The paradox is that countries attempting to screen immigrants by skill level, so that they only get the more skilled ones, end up with an immigrant mix that is less skill-intensive than countries with open immigration.Â This apparently is a consensus message from the Munich Economic Summit: countries like Ireland, the UK, and Spain, which have had major episodes of open immigration from EU accession countries and/or general amnesties for non-EU immigrants have higher proportions of highly qualified immigrants —
For example, 45% of Ireland’s foreign-born residents and 34% of Britain’s have a university degree, compared with only 19% in Germany and 11% in Italy, Mr. [Hans-Werner] Sinn said.
In global terms, the case study is the USA, which despite having various qualification and skill weightings in its immigration system, has fewer such restrictions than other magnet destinations (e.g. Canada) and is still a brain-drain recipient country.Â So what’s at work?Â Is it that countries more likely to choose relatively liberal immigration policies are also more likely to have the policies that attract skilled immigrants?Â That low and high skilled immigrants are complements; you can’t have one without the other?Â Or that when you have a relatively open policy, you don’t alienate theÂ source country by seeming want to cherry-pick only their “best” people?Â Â
One interesting thing about the EU is that there is enough variation in national policy to learn from this episodes.Â Willingness to learn is another question.