Following-up on my extensive post last week, some more evidence of the ongoing ‘reappraisal’ of the positive growth consequences of immigration that is taking place among economists: Immigration, Jobs and Wages Theory, Evidence and Opinion by Christian Dustmann and Albrecht Glitz.
Views of immigration are changing. Back in the mists of time, when I first came to the conclusion that ongoing demographic changes were going to be important, the voices in favour of a reconsideration of immigration policy were few and far between. Perhaps the first and most notable of these voices was the UN population division. Now things are different, and a series of recent international conferences and reports highlighting the positive advantages of immigration as an economic motor only serve to underline the fact that discussion of this important topic is very much back on the agenda.
A piece over at Crooked Timber by D-squared caught my eye this morning. Although it is primarily about using the Internet to slag off your MP/MSP/MEP, this bit piqued my interest:
It’s very useful for sending letters to MPs who don’t have readily available email addresses but (for example) helped sort out a parking ticket for you a couple of years ago and you want to say thank you. Or for that matter, if you want to ask them not to start any more wars, introduce ID card schemes. Or to suggest to them that the government is unlikely to do any better picking winners among immigrants than it did among nationalised industries.
This is all quite a propos for me, since I discovered last Thursday that the Belgian Office des ?trangers, in its infinite wisdom, accorded me a permanent resident’s visa last September (read: green card) without my even having to apply, but then neglected to inform me. I discovered this as I attempted to, in fact, apply for permanent resident status. I have to suppress an urge to laugh manically, crying: “The fools have no idea!” In light of the recent rise of anti-immigrant politics in many European countries – including Belgium – I have to confess to a certain temptation to make D-squared’s point myself by getting laid off from my job, never learning the local language, and sitting around collecting unemployment for years. That would teach them to pick and choose immigrants on the basis of salary, employment class and nation of origin. (Indeed, the first part is already done.)
On the previously mentioned subject of Europe’s “free” movement of labor (and the possibility of a massive influx of cheap labor from the east come EU accession time) here’s an article I wrote on the topic in November for Czech and Slovak Construction Journal (for some reason the article’s not posted online).
If you’re too lazy to read the whole thing… It talks about the onset of “EU fatigue” in the east, plus it cites a bunch of studies that discredit the fear of a massive influx of eastern workers wrecking havoc on Western European job markets. And this is really about Polish construction workers already living illegally in Berlin, not Czech IT geeks in London (nor British chefs in Prague). Enjoy.
While EU politicians over at Davos have been mulling over the possibilities of Turkey’s membership of the EU, Kofi Annan apparently has things much clearer. In a speech to the European parliament he bluntly told MPs that Europe needs migrants to ensure a prosperous future and that Europeans should stop using immigration as a scapegoat for their social problems.
The sinking of a boatload of Somali immigrants off the island of Lampedusa seems to have set off something akin to a feeling of collective remorse in Italy. (Would that the human tragedy that is occuring on a regular basis just off the straits of Gibraltar could provoke a similar reaction here in Spain!) Indeed Belusconi (always the master of great theatre) appears to have had them near to tears over in Strasbourg.
Irony apart, even his old ‘enemy’ – the good-soldier schultz – is quoted as saying he has “the impression that what Mr Berlusconi said came from the heart”. He could not however resist a reference to remarks which were last year attributed to Italian Reforms Minister Umberto Bossi to the effect that he wished the navy would open fire on ships carrying illegal migrants. Schulz is quoted as saying: “We are very happy that it is not those members of your government who want these boats sunk who are responsible for this issue in the (EU) home affairs council.”
Well this is the second time this month I find myself asking whether Berlusconi is having a change of heart. Since I try not to engage in type M speculation, I don’t need to answer this. What we might note is the way Interior Minister Pisanu is making the direct link with Italy’s ageing population and (hence) pension difficulties. After the Greeks tried to raise the question in Thessalonika, we could ask ourselves whether the South of Europe (where the demographic collapse is most profound, and immigrants are traditionally less in evidence) is about to adopt a collectively different approach on this question.