OECD: EU may become less attractive compared with Asia
By Nathalie Vandystadt | Wednesday 27 June 2012
“The European countries have to maintain and increase their attractiveness because today they are in competition with the Asian countries.” This warning is one of the conclusions drawn in the 2012 report on migration drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 34 countries). OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria highlighted, on 27 June in Brussels, the tendency of the most qualified migrants, as well as the least qualified, to settle in the Asian countries.
According to Gurria, the decisions taken by the EU’s leaders at the European Council, on 28-29 June in Brussels, will also be decisive for the evolution of immigration. In 2010, permanent immigration to OECD countries declined by 2.5% from 2009, ie by 4.1 million individuals. The decline was 8% in the United States and 3% in the EU countries (excluding intra-European migration) while Canada, South Korea and Mexico experienced an increase of more than 10%. For the EU, the figures are slightly higher in 2012. But “by 2015, immigration at current levels will not be adequate to maintain the working age population in many OECD countries, particularly in the EU,” said the organisation’s top official.
This low immigration in Europe is chiefly due to the drop in demand on the labour market, in the devastated construction sector in Spain, for example.
“We are extremely concerned about demographic trends in Europe,” commented Cecilia Malmström, commissioner with responsibility for migration, who was critical of the anti-immigration discourse of many political leaders and the current political climate. “Many employers do not find the qualifications they need in Europe,” she added. The commissioner gave the example of the Swedish mining industry, which lacks specialised engineers. This industry recruits in Turkey and Algeria, “but of course you have to be willing to go to Northern Sweden,” she joked.
The EU has put in place a ‘blue card’ to attract highly qualified immigrants but the “system is fairly limited,” said the commissioner. Europe has to improve the recognition of qualifications, but here, too, she explained, “the political climate is difficult”.
The share of Asians among total migrants to OECD countries rose from 27% in 2000 to 31% in 2010. China alone accounted for 10% of the total. Twenty-five percent of foreign students in OECD countries are from China and India. However, according to the 2012 report, “since Asia is now creating more interesting jobs and attracting a larger number of qualified workers from other parts of the world, the OECD countries may not be able to count so readily on this regular flow of qualified workers over the longer term”.
UNEMPLOYMENT AMONG MIGRANTS
The fact remains that unemployment is higher among immigrants, noted Employment Commissioner László Andor. In his view, highly qualified migrants have become a “strategic resource” for the EU, in the North because of the ageing of the population and in the South because of weak education and training systems. According to the OECD report, unemployment among persons born outside the OECD region rose by four percentage points from 2008 to 2011, compared with 2.5 points for natives, and in the majority of countries immigrants account for “14% to 30% of the increase in long-term unemployment”.
There has been an increase in emigration from Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, the European countries hit hardest by the crisis. “It seems to have remained modest, however,” states the OECD.
“We are extremely concerned about demographic trends in Europe,” commented Commissioner Cecilia Malmström