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Symposium 2008

Proposal - Strategic Perspective - Designing Immigration Policy

The Challenge

While the world is becoming more integrated through cheaper transport and communication, large income differences persist between rich and poor countries. As a result, the pressures to migrate from ...

While the world is becoming more integrated through cheaper transport and communication, large income differences persist between rich and poor countries. As a result, the pressures to migrate from poor to rich countries are rising. Migration among rich countries and among poor countries is also on the rise.

Key findings:

  • Needs are not only for highly skilled but also for lesser skilled migrants (most of the movements as a result of EU enlargement have been for lesser skilled jobs; a Canadian survey of SMEs revealed that most labour needs for these enterprises were not for university graduates for for lower skill levels – trades and technical but also labourers; labour migration into southern Europe has been largely into lesser skilled jobs)
  • Some high-educated migrants arriving without jobs, as in the supply-driven skilled migration systems of Australia and Canada, have difficulty finding jobs in occupations corresponding to their education level. This is also the case for highly educated family and humanitarian migrants. Some of this is due to language difficulties, some to a discounting of foreign qualifications and work experience. Data from one Canadian province (Quebec) show that only one third of skilled migrants with education in regulated professions got full recognition, half got partial recognition and the rest were considered to have non-transferable/non-equivalent qualifications.
  • Low educated migration of past in some European countries was very low educated – in some countries (France, Germany, Netherlands) over 40 % of PISA participants who had immigrant parents had mothers who had at best a primary education (i.e. at most five years of schooling). Low education is a handicap not only for the immigrants themselves, but also for their children.
  • Many irregular immigrants are arriving legally as tourists or family visitors and overstaying, because they are able to find work. Two-thirds to three quarters of irregular migrants in Italy have been overstayers. Similar proportions have held for Spain, with many arriving from South America.


Importance of labour migration in the context of economic growth

  • Despite highest levels ever of tertiary graduation in many countries (more than 40% - Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Nordics, UK -, see Education at a Glance), shortages are appearing in certain occupations in some countries (sciences, medicine, engineering, ICT). Mismatch between output of educational institutions and labour market needs.
  • With higher attainment levels among young people, reluctance to take on lesser skilled or 3-D jobs (construction, hospitality, food processing, cleaning, child and elderly care). Immigrants can provide much needed services, as they have in southern Europe in household sector, in UK in food processing, in Ireland and Spain in construction, in France in hospitality).
  • As more baby-boomers retire, there will be a volume problem, that is, more exits than entries into the labour force, while population (at least initially) maintains itself. Immigrants needed to help maintain production levels and avoid decline in living standards.


Recommendations

  • Admitting lesser skilled labour migrants does not necessarily mean accepting the poorly educated (primary, illiterate) which have been the source of many integration problems in the past, sometimes for themselves and sometimes for their children. A minimum education level should be required, certainly at least compulsory (10 years).
  • Irregular migration cannot be addressed only through border control measures. A recognition of labour market needs that cannot be satisfied domestically, the availability of sufficient work permits to satisfy these, their expeditious delivery, adequate recruitment mechanisms, appropriate means for of verifying permit validity and workplace enforcement measures to ensure employer but-in – all of these are required to redirect irregular migration into legal channels. Spain has come the closest to implementing this panoply of measures.
  • Foreign student numbers could be increased, providing both a source of pre-integrated high-skilled migrants for the destination country and and higher returns to origin countries of persons educated in OECD countries than is currently the case. Australia is now getting more than 40 percent of its skilled migrants (principal applicants) from international students.

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