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E.U. finds no easy answers in search for immigrant talent

By Zhao Qi | 2014-10-21 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
On July, 2014, the U.K.government planned to ban foreign migrants from receiving benefits unless they earn a minimum of £149 a week.
Effectively attracting qualified immigrant workers is a policy priority for many governments in making their labor immigration plans. On the international stage, states often operate on the rationale that they should entice highly skilled immigrants to their territories with the aim of boosting economic vitality and competitiveness. The United States is known to be a popular destination among the globally mobile workforce. However, it is difficult for the European Union to emulate the U.S. labor migration policy, according to new research findings by Katharina Eisele, a research fellow from the Centre for European Policy Studies.
Hrant Kostanyan, an associate research fellow from the Centre for European Policy Studies, said that population mobility was quite common in Europe. The direction of the flow had been outward, and many Europeans migrated to the U.S. After the World War II, a wave of immigration to Europe emerged.
The fragile post-war European economy and lack of labor demanded for more workers from abroad, who were indispensable drivers of European re-industrialization. Later on, owing to the recovery and development of the regional economy as well as improvement of social welfare systems, the E.U. countries became able to provide more job opportunities and social inclusiveness. This made Europe the first choice for immigrants.
For decades till now, the European Union has witnessed an annual influx of foreign immigrants, most of whom came to reunite with family or to seek political asylum. What they expect out of the European Union is a superior welfare state. However, the E.U. economy faltered into a recession in recent years, slowing the pace of social development. This has put great pressure on the European Union, which must shoulder the burden of bettering the social welfare for those foreign laborers.
Moreover, locals often tend to scapegoat immigrants for growing unemployment rate and other social problems. At present, there is a contradiction between the labor supply and demand in the E.U. labor market—the co-existence of high unemployment and deficient qualified talent.
The European Union hopes to gain from the U.S. experience while learning to seek appropriate policy suitable to its own realities. The implementation of the Schengen Agreement and the Amsterdam Treaty are good examples of ways to maintain the population vibrancy of E.U. countries. In 2007, the European Union began to adopt the approach of the Blue Card Directive, which has preferential policies for intellectual elites and other highly skilled immigrants. In March 2014, the European Commission reiterated that “Europe must attract new talent and compete on the global stage,” calling for a “joint assessment of needs” in the member states.
The E.U. Blue Card Directive is a legal instrument that the European Union opted to follow which sets out admission and residence conditions for the purpose of highly qualified employment. A residence permit targeted at high-skilled immigrants, it could meet the E.U. demand for talent from other countries. The E.U. Blue Card Directive will largely enhance the knowledge structure of the employers by restricting the illegal immigrants, controlling the common ones, and, most importantly, attracting foreign highly qualified labors.
As an integration organization, the European Union needs to well manage relations among member countries, which would face differentiated problems after introducing talent, added Kostanyan. For instance, due to disparate cultural backgrounds and quality of the immigrants, they may breed potential nationalist rivalries. Moreover, highly qualified immigrants tend to choose E.U. countries with more favorable conditions for entry and stay, which would widen the economic gap between the member countries of E.U.
The immigration scheme of the European Union is not simply a matter of brain gain but also an issue that exists within a global context. To bring in high-qualified talent into the European Union, solutions should be sought both internally by the European Union itself and externally through international cooperation. Following the laws of talent mobility is a choice that could resolve the long-standing dilemmas impeding the E.U.’s development.
The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No.651, September 26, 2014.
Edited by Bai Le 
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