Europe Needs Immigrants: Panel
December 30, 2016
Europe is losing its appeal to talented workers and will need legal immigrants if it wants to withstand competition from global players such as the United States, Canada and Australia, according to a panel of regional officials working as part of the European Union’s Committee of the Regions.
The panel, known as the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX), discussed legal migration at its meeting in Oviedo, Spain, in late September. It adopted an opinion that concerns a planned reform of the EU’s Posted Workers Directive and a new “blue card” system designed to encourage qualified workers from non-EU countries to enter and reside in the 28-nation bloc.
The commission’s opinion was drafted by Olgierd Geblewicz, chairman of Poland’s West Pomerania province and vice-chairman of CIVEX.
According to Geblewicz, the EU needs a strategy to bring human resources from non-EU countries if it wants to stay competitive globally. This should be done independently of the ongoing debate on the tidal wave of refugees and illegal immigrants, Geblewicz says.
“I think this is important to any economy keen to pursue innovation, technological advancement and competitiveness,” Geblewicz said. Such a strategy is especially needed now that some EU countries are facing a demographic crisis and European labor markets are in trouble, he added.
“Even as we speak, some sectors in the EU are coping with workforce shortages and the problem will continue to get worse,” Geblewicz said. “At the same time, Europe is losing the race for talented people to global players such as the United States, Canada and Australia.”
Local governments in the EU have called on the bloc’s executive, the European Commission, to work out a uniform method to gather data on labor markets and develop mechanisms to ensure that any workforce gaps can be efficiently filled. The process would require the use of appropriate IT infrastructure to match employers and job seekers.
Geblewicz and other members of the commission are recommending extra caution as the EU seeks to attract employees from third countries—so that Europe does not drain undeveloped countries of highly skilled workers. To this end, CIVEX has proposed that the reformed EU directive contain a clause requiring the European Commission to conduct a “profound and trustworthy” study of human capital flight from non-EU countries and examine the potential impact of such a brain drain.
The Committee of the Regions has identified certain paradoxical situations the process could lead to. One is that highly skilled workers would be mainly drawn to well-developed regions instead of those where they are needed the most. This is because poor regions are unable to offer attractive job and residency opportunities to migrants, officials warn.
It is essential to guarantee that low-income nations do not merely become transit countries en route to the most developed EU member states, the CIVEX opinion says.
One of the most important challenges the EU needs to address is to recognize the qualifications that foreign workers obtain abroad, according to Geblewicz. One way of doing that could be to encourage countries on other continents to use credit transfer and accumulation systems such as the European Bologna Process.
Geblewicz notes, however, that measures aimed at bringing employees from non-EU countries cannot replace investment in education and job training for EU citizens.
The Committee of the Regions is an EU advisory body made up of 350 local government officials from all member states.
Source: Polish Press Agency