A Face That Launched A Thousand Ships

An unlikely Helen, Spain’s deputy prime minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, that’s for sure. Yet outside a few thousand years difference in timing the two seem to have been cut out for one and the same the same historical role: urging the boats to go back. Indeed the only thing which really separates them might be the magnitude of the problem to hand, since Coalición Canaria president Paulino Rivero suggested this weekend that what might be involved were not a mere 1,000 ships, but anything between 10,000 and 15,000 currently being built along the Mauritanian and Senegalese coastlines.

Joking aside this post is about tragedy, a human tragedy. According to the NGOs who are involved some 3,000 people have already died in attempting to make the hazardous crossing, a crossing which was actually completed over this weekend by a record 1,200 people in 36 hours.

As well as tragedy the post is also about folly, the folly of those economists who think low fertility isn’t an important economic issue. This opinion was recently expressed by respected US economist Greg Mankiw, (on his blog) who described the very idea that it might be as ‘wrong headed’ and, to boot, suggested that a poll of the world’s top ten economists would draw a blank on names who thought that low fertility was among Europe’s major economic problems. I am sure Mankiw is right about the poll, and this is why I use the expression ‘folly’. So what do I mean?

Well lets look at some of the facts. Firstly Paulino Rivero is almost certainly exaggerating, even sensationally so, but this aside, a lot of boats are in preparation. Spanish TV crews spent last week vising a number of makeshift shipyards in Mauritania, and one of the curious economic details you could notice was how the process was in fact exhibiting an increasing returns type feature, in that the incresed demand for boats incresingly meant that a number of would-be migrants were actually not sailing but staying since they could make a reasonable living in the newly developing artisanal shipyard industry, with the consequence that more boats were being built as knowledge and experience (human capital) was being accumulated. So the movement is growing, and whatsmore, feeding on itself. This thriving little industry is now being reflected in the numbers arriving, with more migrants reaching the Canaries in the month of August than in the whole of 2005.

The migrants in fact come from Senegal, and not from Mauritania itself, a fact which makes it virtually impossible to return them to a ‘country of origin’, since neither Morocco nor Mauritania want to get involved in accommodating long-term would be migrants. An attempt was made by Spain back in May to reach agreement with the Senegalese government to accept repatriation, but this failed at the first hurdle when the first group of 91 refused to disembark on arrival alleging ‘ill treatment’ by the Spanish authorities, and thus the issue became politically unsustainable for the Senegalese government who had to renounce the agreement. Since that time no-one can be repatriated from Spain to Senegal.

The issue is also about networking, since the recent rise in the number of crossings is more about the fact that a significant Senegalese community has established itself in Spain than about anything else. In order to move migrants need two things: money and information. Both of these they obtain by having famility members and relatives at the other end of the chain. These relatives send money and they also send, via mobile phones, information. Typically the first thing a migrant wants to do on landing is phone relative to let them know they have arrived safely.

So once they have arrived what happens to them? Well since they cannot be repatriated anywhere, and since the Canaries is a small place, they are normally flown in a matter of days across to the mainland where they are served with an expulsion order and then released. Since there is effectively nowhere to send them, and the Spanish authorities are reluctant to invest resources in building long term accommodation centres, they are really faced with very little alternative. On release the migrants normally go directly to the home of a relative, and very quickly they start to work in Spain’s very fluid and extensive informal labour market, from whence they send more money home, so, of course, more can come.

The importance of the network component here can be seen in the fact that while in 1999 a mere 2% of maritime interceptions involved Senegalese, by 2004 Senegalese constituted 55% of those intercepted. Meantime the flow of migrants from Morocco has reduced itself to a trickle, and this despite the fact that Morocco is much nearer, and access accordingly easier. I shall return to this decline in Moroccan migration later.

Now, as I have indicated, as far as I am concerned this IS all about fertility, and it does have an economic substrate. Spain, as is by now well known, has long had below replacement (lowest low) fertility (currently in the 1.3 TFR range). Senegal, on the other hand, has high fertility which is stuck in or around the 5.1 range (ie it has barely started its demographic transition). This differential creates what could be called a ‘fertility gradient’ which, unlike its electro-mechanical equivalents, produces not a flow of protons or electrons, but rather a flow of people. In any event the end result is the same: work gets done which otherwise would not be.

Fertility in Morocco, in contrast, has been reducing rapidly (I have a post about this today on Demography Matters), and is now approaching replacement level. As such the steepness of the fertility gradient between Spain and Morocco has reduced sharply (Morocco is about to enter the demographic dividend growth stage) and the flow of people has accordingly declined significantly.

Now in one sense – aside from the human suffering involved – all this is well and good, since Spain’s economy is booming, and the pensions system certainly looks a lot healthier than it did 5 years ago. This ‘community of interest argument’ has been being made for some time by US economist David Bloom (who is obviously not one of the top ten on Mankiw’s list, since he does think that fertility is important to economics, and he is quoted to this very effect in this recent and relevant article by Malcolm Gladwell):

David Bloom, the Harvard economist, once did a calculation in which he combined the dependency ratios of Africa and Western Europe. He found that they fit together almost perfectly; that is, Africa has plenty of young people and not a lot of older people and Western Europe has plenty of old people and not a lot of young people, and if you combine the two you have an even distribution of old and young. “It makes you think that if there is more international migration, that could smooth things out,” Bloom said.

So in a way this process can work for Spain, and it could work for other parts of Europe who eventually will be on the receiving end, but what about Senegal? Well this isn’t so clear, since this flow of people may serve to produce what economists call a ‘bad equilibrium’. As I have said Senegal has yet to go through its full demographic transition, and allowing the outlet of remunerative migration (remember the remittances) might well serve to reduce pressure for change ( a semi corrupt government being able to maintain its popularity without doing too much) as well as pressure for fertility reduction, since the ‘patriarchs’ now have even more interest in keeping having those children as they will go abroad and send money back.

But why so much fuss, you might say, since Senegal is a relatively small country (some 11 million or so), and at the end of the day the numbers are never likely to become that massive. Well quite, but here I think it is the process more than the immediate product that matters. Today the flow is from Senegal since the initial network has been created from Senegal, but tomorrow it could be Mali, or Niger, and the day after, well who knows where. So this issue is likely to become more, not less, important with time, and it is an issue to which we need a coherent and rational response, and a response on an EU level (and here we return to Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, who is undoubtedly right in this). What we need is to face the realities of our demographic situation with a response which resolves existing problems rather than simply creating fresh ones. And meantime, even as I write, for sure the next boat is now being built.

33 thoughts on “A Face That Launched A Thousand Ships

  1. We are not helped by illegal immigration. There’s little tax revenue, but later on demand on social services.

    Either we legalize them, or we jail them long term. Anything in between is a bad idea.

  2. Welcome back, Edward! And with a tour de force post…

    Substantive reply, if all goes well, tomorrow; for now, thanks for the reading & the ideas.

  3. “Either we legalize them, or we jail them long term. Anything in between is a bad idea.”

    I hope no-one will take this as a point in bad taste Oliver, but this is definitely not a ‘black’ or ‘white’ situation, what we are inevitably into is a large ‘grey’ area, one which is surely being compounded by a steady and systematic loss of ‘grey matter’ in the German case.

    The US example suggestes that imprisonment is no answer (you can’t put 11 million people in prison, apart from the humanitarian issues you simply can’t afford to, and anyway doing so would be gross hypocrisy when you really need the people) at the other end you simply can’t legalise everyone. So I think we are into in-between solutions. I think in a globalised epoch allowing labour markets to regulate this to some extent would be sensible (ie giving residence and work permits to everyone who can find work). But we don’t want to get stuck in the old German ‘guest worker’ trap, so there have to be provisions which allow all those who stay and work for more than a certain period of time to become full citizens.

    Also it simply isn’t true that migrants make no tax and social security contribution since Spain now has a budget surplus (which would surely have been impossible without migration) and Zapatero has just raised minimum pensions thanks to the increased contributions.

    Of course you are right that in the longer run these migrants then become dependents, so there are pluses and minuses, but what I think migration can do is buy time while the whole global system adjusts. The next twenty or thirty years seem critical. Two very large economies are coming onstream – China and India – and this process of ageing on one side and rapid economic growth elsewhere presents special issues and imbalances which migratory flows can certainly help ease.

    One of the big problems is surely going to be the regional imbalances within countries as well as between them. Those countries who manage to maintain and even increase their populations will undoubtedly fare better, and those regions within states which attract migrants will do better than those that don’t.

    In Spain Madrid, Valencia and Catalonia stand out head and shoulders above the rest, since they are enjoying far higher levels of growth and their populations are now not ageing anything like as rapidly, while some of the other regions are going to face severe problems. This of course is producing its own internal political tensions.

    The old East Germany would of course be another example of this. A good description of the process can be found in this International Herald Tribune piece about the Liguria region of Italy (Genoa). The problem is particularly strong in areas where family networks provide traditional care for the elderly and where suddenly there are far fewer children and the women are at the same time working. In my experience here in Spain it is women in the 45 to 55 age group who are carrying a very disproportional part of the burden, at one and the same time working, taking care of their own children who have still not left home and caring for elderly parents. Stress as we know is an important element in the ‘rate of ageing’ and this generation of females are bound to pay a price here, especially as the need to balance state budgets and the consequent cutbacks only piles on the load. Put another way, should it surprise us if survey after survey shows that while the most popular web pages among men are those related to sport and money, women mainly surf pages connected with health.

  4. Great post and welcome back indeed, Edward. One question, from the “German grey matter post”:

    “Incidentally the latest round of business surveys all seem to show that while there is a large surplus supply of unskilled workers (who aren’t moving) there is an increasing problem in finding skilled personnel.”

    As to the Senegalese emigrants, I suppose they are not of the skilled kind. How and where do they fit into the Spanish economy? How sustainable in the short to midterm is their position in the Spanish labour market? What I mean is, will there be enough time and resources to educate and integrate their children?

    Secondly, as for East Germany, how come we seem to need unskilled immigration when unemployment among the native unskilled is so high?

    And now for the big stunner: Could it be, as I remember being told in the early nineties, that in Europe we are increasingly dealing with a “lost generation”? Namely, people who are too old to make a positive impact on demography and whose skills are no longer needed.

    I understand the need for more young people, but I continue to be baffled by the relatively high unemployment numbers in Europe. I also (think I) understand that immigrants often work more or less illegally and that they are therefore cheaper and pushing out the “lost generation”.

    I am sure that I am missing many things here, but can you corroborate or dismiss the idea of the “lost generation”?

  5. “I am sure that I am missing many things here, but can you corroborate or dismiss the idea of the “lost generation”?”

    Hi Guy, and interesting thoughts. Unfortunately, like you, I am in no position to either corroborate or refute a ‘lost generation’ hypothesis. It is an interesting idea though, and worth looking into. But let me go one step further, if there is indeed a lost generation, we need to ask why this is. One part of the explanation is surely the pace of technical change which serves to make experience and skills acquired yesterday less and less relevant tomorrow. This would imply that what we have is not one lost generation, but a process of continuosly ‘getting-lost’ generations as ageing segments of the population successively lose their ‘economic worth’. Or something like that.

    Now on the specifics of the current ‘lost generation’ in the German context, if you look at the original FT article which Claus Vistesen links to you will see that it cites an IAB study (IAB is part of the Federal Labour Agency) to the effect that:

    “Without new policies, no significant decline in unemployment can be expected [before 2020].”

    What this strange projection would seem to be based on is the idea that the over 55 and unemployed group in Germany is effectively unemployable in today’s labour market conditions (hence the ‘without new policies’ caveat). Hence we have in some countries (France, eg) the strange paradox of stubbornly high unemployment numbers and steady flow inward migration. The ‘rabbit out of the hat’ date of 2020 would seem to be based on some sort of idea that the 55-67 age group by that point would be a more stabilised proportion of the population, or that there will only be one ‘lost generation’.

    What we have here are skills mismatches all over the place. On the one hand, as I suggest, German employers increasingly report difficulties filling positions for skilled employees (what they mean are effectively young and appropriately educated employees, I mean remember the German economy is in structural transition from a manufacturing-based to a high-end services based one, so the labour market requirements are different), and this situation is made worse by the growing pessimism among young educated Germans (or if you like ongoing weakening of inter-generational solidarity) which means that faced with the relevant future tax and earnings profiles they make a ‘rational expectations’ type forecast and leave, and then there is another group with a background in manufacturing industry who are unemployed, over 50 and rather reluctant to accept the kinds of jobs (at the kinds of salaries) which incoming migrants like the Senegalese of this post are only too happy to accept.

    “how come we seem to need unskilled immigration when unemployment among the native unskilled is so high?”

    Well I hope I have to some extent answered this question. If you look at the German gender graph I also link to on DM, it is clear that East Germany has a growing female imbalance fuelled partly by the fact that women live longer than men, and partly because young women may be more inclined to stay put and care for their parents while younger men may leave in search of work. (In this sense spinsterhood is undoubtedly on the rise). The kinds of jobs this situation generates are ones with a heavy emphasis on care of the female aged. (One side detail, since women by and large haven’t smoked, the ‘frailty’ profile of elderly females is rather different from that of males – Altzheimer figures large in place of the respiratory and cardio-vascular ailiments which characterise the male profile). It is not clear at all that over 55 and male with a background in factory work is the ideal recommendation for this kind of caring activity, and since resources among the elderly are limited, salaries are naturally low.

    Immigration flows naturally fill this kind of gap. In the Spanish case it is not the male Senegalese we are seeing on TV who are doing this, but rather female migrants from Ecuador, Bolivia, Romania, Ukraine or Bulgaria.

    “As to the Senegalese emigrants, I suppose they are not of the skilled kind. How and where do they fit into the Spanish economy? How sustainable in the short to midterm is their position in the Spanish labour market?”

    You are right in your assumption, male migrants normally work in the tourist industry (bars, restaurants), construction and agriculture. This provides an almost perfect match, in the sense that the current generation of young Spaniards is much more educated than its predecessors, and, of course, there are less of them. Basically they don’t want the work the migrants do so this is not really an issue, and of course most people recognise that having a dynamic economy produces more jobs for all, so that in some sense the work at the bottom of the ladder by the migrants is implicitly understood as creating more employment opportunities for the new university graduate. The issue is more how long you have to wait before you get a perment job rather than ‘that guy is taking my work’, but this is another issue for another day.

    “What I mean is, will there be enough time and resources to educate and integrate their children?”

    Well here, of course, you raise an interesting question. I think the important thing to bear in mind is that this has all happened very rapidly. In 2000 there were around half a million migrants and there are now around 5 million. So Spain is still really at the stage of intergrating recently arrived migrants, and not of, as in the UK or France, assimilating children of migrants who have been born and grown up in the country. In the centre of Barcelona now there are probably an average of around 50% children in the classrooms of the state schools born outside Spain. There are, as yet, very few children who have been born here.

    If we look at the Senegalese arriving now, they will undoubtedly need some years to settle themselves, then they will marry, set up home and then have children. These children won’t arrive on the labour market till they are around 20 at least, so we are really 25 years or so away from this issue, and this in a world were things move quickly. Certainly Spain has learned something from the UK and French experiences, so it doesn’t exactly start from scratch. The basic answer to your question is that no-one knows, but I am not pessimistic.

    How sustainable all this is is another issue. You need to ask yourself why Spain has had the huge property boom which has been at the heart of this migration process (and which means that far more migrants have arrived in Spain than have arrived for example in Italy, where I don’t think the informal labour market is any more difficult to enter). Clearly the eurosystem is a big part of the explanation, since it has meant that Spain has consistently had rates of interest below the rate of inflation. This has been a big part of the property boom. Curiously what seems to have made this possible is the high rate of saving among Germany’s ageing population, a detail which has meant there has been slow growth in Germany, but that these savings have fuelled a lot of growth in Spain.

    Now it is well known here that I have – from an economic point of view – a lot of reservations about all this. I simply don’t see how it can work in the longer term. But one thing is sure, all the cheap finance has dramatically changed Spain’s population pyramid, and this was not an anticipated outcome.

    Clearly a ‘correction’ will occur, my hope is that this is not such a ‘hard landing’ as to send a big chunk of immigrants flying out of Spain again. The best case scenario would be that despite any ‘difficult moments’ which may arise sufficient will stay to offer Spain a much softer general landing in its ageing population issue.

    Of course all this begs the much bigger issue you are asking which is, as I understand it, that it is much easier to be tolerant when the good times are rolling, we will really see what Spain’s ability to assimilate so many migrants is when we hit the downturn.

  6. “Can you link us something about the boatbuilding industry?”

    Unfortunately I can’t. This was a TV3 journalist group from here in Barcelona who were in Mauritania doing some on the spot reporting. As you can imagine this industry is more or less ‘undocumented’. The TV images were fascinating though. Maybe they will make a documentary.

    The techniques seem to be age old artisnal ones, using a wooden carcass, but reinforced by contruction-type metal rods, which are systematically hammered-in by groups of about ten (five each side). I mean the things have to be pretty seaworthy since the voayage isn’t easy, and they want to have a fair chance of arriving safely. They are much better built than the rudimentary ones I used to see being put together in Morocco for what was a much shorter passage.

    Can’t be that different in essence from those used by earlier maritime pioneers (like the Vikings perhaps) who went from Europe to Africa. This time there is a subtle twist to the story: the Africans are coming to discover Europe, to put us on the map as it were.

    One other intersting detail is that the level of workmanship seemed good. They even use, as I say, 1980s style Volvo teams rather than Adam Smith like pin production lines. Which leads me to the conclusion that lack of technology transfer is a big part of the development issue, people need to be able to have access to a technology, and an adequate local market for the products, before they can really get into the business of seriously competing. If there is one lesson the Chinese seem to have well assimilated it is this.

  7. Ah, the diversity of intellectual styles and personal histories. My immediate interest was what kind of craft they are – shape? sailplan? Yours was apparently based on The Machine That Changed The World and fordist vs. neocraftsmanship approaches to production management…

  8. “My immediate interest was what kind of craft they are – shape? sailplan?”

    Oh, only this. Well I have put up a couple of photos on my own blog. You can see the shape easily enough, I don’t think they use sails.

    One other technical detail whie I am here. Given the ‘quasi-legal’ illegality of what they are doing (since they are ulimately released in order to go to work for Spanish employers which everyone knows has to happen, otherwise they would surely starve) most of the boat people don’t attempt to avoid the authorities on arrival (they want, after all, to be transferred to the mailand). Quite the contrary, they use a mobile phone to contact the emergency services (whose number they just happen to have) when they enter Spanish waters and ask to be ‘rescued’.

  9. Thoughts on Germany (probably without citations, though) to supplement Edward’s writing:

    Actually, was reading in (I think) last week’s Sunday FAZ that it’s young women who are leaving places like Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. They’re better educated and see better marriage/overall life prospects in the bigger cities or the West. If anything, there was a suggestion of a male surplus — Hans the Last holding down the old family home — rather than rising spinsterhood. Though official statistics would of course be useful in this discussion.

    Inflexibility of German employers is not to be underrated. I think they’re still legally allowed to mandate age requirements in want ads; maybe even gener requirements as well. For many ‘good’ jobs there’s a very narrow profile of what an acceptable applicant looks like. This, in aggregate, is a dead-weight loss for the German economy. These attitudes make the skills mis-match that does exist even worse. (I’m also assuming that the inflexibility of many German employees is also taken as significant.)

    German savings undoubtedly has contributed to the Spanish housing boom, and not just on Mallorca. It’s New-York-to-Florida, after a fashion.

  10. “Actually, was reading in (I think) last week’s Sunday FAZ that it’s young women who are leaving places like Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.”

    This is entirely possible, I don’t have data. But what we can see – if you look at the graphic I have on Demography Matters – is that the female excess in all the East German Lande outside Berlin is very high (normally in the 80 to 85 men per hundred women region). The position in the west is one of imbalance, but nothing like so marked. Since the life expectancy differential is likely about the same across the regions (this is one of the gaps the East has closed) then my conjecture was that this differential reflected a migratory drift, but I could be wrong. Certainly I think it is reasonably plausible that women find it harder to distance themselves from ageing parents than men do. I think that is part of our emotional make up, although as I suggest this factor may be stronger in Latin cultures like Italy and Spain than it is in Germany.

    We also know that a comparatively high and increasing percentage of German women (across all Lande) never marry, this is part of the fertility picture. What I don’t know off-hand is whether there is an East-west difference here.

    “German savings undoubtedly has contributed to the Spanish housing boom, and not just on Mallorca.”

    Yes, but remember that I am not simply talking about Germans buying houses abroad, I am talking about the flow of funds between the countries. Spain essencially has the same problem as the US, a high balance of trade deficit and virtually no savings. In both cases an inflow of funds is needed. So in the same way the Chinese keep the Treasury auctions going due to their high savings rate, the Germans, via the eurozone banking system, provide the funds for Spanish banks to lend to their mortgage clients at rock-bottom rates which would otherwise not be possible, and in the process of course they are fuelling the flow of immigrants. That I suppose is what we mean by the expression ‘inter-connected world’.

  11. “how come we seem to need unskilled immigration when unemployment among the native unskilled is so high?”

    There is a difference between unskilled and “unskilled”. Speaking and writing language is also considered unskilled but writing was once considered to be skilled

  12. Writing a readable sentence is a lost art.

    You wrote “the folly of those economists who think that imagining that the existence of low fertility constitutes an important economic issue is simply ’wrong headedness’.”

    It’d have been much more readable to write “the folly of those economists who think low fertility isn’t an important economic issue”
    or even “the folly of those economists who think it wrong-headed to consider low fertility an important economic issue”.

    “…who think that imagining that the existence of…” Oy! I’ll sic George Orwell and his “Politics and the English Language” on you!

  13. “Writing a readable sentence is a lost art.”

    Thanks Aris, I will accept your advice and correct. You know I kept looking at that sentence and thinking > but somehow couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it. Sometimes we try to do something ‘clever’ and simply tie ourselves in knots, although one part of the problem I’m sure comes from living for a long time in a country where you speak one language and think and write in another.

  14. So I think we are into in-between solutions.

    This seems like a truly bad idea to me.

    By effectively allowing illegal immigration, we are selecting immigrants the way we don’t want to. The life of an illegal immigrant is bad. Not as bad as the life of the unemployed in Africa, but still bad. Allowing only illegal immigration like we do, we invite the lower skilled part of the African population to come over. By virtue off illegality illegal immigrants are confined to some sectors of the economy where paralegal labor is tolerated. You cannot expect this to change while there is official legal discrimination. They’ll always get the shitty jobs nobody else wants and nobody is willing to pay a market wage for. If you only offer shitty jobs, mostly people that want them because they are not qualified to get anything better will come.

    We are spending a lot of public money on improving the general skill level of the population and then we are importing unskilled labor. This makes no sense.

    As for letting in semipermanent workers, we’d create a class of second-class non-citizens. For better or worse, our systems of administration is build on full representation of the population. We’d create ghettos. There is no way public spending on such quarters would be adequate, while the voters elsewhere bitch about bad public services. In addition such areas would need rather more public spending for schooling. That would create a second generation of effectively, helotes.

    Our social system is build on equality before the law. We cannot throw that away, not even for correcting demography.

    And to clarify, this does not mean that we need no immigration. But no immigration is better than illegal immigration. And we need to enforce the law. The state must not facilitate the behavior it has banned, like Spain is doing. If we don’t want to enforce our laws ourselves, we can tell the countries on Africa’s west coast that they have a choice of either taking the people back or cease trading with the EU. That would work.

    I really doubt Spain is profiting in the end by this. Sure for now they enjoy owning shiny new houses. At least those who are rich enough to take part in this in the first place. How many Spanish families as opposed to singles have profited from the housing boom? What has happened to families’ average rent? And what will happen if the bubble bursts?

  15. Secondly, as for East Germany, how come we seem to need unskilled immigration when unemployment among the native unskilled is so high?

    In parts of East Germany general unemployment is high. Of course it is higher among the unskilled still.
    To put it bluntly, because the imported unskilled are better than the native unskilled. Consider that Germany has an extensive education and training system. If you are without a high school diploma in Germany, it is likely that something is wrong with you. You are quite likely to be very stupid, have an attitude problem, a substance abuse problem or some disability.

    Add to that that firing somebody is not a huge threat at these wages, if he will get unemployment benefits.

    On the third hand Germans are not really that flexible, making the skilled part of the unemployed somewhat reluctant to take jobs for the truly unskilled.

  16. The skilled part of the unemployed is not only somewhat reluctant to take jobs for the truly unskilled but they will also A) be for the lookout for a better job and B) are not really worried by the fear of being fired.

  17. But it’s all ponyology, Oliver. Look – the Atlantic Ocean isn’t stopping them. What makes you think just ratcheting up the discourse of anti-immigration/asylum seeker bashing will do any better? It’s like the War On Drugs – debating the rights and wrongs is more than a little futile, as the policy appears to be entirely ineffective.

  18. the Atlantic Ocean isn’t stopping them

    But it is. Compare the numbers to the US/Mexican border. Although the wealth and birth rate difference is larger, the numbers are lower. That shows that here the same simple laws as in most things apply. Make it harder and fewer will do it. We don’t need perfect immigration control, good enough will do.

    It’s like the War On Drugs – debating the rights and wrongs is more than a little futile, as the policy appears to be entirely ineffective.

    This is exactly the correct analogy, but for the wrong reasons. The US wishes to fight drug use, but is not ready to do what it would take to lower demand, that is, to jail users for significant times. If you forbid something, the punishment must be high enough to effectively deter. If you will, there are two sensible drug policies on this planet, the Dutch on dope and Singapore’s.

  19. “we invite the lower skilled part of the African population to come over.”

    But isn’t this exactly the part we want. This is what I don’t understand. If they don’t come who will do this work?? I think we are agreed that most EU nationals don’t want the kind of work they do at the price they do it for.

    “We are spending a lot of public money on improving the general skill level of the population and then we are importing unskilled labor. This makes no sense.”

    This makes perfect sense. Look. What is the net cost of producing a German child, then feeding and educating that child to the age of 25? Large I would say.

    And what is the net cost of getting a 25 year old Senegalese into the fields of Almeria to produce fruit and vegetables for German consumers? The flight from Tenerife and a couple of hot meals probably.

    Therefore given the relative costs of production of the potential inputs it is quite logical that you would want a much higher level of output from the EU raised and educated child. Plus we have a lot of dependent elderly coming online, and if the relatively small number of EU children we do produce don’t employ themselves producing a far higher net worth than is avalable in the fields of Almeria then we are all going to go collectively bust.

    And somebody has to feed the economically restricted German pensioner at a price they can afford at the same time.

    Another alternative would of course be to import half a million or so ex-works Chinese engineers into Germany, and send the over 55 year-old unemployed in Germany down to Almeria, but I don’t think that would be a desireable solution, and I certainly don’t think it would be a better one than having a steady flow of unqualified migrant labour coming to fill the gaps. They are certainly going to be better off doing what they are going to be doing than they would be sitting and rotting where they are.

  20. “But it is.”

    No. I think the point about this post is that this whole process is just begining. The eventual numbers from Sub-Saharan Africa could become very large indeed. As we can see from this Senegalese experience the hardest part for the migrant is establishing the network nucleus in the host country. This started maybe 5 years ago in the case of Senegal, but only now does the momentum begin to grow. Interestingly there is a lot of international pressure on the Senegalese government to accept repatriation, but the more that arrive here the more this becomes politically impossible for them. So many families now have an investment in this process. And, as I say, Senegal is way off the growth spurt of the demographic transition/demographic dividend. This is why understanding fertility is so important to economics. There is no way that Senegal can have a Turkey-like growth spurt right now, so any amount of foreign aid will do no more than line the coffers of the in-crowd. You have to think about remittances, the amount of money sent back. This is now starting to feed the internal market in Senegal, and the politicians can take a cut.

    Indeed, as I am suggesting in the post, the pace of this can destabilse Senegal itself by making it more interesting for the ‘patriarch’ in each family to have more children to send to work in Europe and keep them in their old age. This can ‘stall’ the fertility decline.

    “Compare the numbers to the US/Mexican border. Although the wealth and birth rate difference is larger, the numbers are lower.”

    No. This is just the point. Spain has had migration over the last 5 years (2.5% of the population per annum) at rates which are much faster than anything seen in the US since the late part of the 19th century. And all thanks to the low rate of interest provided by the eurozone, and indirectly by the German saver, whose brother-in-law may in fact actually be out of work at the same time.

  21. “As for letting in semipermanent workers, we’d create a class of second-class non-citizens. For better or worse, our systems of administration is build on full representation of the population. We’d create ghettos.”

    This is a very interesting point. This is where the real debate is right now in Spain. Effectively after the last ‘regularisation’ Spain has an enormous semi-permanent workforce (and my argument is that this concept needs expanding). The proposal that the governing party (the PSOE) has put on the table is that these workers should have voting rights in LOCAL but not national elections. This is seen as one way of integrating them into society, but it is also is a way of giving them a reduced form of citizenship in the interim.

    “There is no way public spending on such quarters would be adequate, while the voters elsewhere bitch about bad public services. In addition such areas would need rather more public spending for schooling. That would create a second generation of effectively, helotes.”

    Well, this is the whole point about the local elections voting rights, in such a case there would be pressure to improve resources.

    On the ‘ghettoes’ point, in some senses these are inevitable in a globalised world of internet, satellite TV and large scale migratory flows. In a way our whole earlier notion of ‘community’ needs to change, it is out of place in the world we live in. Maybe many don’t like this new ‘multicultural’ world where people with different cultures can coexist side by side in the same physical space, but even those who don’t like it might like to recognise that it is a better alternative to crashing our economic and welfare systems.

  22. I think we are agreed that most EU nationals don’t want the kind of work they do at the price they do it for.

    This is true, but not desireable.

    And what is the net cost of getting a 25 year old Senegalese into the fields of Almeria to produce fruit and vegetables for German consumers?

    But he won’t stay in this fields, nor will his children. They will wonder why all the people with the shitty jobs are black. Then there’ll be trouble. This is a short term gain in exchange for a greater long term loss.

    Plus we have a lot of dependent elderly coming online, and if the relatively small number of EU children we do produce don’t employ themselves producing a far higher net worth than is avalable in the fields of Almeria then we are all going to go collectively bust.

    This is a great argument for investment in r&d, education and vocational training coupled with immigration of skilled, legal labor, not for unskilled immigration.

    And somebody has to feed the economically restricted German pensioner at a price they can afford at the same time.

    What’s wrong with free trade in agricultural products? Brazil is happy to provide.

    I think the point about this post is that this whole process is just begining. The eventual numbers from Sub-Saharan Africa could become very large indeed.

    One moment, please. You are conflating two things here.
    1. Yes, immigration will rise if we do nothing.
    2. Immigration will rise whatever we do.

    The first is very plausible, the second isn’t. It is possible that in absolute numbers nothing can be done, but that doesn’t mean that there’ll be no difference to the alternative of doing nothing.

    Spain has had migration over the last 5 years (2.5% of the population per annum) at rates which are much faster than anything seen in the US since the late part of the 19th century.

    You have to compare the whole common travel area. Spain is booming but in absolute terms it is not much wealthier than the rest of the EU.

    Then we have to ask, why the travel to the Spanish exclaves, from Mauretania and through the Med don’t rise. And secondly, if the rates can rise why they haven’t risen earlier.

    It would very much surprise me if the fact that the borders along exclaves were tightened and pressure put on Mauretania were of no consequence. The very shift to Senegal demonstrates that control measures are working.
    Moroccan demographics can explain why Moroccans don’t cross over, but it doesn’t explain why Africans are making the long dangerous journey from Senegal instead of Morocco. We are just seeing that closure of some routes increases demand on the other routes, which will have to be blocked, too.

  23. The proposal that the governing party (the PSOE) has put on the table is that these workers should have voting rights in LOCAL but not national elections. This is seen as one way of integrating them into society, but it is also is a way of giving them a reduced form of citizenship in the interim.

    Having made the error this is one of the seemingly obvious ways of dealing with it. However, doing so will lead to politics based on race.

    On the ‘ghettoes’ point, in some senses these are inevitable in a globalised world of internet, satellite TV and large scale migratory flows.

    You are putting the cart before the horse. Why would we yield to migratory pressures? Obviously there is a demand for imported unskilled labor. But why would satisfying it lead to benefit for the community? Which indispensable industry depends on them?

    You can say that we need to fill our fertility gap. However, if we fill it with unskilled illegal immigrants from Africa, we will get a little temporary reprieve, from the productive labor now, against later on, old, spent workers and their badly integrated, badly skilled children who’ll make it harder, not easier to attain the average productivity per worker we’ll need then.

  24. Why are they badly integrated and badly skilled by definition? Are you sure they won’t turn out to be the Vancouver Hong Kongers of the early 21st century?

    Don’t tell me…skin colour, right?

  25. Education level. But the problem with Vancouver Hong Kongers is that they displace Canadians in good paying jobs. Which is, if your Canadian, worse.

    It is also an illusion that you can find highly skilled foreign labour for every field. It is easy to find a Indian doctor for Germany but very hard to find a Indian lawyer for German law. It also leads to the native population to focus on jobs without foreign competition which is in itself bad

    “Why would we yield to migratory pressures? Obviously there is a demand for imported unskilled labor. But why would satisfying it lead to benefit for the community? Which indispensable industry depends on them?”

    A very large export industry in Spain is the production of fruit and vegetables. They depend on cheap labour.

  26. very hard to find a Indian lawyer for German law

    We don’t need more lawyers.

    But the problem with Vancouver Hong Kongers is that they displace Canadians in good paying jobs.

    That hurts in the short term, but helps in the long term. And Europe will soon have a shortage of young people.

    A very large export industry in Spain is the production of fruit and vegetables. They depend on cheap labour.

    For 2003 the agricultural sector contributed 3.4% to Spain’s GDP. This is hardly the sector that should determine national immigration policy.

  27. It was an example. But a large reason why there are so many native lawyers is that they have less foreign competition.

    Political high skilled foreigners are much more of a problem during recessions because it will lead to more unemployed natives which will demand that they will be kicked out because they want those jobs. With unskilled foreigners you also get demands for them to be kicked out but the natives don’t really want those jobs (especially when you have a recovery) and the natives that do don’t have the political connections to make that happen.

    About ghetto forming. Oliver i have the feeling that you believe that if there were no foreigners that there wont be an underclass with its problems while i believe that unskilled (second generation) aliens push the local native underclass out of being underclass

    The fruit and vegetable sector is only a part of the agricultural sector so it is even smaller but it is one in which Spain has an advantage over the rest of Europe.
    If you look at exports than it is not 3.4% but much more nor is it 3.4% of the private sector nor is it the only sector that depends on illegal aliens. Recreation, which i believe is an important industry in Spain, is also dependant on cheap unskilled labour.

  28. About ghetto forming. Oliver i have the feeling that you believe that if there were no foreigners that there wont be an underclass with its problems

    There will be an underclass. But making matters worse than necessary is not a good idea. I prefer social tensions only to social and ethnic tensions.

    while i believe that unskilled (second generation) aliens push the local native underclass out of being underclass

    up or down?

  29. Indeed, as I am suggesting in the post, the pace of this can destabilse Senegal itself by making it more interesting for the ‘patriarch’ in each family to have more children to send to work in Europe and keep them in their old age. This can ‘stall’ the fertility decline.

    The practice of polygyny might cause remittances to work differently in Senegal. If the recipient of remittances is the patriarch, then of course you’re right, and it’s even worse than that because the patriarch might display his children’s success by acquiring another wife from among the excess of young women that out-migration of men puts on Senegal’s marriage market.

    But I don’t know but that the recipient of remittance, the target of filial responsibility in a polygynous family, might be one’s mother, particularly one’s widowed mother, who might be more inclined to celebrate her children’s success abroad by investing in the human capital of those remaining at home.

  30. “But I don’t know but that the recipient of remittance, the target of filial responsibility in a polygynous family, might be one’s mother, particularly one’s widowed mother, who might be more inclined to celebrate her children’s success abroad by investing in the human capital of those remaining at home.”

    All of this was part of what I was getting at Robert. We are in unknown territory, but I certainly think that this part is worth watching. It’s a tug-of-war between tradition and modernity. Obviously the one you mention here is the desireable outcome. I was just struck by some of the TV images in some of the villages they showed, where the sattelite ariels were definitely outside those homes with a son working-away, and where it was the patriarch who was being interviewed while watching the box and the wife who was doing all the washing and cooking. Of course, the arrival of external communication will eventually produce a ‘womens revolt’, the question is “over what timescale”?

  31. Up out of the underclass. But importing brains will lead to more etnic and social tension than importing muscle.

  32. We need brains. We don’t need muscle, not in the long run. If we import it, we just allow employers extraeconomic benefits on the labor market. No immigration is not a viable option given Europe’s current fertility figures. If we have to do it, we’d better get immigrants that at least will pay a lot of taxes and father a well educated next generation.

    You don’t lift up the underclass by depressing unskilled labor’s wages. Sure they might feel better looking at somebody even lower in status, but they’ll stay unemployed