Immigration : Europe Needs More High-Skilled Migrants, Say Policy Experts

European Social Policy, June 13, 2006 | Go to article overview

Immigration : Europe Needs More High-Skilled Migrants, Say Policy Experts


The European Union should attract more highly-skilled immigrants as it would boost the economy, the Brussels-based think-tank Bruegel has said. A new policy paper urges introduction of a Blue Card' scheme under which highly-skilled workers would have access to the entire EU labour market. University graduates would be automatically eligible for the scheme. By contrast, it is not convinced that attracting more low-skilled labour is a sensible move as it could drive wages down and increase the gap between rich and poor.

Bruegel wants the EU to follow Australia, Canada and Switzerland's approach of promoting highly-skilled migration. It notes that, contrary to a widespread perception, the proportion of United States-based immigrants who are highly-skilled is not so big, mainly because of the many low-skilled Mexicans working there. In Europe, Germany has a disproportionately high number of low-skilled workers because of its guest worker' tradition.

BRAIN DRAIN OR CIRCULATION?

Immigration has shot up in the EU since the early 1990s, the think-tank notes. It has seen a new surge since the beginning of this century as more and more people from Eastern Europe moved to the old EU member states. In poorer countries like China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan, there has been a parallel rise in the number of university graduates. Bruegel believes this could protect developing countries from the brain drain' effect some say would happen were Europe to take in more university-educated migrants. Moreover, it notes such immigrants often return home and transfer the skills they learned in their host country to their home country. This brain circulation' effect can be quite positive for the developing/emerging country, it says.

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