilize voters”14.
What explains, in fact, the popular sympathy for anti-immigration measures? Analysts
have focused mainly on two competing hypotheses: on the one hand, explanations based
on economic arguments (threats), which draw their sources from Marxist thought (“the
industrial reserve army”) and, respectively, sociological explanations based on threats to
cultural identity15.
In this sense, the migration policy dilemma reflects more than a tension between the
economic rationale and political considerations. It reveals a basic ambiguity in the logic
of the liberal democratic welfare states, trying, on the one hand, to support an impressive
project for promoting equal rights, and, on the other hand, to establish a well-defined
protection of a specific group, defined within its borders.
Conclusions
The economic justification for the acceptance of labour migration is likely to become
even stronger in the coming decades, because European governments tend increasingly
towards a unanimous recognition of the importance of skills in generating productivity
and economic growth.
12 Cornelius, W. A., and Rosenblum, M.R. (2004), op. cit.
13 Nechita, Elena-Ana (2010), The Free Circulation of People within the European Union Territory,
AGORA University Publishing House, 167.
14 Layton, H. Z.(2004). Britain: from immigration control to migration management, cited by Cornelius,
Wayne A., and Rosenblum, M.R. (2004), op. cit.
15 Fetzer, J.S. (2000), Public Attitudes toward Immigration in the United States, France, and Germany,
Cambridge Univ. Press and Money, J., (1999), Fences and Neighbors: The Political Geography of
Immigration Control in Advanced Market Economy Countries, Cornell Univ. Press.
7
European workers are often selective in choosing occupations and employers’
locations and are also more skilled than they were two to three decades ago.
The aging of population in European countries implies a high dependency ratio, i.e. a
high percentage of the population that is economically inactive.
There is a growing pressure on the social security and welfare systems, such as
health and pensions, which are becoming increasingly expensive.
Migrants are younger and usually have larger families than the ordinary families of
the host states’ population.
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8. United Nations (2000), Replacement Migration: Is It a Solution to Declining and
Aging Populations?, New York: Popul. Div., Dep. Econ. Soc. Aff., UN Secretariat.
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