November 23, 2007


The trouble with migrants: Europe is fretting about too much immigration when it needs even more (The Economist, 11/22/07)

In the short run the rate of migration within the EU is likely to slow. Demand for foreign labour in western Europe may drop as housing markets slow and construction falls off. Years of strong growth in the east, combined with a steady outflow of workers, have led to serious labour shortages that are driving up wages. That reduces the incentive to leave, and increases the incentive to return.

In truth the bad demographic outlook of much of western and eastern Europe will make the continent increasingly reliant on foreign labour. And one irony is that, for all the current fretting about too many foreigners, a chronic shortage of suitable workers may be felt most acutely in the countries that seem most hostile to outsiders. Germany has kept its labour markets closed to new EU members until 2011, but it now admits to a skills shortage. This month it eased the restrictions on migrant workers in the mechanical and electrical-engineering industries.

Immigration already accounts for most of the limited population growth in Europe. Ageing populations, combined with the natives' lack of ability, or inclination, to do many jobs, mean that more foreign workers are likely to be needed. By one estimate Europe's native-born workforce will shrink by 44m by the middle of the century. Skilled workers will be in especially short supply. Those calling most fiercely for foreigners to go home may come to regret what they wished for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 23, 2007 6:34 AM

As long as they go in the direction the article says Germany is now adopting, letting in only those whose skills are not limited to crime, preaching violence and living off their wives' social security checks, they'll be OK.

Europe's problems arose because it couldn't follow these simple rules.

Posted by: ZF at November 23, 2007 1:49 PM

That describes the Irish too, and we made them American easy enough.

Posted by: oj at November 23, 2007 6:47 PM