Raising questions over the Swiss vote against mass immigration – A Policy Brief by Prof. Vincent Chetail

decisions-in-life-10036078The recent short victory of the ‘no’ to mass immigration in Switzerland raises several questions: How come a country with a successful economy says no to immigration? What are the implications of this vote beyond the issue of freedom of movement within the European Union?

These were the questions posed by Professor Vincent Chetail, Director of the Global Migration Centre and Professor of Public International Law at the Graduate Institute Geneva, on 27 February 2014 at the EUI during his lecture on “The Swiss vote against mass immigration, freedom of movement and international law: a preliminary assessment”. The lecture was followed by a stimulating discussion chaired by Professor Philippe De Bruycker, Deputy-Director of the MPC, in which Professor Adrienne Héritier, Professor of Comparative and European Public Policy, acted as discussant.

A policy brief by Professor Chetail follows his lecture at the EUI, the full text of which can be found HERE. The author identifies a number of treaties contrary to immigration quotas and examines the different options available to Switzerland since the popular vote.

Global Migration Policy Brief “The Swiss vote against mass immigration, freedom of movement and international law: a preliminary assessment” by Prof. Vincent Chetail, Graduate Institute Geneva


Does migration policy push innovation? Yes, it does!

Highly-skilled migrants seem the solution for European needs in terms not only of growth but also for innovation.

Does research provide evidence for this general impression?

Measuring innovation is very complex. Two proxies are used to measure innovation in production: the registration of patents; and total factor productivity.

The registration of a patent at the national or European level is done only if there is the intention of implementing the innovation, because it is very costly: thus the number and the citation of patents are used to capture the innovative behavior of firms.

Total Factor Productivity captures, instead, the unexplained effect on growth in production, which cannot be attributed to the increases in production inputs, and that capture the final effect of innovation.

The research was carried out along two broad lines:

  • A first strand of research focuses upon the production of patents directly by foreigners. Thus it looks at the effect of more open legislation that favour the entrance of foreign migrants: e.g.  in the USA  H-1B visa policy, which facilitated  the entrance of highly-skilled foreigners with higher education in Mathematics and Sciences and  the variation in the number of patents registered by foreign nationals after the introduction of the norm.

        The conclusion is that the more open but specific  the visa policy is on highly skilled  in Science and Technology, the more patents will be registered by foreigners.

This strand of research is in favour of a more open highly-skilled migration policy. The result is, however, conditioned for the USA, which is a special case. The USA is able, in fact, to attract highly-skilled workers in  large numbers for the  wage premium offered , the high probability of highly-skilled jobs, as well as the language, English, which reduces the initial cost of migration, not to mention the open nature of American society. This also increases the return of a move, which frequently has started before in the education phase.

Thus the results related to the US should be taken cautiously in Europe because they are limited to a very favorable context where the internal mobility of firms is impressively large.

  • The second and broader direction of the research is, instead, upon the effect of migrant workers in the production at regional, sector or firm level on innovation measured both by patents and by TFP. The evidence in this strand of research is much broader with many country cases and international studies.

Highly-skilled migrants have a positive effect on the production or implementation of innovation. The analyses at local level show that diversity in national origin of workers leads to a positive impact. This though disappears at sector or frequently at firm level.

The diversity measure is very challenging because it is not only the total amount of migrants, but also its composition that is relevant for innovation.

If, on the one hand, the diversity index comes from the idea that there are complementary skills among migrants from different national backgrounds, the lack of strong evidence at firm and sector levels suggests a likely penetration of migrants of different origins in different sectors. These complement each other in the innovation process. More research in this field should be carried out to direct migration policy properly.

Any migration policy which favours the entrance of foreign citizens is thus beneficial, in general, for innovation at territorial, sector and firm level. The results on the beneficial effects of diversity are not yet universal and there is not enough evidence to justify changing the point system, which concentrates on the quality of the migrant- for  a quota system which selects by nationality.

The general conclusion is that inflows of highly-educated migrants favour innovation but also the variety of origin of the migrants can play a positive role at least at the regional level. Thus a more open migration policy for the highly-skilled will prove positive for innovation.


For more, see the MPC Policy Brief Innovation and Human Capital: the Role of Migration (Venturini A., 2013)

By Alessandra Venturini, Deputy Director of the Migration Policy Centre and Professor of Political Economy at the University of Turin

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre

Are immigrants a burden for the state budget?

There is a long-standing debate on the fiscal impacts of immigration and its effects on the welfare state. Proponents of relatively uncontrolled migration suggest that migration can help to resolve recent and future fiscal problems; migration is thus presented as a critical factor in the survival of the welfare system. Opponents claim that immigration breaks  the very logic of the welfare system as a closed system with an important role of membership: they would argue for an exclusionary stance towards immigrants. In public debates immigrants are commonly blamed for burdening state and local budgets and for negatively affecting welfare payments and other services enjoyed by non-migrants.

Most empirical studies available conclude that immigrants use social welfare more than natives. Most of those differences, however, disappear when accounting for the structural characteristics of immigrants, and particularly for their labor market status. The overall net fiscal position of immigrants depends to some extent on their socio-demographic characteristics (age, skills, marital status, family status etc.). However, their status is also strongly system dependent: in countries with more flexible labor markets and relatively less generous welfare systems immigration affects the welfare system in a positive way. Empirical evidence proves that the problem often lies not in immigration itself but rather in the construction of the welfare system. Sometimes welfare systems are responsible for weak incentives to be economically active and for the creation of entry barriers into the labor market for immigrants through upward pressure on minimum wages. The structure of immigration and migration strategies influence the net fiscal position of immigrants (and at the same time they are shaped by the structure of the welfare system). Generally, the net fiscal impacts of immigration are small (+/- 1% of GDP) and they cannot explain the very heated  public debate on that issue.

A review of the theoretical and empirical literature concerning the effects of immigration on welfare reveals a number of issues that are important in the policy–making context. First, many European countries will need more immigrants to sustain their welfare systems. Second, immigration policies need to be more selective (and not only with respect to age and skills) if countries want to maximize the positive impact of any inflow. Third, steps for legalization are critically important in improving the net fiscal position of immigrants. Fourth, labor market absorption remains one of the most important factors shaping both immigrants’ well-being as well as their net fiscal contributions. Last but not least, it is necessary to improve the efficiency of welfare policies, which often tend to put immigrants in the “poverty trap” rather than assimilating them out of the welfare.

This blog post is based on the new EUI Working paper “Are immigrants a burden for the state budget?” (Pawel Kaczmarczyk).

Pawel Kaczmarczyk, Former Robert Schuman Fellow at the Migration Policy Centre and Vice director of the Centre of Migration Research at the University of Warsaw

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre

Selected readings:

Boeri, Tito. 2010. Immigration to the Land of Redistribution. Economica 77(308): 651-687.

Borjas, George J. 1995. The Economic Benefits from Immigration.  Journal of Economic Perspectives 9(2): 3–22.

Boeri, Tito, Hanson, Gordon and Barry McCormick (eds.). 2002. Immigration Policy and the Welfare System. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collado, Dolores, Iturbe-Ormaetxe, Inigo, and Guadelupe Valera. 2004. Quantifying the Impact of Immigration on the Spanish Welfare State. International Tax and Public Finance 11: 335-353.

Dustmann, Christian, Frattini, Tommaso and Caroline Halls. 2010. Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK. Fiscal Studies 31(1): 1-41.

Hansen, Jorgen and Magnus Lofstrom. 2003. Immigrant Assimilation and Welfare Participation: Do Immigrants Assimilate Into or Out of Welfare? The Journal of Human Resources 38(1): 74-98.

Nannestad, Peter. 2007. Immigration and Welfare States: A Survey of 15 Years of Research. European Journal of Political Economy 23(2): 512-532.

OECD. 2013. The fiscal impact of immigration in OECD countries. In: OECD. International Migration Outlook. Paris: OECD.

Between Solidarity and the Priority to Protect – Where Refugee Relocation meets Refugee Resettlement

As resettlement in Europe continues to evolve, its effectiveness in responding to humanitarian emergencies and long term refugee situations beyond EU territory has been challenged by difficulties which are related to how EU Member States answer the question – What does the resettlement of refugees consist of?

Solidarity of Member States with third states is perhaps best demonstrated through resettlement while relocation is an example of internal Member State solidarity. There is a need to define both of these terms. It has been made clear by the Commission in its Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on the establishment of a joint EU resettlement programme (page 3) that, unlike resettlement which is considered a humanitarian enterprise concerned with solidarity with third countries, relocation is a ‘burden sharing’ exercise, at the heart of which is solidarity between EU Member States north and south.

The Know Reset project has considered how this defined difference does not prevent Member States from allowing overlap between these two distinct undertakings. The importance of access to protection for refugees prompted the EU to begin to explore more feasible methods by which refugees may be taken by Member States and given protection. These refugees did not therefore have to gain access to Union territory. This resettlement was widely regarded as being in solidarity with the European neighbourhood – especially non-Member States to the south.

As resettlement evolved the idea of this external solidarity became somewhat confused by expressions of internal solidarity. Those persons who gained access to Member State territory through ‘irregular’ means and later became refugees have, in certain circumstances, been relocated to other Member States. Most of these clandestine arrivals have been to Mediterranean Member States who have found themselves under intense strain from such migration. As an act of solidarity, Member States have taken refugees from their fellow Member State.

The following is a table of those EU Member States which have relocated under the EUREMA programme in Malta according to the EASO report on that programme. This relocation programme is an intra-European initiative which takes internationally protected individuals from one Member State and finds another Member State willing to accept these individuals.

Member States Relocation Resettlement
Czech Republic  

*Denotes Member States which have committed to relocate refugees as part of the EUREMA programme but have yet to do so.

Relocation from Malta is on-going and uptake in participation has increased. The word which arises time and time again among the States which participate is solidarity. The States which participate are, more often than not, northern EU Member States. They are not on the receiving end of the heavy migration flows which reach the southern, Mediterranean Member States. On that basis, relocation from the Mediterranean to their own State is seen as an act of solidarity.

The tension arises through certain Member States, typically those which are most experienced in resettlement, calling into question whether relocation comes at the expense of resettlement. Resettlement undoubtedly remains the preferable response to those most in need. The priority to protect those who have not been able to gain access to European territory should remain the primary objective in the view of certain Member States.

Malta, the home of the EASO, has been the venue of the aforementioned EU relocation pilot project – EUREMA. An emerging role of the EASO is in evaluating the relocation pilot project as can be seen from the EASO’s September newsletter.

It has become clear that there may be a risk of using relocation as a substitute for resettlement. This is a misperception that the EU, Member States and the EASO must be mindful of in participating in refugee relocation in Europe. The friction between relocation and resettlement indeed points to the greater challenges in achieving a functioning and effective solidarity within the Common European Asylum System.

In July of 2012, the EASO released a fact finding report on intra-EU relocation activities from Malta. Respondents to the report expressed “mixed” views on relocation:

“While a number of participating States maintained that voluntary ad hoc relocation measures with Malta were a concrete tool for demonstrating intra-EU solidarity, and generally assessed them positively, other States feared that …relocation …could act as a pull factor for irregular migration…”

“…concerns were expressed about the possible implication of relocation on the resettlement quotas in the EU. It was stressed that intra-EU relocation should not be confused with resettlement of refugees from third countries.”

The EASO here underline what must be a pivotal consideration if the resettlement of refugees in Europe is to increase quantitatively and qualitatively. As part of our research we have recorded reaction to relocation across the twenty-seven EU Member States. Interesting perspectives on the advantages and disadvantages of relocation have been gathered and provide an insight into State behaviour.

Differing attitudes were identified among Member States toward relocation – some advocate for it, certain States are opposed to it and still others seem not to differentiate completely between relocation and resettlement.

Of those States which express doubt as to the use of relocation, a Swedish opinion on the matter was expressed in an interview by Know Reset with a political adviser to the Swedish Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy.[1] That adviser stated that Sweden is doubtful as to the use of relocation; it was stated that the places used for relocation should instead be used for resettlement from outside the EU. The interviewee went on to state that there were alternative measures of solidarity which could be pursued if Member States wanted to express their solidarity. Finland is of a similar disposition to their Scandinavian neighbours. Finland and Sweden represent two traditional resettlement countries. Both States have well established and large resettlement on a programme basis. Another interesting emerging viewpoint from our research in Scandinavia is that the Member States to the north often do not accept that reducing the pressure on its southern counterparts should be a legitimate aim. This sentiment should be considered in the context of the northern Member States believing that they already take a considerable share of the so-called ‘burden’ of refugee numbers. This is interesting when it is considered how often intra-EU solidarity is proffered by certain Member States as a reason for pursuing relocation.

Slovakia does not conduct resettlement but has announced that it intends to participate in relocation. Hungary is in a similar position. Lithuania committed in 2011 to relocate from Malta but that declaration has yet to be implemented. A trend for certain States is emerging that if they do not participate in resettlement, they may instead be involved in relocation. The overwhelming reason given for this is that of solidarity with EU partners to the south. If those countries were not involved in relocation, would they be resettling refugees? This question is impossible to answer definitively however a tendency has emerged for newer Member States, which are oftentimes new to refugee resettlement as well, to primarily pursue relocation as an avenue of EU solidarity in terms of refugee intake.

Finally, there also exists a grey area in between preferences for resettlement and preferences for relocation. Ireland and France typify this intermediary position. Refugees whom arrive to the State as part of a relocation regime may be included in the quota of that State for refugee resettlement. The need to differentiate between relocation and resettlement is particularly salient in this context.

The overwhelming message to be gleaned is that the relocation of refugees within Europe must not come at the expense of resettlement. Resettlement, the humanitarian enterprise, underlines the priority to protect. Taking refugees from third States beyond the Union which are host to much larger numbers of refugees is taking the most vulnerable and giving them an opportunity that they otherwise will not receive. Protection must be the priority and as difficult as conditions are within certain Member States for refugees, if they are at least properly protected then it is still a fortunate situation in comparison to the precarious position of many refugees in camps across the world.

The EASO can play a role in ensuring that relocation is not carried out at the expense of granting resettlement to those refugees who are eligible for resettlement and who are still at risk and should be a protection priority. National authorities should also be aware of the distinction and the importance of not putting protection priorities behind the commendable desire to express solidarity with other Member States. This balance must always be at the forefront of any consideration of relocation.

This article is based on the results of the research led within the framework of the KNOW RESET project.

The Know Reset team recently teamed up with the EASO Monitor blog in considering the EASO’s growing role in resettlement in Europe. The thanks of the Know Reset team goes to Dr. Neil Falzon and everyone at Aditus and the EASO monitor for the original collaboration.

Frank Mc Namara, Research Assistant to Know Reset.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.

[1] In an interview with Know Reset’s Swedish researcher – Alina Ostling.

Challenging the Myth of the Undesirability of Low-Skilled Labour in the EU

When EU countries visualise an ideal immigrant, a highly-skilled and educated immigrant comes to mind. For many, the highly-skilled and skilled represent the only ´legitimate´ form of immigration. EU immigration policy in its current form is characterised by three main dimensions: attracting highly-skilled workers, deterring irregular migration, and promoting the integration of third country nationals. The EU approach is one of increased migration management so that Europe receives legal migration, particularly in sectors that are lacking in personnel. The increased emphasis on cooperation both with countries of origin and between Member States, as reflected in the Global Approach to Migration adopted in 2011, is part of this drive to more efficiently manage migration. EU migration policy is therefore implicitly based on the assumption that low-skilled labor is no longer needed, and indeed, would be harmful to the European economy at a time of economic crisis and high unemployment, especially among youth. Low-skilled workers receive little attention at the EU level, with the exception of seasonal workers and in some bilateral agreements with individual EU countries. But is low-skilled immigration always unwelcome? A case study of low-skilled employment in the Italian dairy industry reveals that immigrants from the Punjab region of India have successfully inserted themselves into this sector of the Italian economy, without ´stealing´ jobs from native Italians.

How did Immigrants Manage to Enter into the Dairy Sector and convert it into an economic niche?

The dairy industry in Italy is the most important sector of Italian agriculture, with an annual turnover of 15 billion Euros in 2011 (all dairy products), including 2 billion Euros worth of cheese exports[1]. In Italy, dairy consumption is ´recession proof´, with Italians continuing to consume dairy products, including high-quality DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) dairy products, despite the slowing of the Italian economy. Indeed, 87% of Italians consider their national DOP cheeses to be the foundation of the ´Made in Italy´ brand[2]. Indians have thus inserted themselves in a sector that is not only economically important, but also key to Italian identity. Dairy work has since become a Punjabi niche market, with 90% of the workers in this sector estimated to be Indian[3]. According to 2008 data from Istat, (the Italian Institute of Statistics), 42.9% of Indians work in the agricultural sector in the Lombardy region, compared to only 2.8% of the total foreign population, showing a marked tendency for Indians to concentrate in agriculture, particularly in Northern Italy.

The socioeconomic context leading to the Italian exodus from cow milking provides the background necessary to understanding how a low-skilled immigrant group has been able to enter and dominate a key domestic industry. A number of factors led to this Italian exodus from the dairy sector. The mechanisation of the industry beginning in the 1950´s led to a sharp reduction in the number of jobs available, forcing Italian youth to look for work elsewhere[4]. Secondly, the economic boom that Italy experienced in the post-war period led to new aspirations that working in the cascine (dairy farms) could not fulfill. In particular, the houses on the cascine were increasingly abandoned in favor of more modern urban housing[5]. Finally, the low social status associated with cow milking was an additional incentive to look for other work, even when the salary was raised and working conditions improved considerably with mechanisation. Male bergamini (cow milkers) could not find local marriage partners and had to resort to finding spouses from other Italian regions[6]. This native exodus from dairy milking led to demand for a reliable and steady source of labour that could replace Italian workers. In the region of Lombardia, the agricultural sector is distinguished, unlike in other parts of Italy, by the need for a specialised, stable and ´regular´ (i.e. legally documented) workforce that is highly available, in order to be able to adapt themselves to the demanding rhythms of a dairy farm and avoid high turn-over, which would harm productivity. Immigrant labour from India has met this demand for specialised labour that does not require a high level of education. The need for a dependable, ´regular´ workforce has meant that work in the dairy industry has avoided the systematic abuses and severe exploitation characteristic of Italian agriculture in other regions. Sources from the largest Italian union, the CGIL (Conferazione Generale Italiana di Lavoro), have indicated that the vast majority of immigrant workers in this sector possess legal contracts.

The Italian dairy industry is therefore a good example of the continuing need for low skilled third country labour in certain sectors of the European economy. Nor is it the only example: the area of geriatric care is another sector in which immigrant labour has proved to be critical, without harming national employment. While EU expansion can absorb some labour shortages, it cannot be assumed that all occupations will benefit from EU enlargement. In the UK, where migration policy has been completely closed to low-skilled workers (including in the case of temporary labour shortages), restaurant owners, especially from the ´ethnic´ restaurant sector, have raised concerns about the unfairness of a points-based immigration system that only considers skilled workers who possess formal qualifications[7]. The need for low-skilled labour is structural and continues to exist despite high rates of unemployment across Europe. In the case of the Italian dairy industry, native workers have spurned this sector despite its relatively high salaries, as well as other perks, such as free accommodation and ample opportunity to earn more via working overtime. The current thinking that accepts that third country nationals are needed in certain high skilled occupations in order for Europe to remain competitive, must also be extended to specific low-skilled sectors. EU migration policy should therefore take into consideration a sectoral approach when seeking to attract third-country nationals to the EU. Promoting only highly-skilled migration misses out on a number of sectors that need low-skilled immigrant labour in order to continue to thrive. Creating more opportunities for legal low-skilled migration can also contribute towards preventing irregular migration. Low-skilled does not mean ´no skill´, and can also be a pathway to other forms of employment, particularly entrepreneurship, in the future. Indeed, an increasing number of Punjabis who initially worked in the dairy sector are now establishing their own small businesses across Northern Italy.


Kathryn Lum, Research Assistant to CARIM-India

The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.


[1] No author, “Assolatte: il fatturato dei latticini italiani ha raggiunto nel 2011 i 15 miliardi di euro”, June 18 2012, accessed January 21 2013, http://www.beverfood.com/v2/news+notizia.storyid+5341-assolatte-il-fatturato-dei-latticinio-italiani-ha-raggiunto-nel-2011-i-15-miliardi-di-euro.htm

[2] No author, “Nel 2008 l´industria lattiero-casearia si conferma il primo settore alimentare italiano”, June 16 2009, accessed January 21 2013, www.assolatte.it/assolatte/download1.jsp?file=/assolatte/images/

[3] European Journal, “Italy: Sikh Cheese Producers”, Deutsche WelleEnglish,  September 20 2008 08:12, accessed March 13 2012, http://www.podcast.tv/video-episodes/italy-sikh-cheese-producers-4887664.html.

[4] Gardani et al. Turbani che non turbano: Ricerca sociologica sugli immigrati indiani nel cremonese. Provincia di Cremona: Osservatorio provinciale sull´immigrazione, 2002, 1-71. (see p. 30).

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid. (see p. 31).

[7] Grimwood, Gabrielle. Immigration: Points-Based Immigration and the Restaurant Trade. London: House of Commons Library, 2009.

Healing a neighbourhood: Potential EU responses to the Syrian refugee crisis

Syria in turmoil

The internal armed conflict in Syria continues endlessly with its cohorts of fleeing people. In addition to an estimated 20,000 civilian deaths, 2.5 million people have been afflicted, 1.2 million internally displaced and nearly 450,000 have sought asylum outside their homeland[1]. By mid-January 2013, the UN estimates that over 4 million people will be in need and the number of refugees will exceed 700,000[2]. Amidst this backdrop, how will Europe respond to the crisis in its neighbourhood?

The facts: How many Syrians fleeing the country and to where?

Neighbouring countries of Syria, except Israel, have assumed the bulk of the refugee burden. Turkey (123,747), Lebanon (97,152), Jordan (94,566) and Iraq (56,982) are accommodating the vast majority and thousands await registration. In North Africa, UNHCR has registered 9,734 Syrian refugees, and tens to hundreds of thousands are claimed to reside without UNHCR registration[3].

Only a tiny proportion of those fleeing Syria have been admitted within European borders. Although total numbers are unknown – due to the particularly clandestine nature of irregular stay and entry, and unavailable EU statistics – some facts regarding Syrians in the EU can be discerned:

  • Syrian asylum applications within Europe have increased since the beginning of the conflict, but remain small (Table 1).
  • The increase in Syrian asylum applications is concentrated in a few countries. Five in the EU (Germany with 8,435 asylum seekers recorded in 2011 and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2012; Sweden: 3,780; Belgium: 955; the United Kingdom: 915; and Austria: 825) and one outside the EU (Switzerland: 1,745)[4].
  • Recorded Syrian entries to Europe have increased since the beginning of the conflict, but remain small. The vast majority of Syrian entries were recorded at the Greek-Turkey land border (Table 2).
  • There was a negligible increase in Syrians applying for immigration in the EU. In 2010,7,829 Syrians applied for a first permit of residence and 8,106 in 2011 (2012 data is unavailable) indicating that applying for immigration in the EU has not been an access route to Europe for Syrians , at least in the first year of the crisis. Sweden, the only country providing data for 2012, suggests that change may have recently occurred: first residence permits granted in Sweden to Syrian nationals were 140 per month in average in 2010, 167 in 2011, but 274 in 2012 (January – June), almost twice their number before the crisis.

Table 1. Syrian asylum claims in EU by quarter

Quarter Applications
Q1-11 1,510
Q2-11 1,725
Q3-11 2,750
Q4-11 2,935
Q1-12 3,000
Q2-12 4,013
Q3-12 4,560

*Data compiled from EUROSTAT

Table 2. Recorded irregular Syrian entries into Europe by quarter

Quarter Irregular Entries
Q2-11 274
Q3-11 602
Q4-11 614
Q1-12 715
Q2-12 2,024

*Data compiled from Frontex FRAN Quarterly Report, various issues.

The EUs response to the crisis

In addition to political efforts aimed at assisting the Syrian people – i.e. actions that hasten a democratic transition– the EU has taken several actions regarding the crisis:

Humanitarian aid

By 16 November 2012, the EU and its Member States had provided an approximate €288 million in assistance to those within and outside the country.[5]

Granting protection 

Syrian asylum seekers have been granted the highest percentage of positive decisions out of the top 30 nationalities applying for asylum in the EU. EUROSTAT reported that in Q2 2012, 4,390 out of 4,765 applications were positively granted protection – 1,595 refugee status and 2,755 subsidiary protection – meaning that almost all were granted some form of protection.[6] Levels of protection vary across Europe. In Germany, the vast majority of Syrians who apply for asylum are granted subsidiary protection. In Sweden, most Syrians who apply for asylum will automatically be granted a temporary residence permit for three years.[7] Norway and Denmark are granting ‘tolerated stay’ to Syrians. Other countries, like Greece and Eastern European states, have higher rejection rates of Syrian asylum claims when compared to the rest of Europe.[8] Other discussions have focused on providing shelter – albeit temporary – as EU and Greece considered providing shelter, if necessary, for 20,000 Syrian refugees on the islands of Crete and Rhodes.[9] Most EU Member States have refrained from forcibly repatriating Syrians back to their country.[10]

Consideration of a Regional Protection Programme (RPP)
The EU has considered implementing a RPP that could enhance “the capacities of the authorities and of the organisations dealing with international protection and refugee issues with a view to meeting the longer term challenges they will face and providing durable solutions.” [11]

Increased border security
In July 2012, Greece with the assistance of Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office) dispatched 1,800 border guards to the Greek-Turkey Evros border and placed 26 floating barriers along the river. More than 80% of Syrians crossing into Europe in the first quarter of 2012 did so through this border.[12]

Healing a neighbourhood: What other actions could the EU take?

Most countries involved in the conflict are acutely linked to the European Union, not only through Association Agreements, but also through their involvement in a progression towards a more peaceful, stable and prosperous region. At a time when unprecedented changes are occurring in the region, the EU could grasp this situation as an opportunity to show its responsibility to burden sharing and its commitment to mutually improving both shores of the Mediterranean. In order to continue efforts at resolving the Syrian crisis, the EU could:

  • Increase refugee resettlement for those who have been affected by the Syrian crisis and are the most in need. The EU has not publicly acknowledged the need for Syrian resettlement and has instead focused on providing assistance to third host countries. The EU could encourage resettlement as it has done in other refugee-producing conflicts (Iraq).
  • Continue positive asylum procedures throughout the EU, and grant prima facie recognition including provision of sufficient assistance.
  • EASO could take a more active role. EASO could provide and analyse clear data regarding Syrian refugees and coordinate MS’ efforts at providing protection to Syrians. It could in particular advice Member States about the right status to be granted to Syrians and on how to assist Syrians already within the EU.
  • Continue to work with its international partners to find a political and humanitarian solution to the Syrian crisis.

Christine Fandrich, Research Assistant to the MPC

The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.

[1] UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response, and the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department of the European Commission, ECHO.

[2] UN News Centre (9 November 2012) Retrieved from:  http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43458&Cr=syria&Cr1=&Kw1=syria&Kw2=deaths&Kw3=

[3] UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response. See also:  Fick , M. (2012 , October 18). Un: 150,000 syrian refugees have fled to egypt. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/10488910; and UNHCR. Syria situation regional roundup. (2012, October 23). Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/search?page=search&docid=50866f729&query=syriansegypt.


[5] For detailed provision of EU humanitarian assistance, see: ECHO Factsheet Syria (16 November 2012).


[7] Migrationsverket. (12 August 2012). Due to the current violence in Syria, many people will be allowed to stay in Sweden. Retrieved from http://www.migrationsverket.se/info/5833_en.html.

[8] UNHCR. (2012, October 18). Op. cit.

[9] UNHCR. (2012, October 11). Greece to accommodate syrian refugees on tourist islands. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.se/en/media/baltic-and-nordic-headlines/2012/october/12-16-october-2012.html

[10] According to Frontex, “Syrians were not returned in large number (less than 300 persons), but while the numbers were rather stable in most Member States, Greece reported a sharp increase in returns of Syrians as of June 2012” (about 125 people).  Frontex. (2012, October). Fran quarterly issue 2. Retrieved from: http://www.frontex.europa.eu/assets/Publications/Risk_Analysis/FRAN_Q2_2012_.pdf

[11] Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union. (2012, October 24). Press release – common european asylum system and regional protection programme for syria on the agenda of jha. Retrieved from http://www.cy2012.eu/index.php/en/news-categories/areas/justice-and-home-affairs/press-release-common-european-asylum-system-and-regional-protection-programme-for-syria-on-the-agend

[12] Frontex.

Do Migrants Spur Innovation?

Executive Summary

Do migrants contribute to innovation in the European Union (EU)? MPC’s recent report[1] attempts to answer this critical question. To measure innovation, our research focuses on migrants’ contribution to patents registered at the European Patent Office. The preliminary results point towards a positive role played by migrants in promoting innovation.

What is innovation and why is it important for the EU?

According to the European Commission, innovation is defined as “the successful production, assimilation and exploitation of novelty in the economic and social spheres.”[2] Its importance is underlined in the European Council’s Lisbon Strategy[3] which highlights that innovation is important for promoting economic growth, an argument which is supported by the Europe 2020[4], the EU’s growth strategy. Moreover, EU’s Global Approach to Migration and Mobility[5] (GAMM), through the ‘EU Blue Card’ Directive[6], provides one of the key policy tools to promote the migration of highly skilled workers in to the EU.

Innovation: How to measure it?

The recognition that innovation and technical change are amongst the key components of economic growth has pushed economists to look for appropriate indicators. However, measuring innovation is a difficult task since it is a multi-faceted phenomenon. One of the most popular indicators of innovation is the number of patent applications at industry or country level[7] (e.g. Furman et al. 2002). For the purpose of the study, we attempt to assess migrants’ contribution to theincrease in patents registered at the European Patent Office.

Why are patents important in measuring innovation? Patent data are considered an important indicator of innovative activity as they reflect the technological effort of companies and non-firm organizations aiming to create new products and processes. In research, patents are used to approximate the innovative capacity of countries. Contrary to previous analyses which used a territorial cross section approach and a diversity index, we analyse the innovative capacity at sectoral[8] level and explore how it is affected by the characteristics of human resources and their demographic trends.

The three case countries chosen for the analysis are UK, France and Germany. Though all three are counted amongst the top three economies in Europe, however, they differ in three key categories. Firstly, they differ in their age pyramid, as seen in the case of France, where the young-age population (below 15 years) is 1.35 times the old-age population (above 65 years), while in Germany and the UK the young-age population is smaller than the old-age population (0.85 times and 0.89 times respectively). Secondly, these countries also differ in their dominant production sector. In the UK, the service sector dominates the economy (75% of added value); while in Germany the manufacturing sector has 29.3% of added value. However, in the diverse economy existing in France, it is interesting to note that the agriculture sector still contributes up to 2.8% of added value. Finally, in terms of immigration, all the three countries have a long history of immigration and migrants make up between 11% and 8% of the population. However, they have different migration policies: the UK encourages immigration of the highly skilled labour, while both France and Germany have a tradition of allowing low to medium-skilled migrants and family reunifications.

Our analysis includes four variables: age, level of education, type of occupation, and the distinction between migrants and natives.  The three figures below show different national composition and trends of the patents and migrant shares by education and age.


Graph 1. UK: Migrant Share and Patent trends

Source: MPC’s Research Report 2012/11 ‘Are migrants spurring innovation?’ by Alessandra Venturini, Fabio Montobbio and Claudio Fassio












Source: MPC’s Research Report 2012/11 ‘Are migrants spurring innovation?’ by Alessandra Venturini, Fabio Montobbio and Claudio Fassio


Germany: Migrant Share and Patent trends












Source: MPC’s Research Report 2012/11 ‘Are migrants spurring innovation?’ by Alessandra Venturini, Fabio Montobbio and Claudio Fassio


Graph 3. France: Migrant Share and Patent trends













Source: MPC’s Research Report 2012/11 ‘Are migrants spurring innovation?’ by Alessandra Venturini, Fabio Montobbio and Claudio Fassio



The preliminary results of the research[9] suggest a positive correlation of highly skilled migrants and innovation, i.e., highly skilled migrants tend to favour innovation as revealed by an increase in the number of patents. However, the impact of the highly-skilled on one side, and the low-skilled on the other side, varies between migrants and natives. Also, the age composition of the labour pool plays a different role. The results indicate that both the young and old workers are spurring innovation but the results are not homogeneous and differ according to the country specificity.

In the UK, innovation is generated mostly by highly-skilled migrants who are in a more advanced phase of their working life. However, highly-skilled young[10] migrants and low-skilled older natives also contribute to innovation.

In France, innovation is stimulated by both highly-skilled natives and low-skilled migrants; it is especially promoted by the young population in both categories. However, older migrants also contribute to innovation.

Finally, in Germany, both the highly-skilled and low-skilled migrants (especially those who are older) play a positive role in innovation along with low-skilled natives. Furthermore, data suggests that natives favour innovation when they are young.

Please note that the results presented are preliminary as the positive impact of highly-skilled workers, both native and foreign, is limited inside specific sectors. Thus, the result underestimates the total positive effect of human capital changes as the complementarity between sectors and the positive spill over are not taken into account.

Key observations

  • Highly educated migrants, in general, play a positive role in promoting innovation
  • The specific field and quality of education of migrants are fundamental in determining the specific productivity of the migrant worker
  • In high technology sectors, highly-skilled foreign workers contribute positively to innovation without crowding out natives
  • Low-skilled migrants may indirectly contribute to innovation by complementing the work of highly skilled workers


The MPC Team


Note: The above commentary is a summary of MPC’s Research Report 2012/11 ‘Are migrants spurring innovation?’ by Alessandra Venturini, Fabio Montobbio and Claudio Fassio. To read the complete report, please visit: http://www.migrationpolicycentre.eu/docs/MPC%202012%20EN%2011.pdf

[1] To read the complete MPC report ‘Are migrants spurring innovation?’ by Alessandra Venturini,  Fabio Montobbio and Claudio Fassio, visit:


[2] http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/other/n26021_en.htm

[3] http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/00100-r1.en0.htm

[4] http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_en.htm

[5] http://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/entity.action?id=5e75898d-e508-4f32-b6c4-13f495d6e879


[7] Furman J., Porter M.E., Stern S., 2002, The determinants of national innovative capacity, Research Policy 31, 899–933

[8] The effect of immigration (of skilled and unskilled migrants) on innovation is measured at the sectoral level, in three EU member states (UK, Germany and France) in the period 1994-2007. Sectors are defined at the two digit level of NACE classification.

[9] The results of the research are preliminary using a production function of the innovation in the manufacturing sectors (measured by patents registered in each country-sector explained by openness to trade, physical capital, expenditure in research and development, the previous stock of patents, and human resources).

[10] For the purpose of this research, in Germany ‘young’ is defined as those who are under the age of 40; while in UK and France, it is defined as someone who is under the age of 35.

Readmission Policy: where is the carrot though?

The proclaimed new EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) presents important contradictions: while it seeks to facilitate and organise the legal mobility of Third Country Nationals and to ensure that TCNs in need of international protection, receive it, it also aims at strong border controls and particularly emphasises readmission policies.  In this short piece we look at past experience on readmission cooperation with Albania and at the current readmission ‘hot potato’ notably cooperation with Turkey.

The readmission of irregular migrants and refugees who entered the EU territory constitutes one of the biggest challenges that EU neighbouring countries are confronted with. There are cases of third countries who have been re-admitting large numbers of irregular migrants (including own nationals) and potential asylum seekers. For instance, the visa liberalization between the EU and Albania, which has been in force since January 2011, has been a ‘reward’ for, among other things, a good record of readmissions of its own nationals from Greece over the years. This is an example of how collaboration works even though considerable policy gaps in the re-integration of readmitted Albanians are identified, e.g. there is hardly any assistance for them to find a job and/or reintegrate in their communities of origin, so that they would not try to cross the border illegally again.

There are, however, also third countries whose readmission record is rather problematic. A case in point is Turkey and its failure to implement the Re-admission Protocol that it has signed nearly a decade ago with Greece. During the period 2006-2010, Greece had filed 3,431 readmission requests to Turkey, in the context of this Protocol, concerning 62,816 people. Of those 7,359 were accepted for readmissions by Turkish authorities, but only 1,281 were effectively re-admitted to Turkey.

It is our contention that a successful readmission policy has to look closer into the political economies of the third country in question, notably Turkey, in order to understand its capacity and eagerness or reluctance to implement the Readmission Protocol and to tackle irregular migration flows with a view of arguing convincingly about the visa facilitation or visa exemption altogether.

The visa liberalization between the EU and Albania, which has been in force since January 2011, mainly offers Albanians the opportunity to seek short-term and seasonal informal work in Greece (Maroukis and Gemi 2011). Indeed such a strategy fits well with the political economy of Albania. Offering its citizens the opportunity to travel legally and work informally in neighbouring Greece eases the pressure from rising unemployment, a welfare regime under pressure and an economy that lacks basic infrastructure for achieving better distributional effects from the insertion of FDI over the last decade in the country.

The case of Turkey is not so straightforward. Commenting on the recent initiative by the Austrian government to discard the requirement of competence in German for Turkish citizens when applying for a residence permit for the purposes of family unification, the Turkish Minister of European Union Affairs Egemen Bağış characteristically stated “they [EU member states] are welcome to go ahead if they plan to carry out some sort of facilitation of the visa process. But what Turkey deserves is a visa exemption[1].

Although the external anchor of EU membership has functioned during most of the 2000s as a powerful incentive for Turkey to proceed with substantial political and economic reforms (Öniş 2012), Turkey’s economic growth record so far has given ground to the ‘’apparently paradoxical conclusion that whether Turkey becomes a member or not will not have such a dramatic impact on the quality of its economic performance and the nature of its democratic regime’’ (Öniş & Bakır 2007: 161-2). However, a key variable behind Turkey’s economic and political (in)stability in the coming years is the way Turkey addresses its developmental and re-distributional challenges.

The highly fragmented and hierarchical corporatist social security system in Turkey providing health and pension benefits only to formally employed individuals coexists with a labour market structure where self-employment, unpaid family labour and informal employment practices are very important (Buğra and Keyder 2006). Part of Turkey’s informal economic activities is migrant smuggling. Significant marginalised segments of Turkish society and marginalised regions (especially in the South-East) have been earning a living from this illegal activity (Triandafyllidou and Maroukis 2012, Danis 2006, Icduygu 2004), alleviating thus the pressure from the re-distributional inequalities (often tinted with political colours, e.g. the Kurdish issue) that the Turkish political economy faces.

For Turkey to engage into an effective readmission policy and for an effective dismantling of irregular migration networks, the EU needs to achieve better knowledge and understanding of how these are intertwined in Turkey’s socio-economic structure. What works with Albania as a visa regime might not work for Turkey. The incentives for Turkey may be different also because the bulk of third country nationals that it would have to re-admit are not its own nationals.  Hence, the carrot that the EU has to offer is a wider regime of visa exemption, plus human resources and technical know-how assistance that would help Turkey build a more effective border management system at the Turkish eastern borders. Such a ‘carrot’ would make the ‘stick’ (notably readmissions and the dismantling of the migrant smuggling networks) worth it and would provide a more durable answer to the challenge of irregular migration flows from Asia to Europe via Turkey and Greece. 

For more information, read: Triandafyllidou, Anna and Maroukis, Thanos (2012) Migrant Smuggling. Irregular migration from Asia and Africa to Europe, London: Palgrave, http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=494431

Thanos Maroukis, Marie Curie Research Fellow, Bath University

Anna Triandafyllidou, Professor, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute

The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.

[1] http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=278495

A Call for Reform, Expediency and Transparency : MPC’s Response to European Commission’s consultation on non-EU researchers and students

The European Union (EU) still has a long way to go before it is able to make itself the most attractive destination for non-EU researchers and students. This simple conclusion has emerged clearly in the Migration Policy Centre’s (MPC’s) recent response[1] to the European Commission’s open consultation on “The future rules on the entry and residence of non-EU national researchers, students, school pupils, unremunerated trainees and volunteers in the EU”[2].


One may ask, what is the importance of this consultation? Migration policy, including procedures on visas and residence permits, plays an important role in enabling the access of non-EU students and researchers into the EU. They are also crucial for defining the rights of non-EU nationals and ensure their fair treatment once they reside in the EU. To have a transparent and straightforward migration policy is also important for the EU as it wishes to become the main destination for non-EU researchers and students.

With these objectives in mind, the European Commission conducted the above consultation to evaluate the existing directives governing the entry and residence of third-country nationals (TCNs) students and researchers. The directives in question are – Directive 2004/114[3](the so-called “Students Directive”) and Directive 2005/71 [4](also known as the “Researchers Directive”). These directives affect approximately 81,515 non-EU students[5] and, furthermore, influence the EU’s external migration policy and its dialogue and cooperation with third countries in this area, defined by the EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility[6](GAMM).

MPC´s response to the consultation has highlighted some of the main shortcomings in the current EU Directives, in particular focusing on the four issues discussed below:

  • Setting a time limit for a Member State to evaluate visa/residence permit applications from TCN researchers or students;
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Access to labour market (both during and after period(s) of study/research)
  • Intra-EU mobility of TCN researchers and students.

Time limit for processing applications

 Firstly, with regards to the visa processing time, the MPC believes that there should be a precise binding time limit for deciding on applications. Currently,  Article 15.1 of the “Researchers Directive” and Article 18.1 of the “Students Directive” are too general and need to be modified. In comparison with the three months deadline for EU Blue Card[7] for highly skilled workers, a maximum duration of one month could be considered appropriate and made binding on Member States for processing applications and delivering the long-term visa (or the residence permit if this is done abroad).

Furthermore, to facilitating visa and residence permit applications, the Commission and Member States should take more care of making information available about the existence of rules facilitating the admission of researchers and students in the EU. A worldwide campaign towards third-country research organisations, universities and ministries involving the embassies and consulates of Member States could be envisaged.

Transparency and accountability

A major concern that has been brought to the forefront by the MPC response is the issue is the discussion of transparency and accountability in the visa processing stage. The MPC believes that Article 14 of the “Researchers Directive” and Article 18 of the “Students Directive” should be modified to oblige immigration authorities to notify their reasons in case they refuse an application. This would further enhance the transparency in the process and boost a credible image of the issuing authorities.

In addition, it must be stressed that infringement procedures should be launched without any further delay against Member States applying different rules than the directives for the delivery of visas or a two steps procedure (one for the admission and one for the delivery of the visa). The delivery of residence permits abroad through consulates and, consequently, the abolition of long-term visas for the category of temporary migrants such as students could be considered as one possible option to facilitate their admission in the EU.

Access to labour market

On the discussion of access to labour market for non-EU students and researchers, there are two topics that emerge in the debate. One is allowing access to labour market during research/study period and another issue is allowing access after the period of research or study is over.

With regards to researchers, MPC proposes that they should be allowed to do some accessory paid work in direct relation with their research project during their research period, like writing articles in scientific reviews, giving conferences or consultancy, etc.  For students, during their study period there should be a threshold of up to a minimum of 20 hours per week while no limit should be put during periods of holidays (if the student has made acceptable progress in his/her studies). The rationale is that such accessory work would provide both students and researchers with a significant amount of experience and academic credentials. It is also important to highlight that work during study is an essential source of financial support for many students who do not receive scholarships. Therefore, access to work for students and researchers should be facilitated (exempted of labor market test and even of work permit).

After completion of studies, TCN students and researchers should be allowed to stay in the EU for a limited period of time. For researchers, a temporary extension of one year should be given to enable them to start a new research project, engage in other work or establish a company. Students should be allowed to stay for a maximum of two years after their graduation. Both of these proposals are legitimate as long as the person does not become an unreasonable burden for the social assistance system of the concerned Member State and there is no brain drain problem with the country of origin of the researcher/student.

Intra-EU mobility

Intra-EU mobility has always been a thorny issue for non-EU students and researchers as every EU Member State has different immigration rules concerning it. To facilitate short-term mobility, MPC proposes that a long-term visa delivered to a researcher or student should be valid for the maximum of one year as envisaged by Regulation 265/2010[8], unless the duration of the research or study is shorter (in this case, the long-term visa should be valid for the duration of the research project). This should facilitate the mobility of researchers and students into the EU and towards their country of origin, as the Member States are obliged by the same regulation to replace long-term visas by a residence permit before the visas expire.

The provisions on student mobility could be further improved, by removing the obligation for the student to prove that the studies in the second Member State is a part of or complementary to the studies for which the student has been admitted by the first Member State. The system of the simple declaration instead of a proof (as applied to EU students by Directive 2004/38[9] for the condition of financial resources) could also be applied to the case of the mobility of TCN students.

Finally, the important question that emerges is that for students admitted into one EU Member State, should they be allowed to move and study in another Member State without requiring a new residence permit? Such a possibility already exists for studies of less than three months on the basis of the Schengen acquis[10]. Furthermore, the technique of mutual recognition of residence permits could also be used as long as the residence permit delivered by the first Member State is valid. This would reduce unnecessary hassle and stress for students who would otherwise have to apply for separate residence permits in each Member State. This would also be a clear political sign from the EU that they want to favor the mobility of students.

Other suggestions:

–          Research organisations and universities should be strongly encouraged to appoint liaison officers who would be a contact point for researchers/students and immigration authorities and, when necessary, would inform and assist researchers/students with their immigration procedures.

–         Member States could prepare a leaflet in several languages explaining the facilitations offered to researchers regarding immigration procedures. This leaflet should cover the issue of mobility rights in order to explain clearly their rights and how it works in practice. These leaflets should be made available in consulates and also be sent to the research organisations that Member States have approved under the “Researchers Directive” for dissemination to researchers getting in touch with them.

–          The border between the notions of “PhD students” and “researchers” should be made clear for the users. The criterion is related to the payment of the person: a student is unpaid. Therefore, paid PhD students should be treated as researchers under the “Researchers Directive” (so that they would not need a work permit) as long as they are compensated in money for the work they do for the research organisation. For the rest, it seems difficult to treat unpaid PhD students like researchers because of the risk of abuse of the system.

–          Except for universities based in UK, France and Germany which are widely publicised, there is only limited promotion of other universities from EU Member States. The Commission should make sure that all necessary information about the universities from Member States is accessible through the EU Immigration Portal[11]. In particular, the Commission should check that information about the minimum amount of resources that a TCN should have, is easily accessible.

–          On the basis of the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU in the case of Commission v. Netherlands of 26 April 2012[12], the Commission should launch without any further delay infringement procedures against Member States requiring disproportionate fees for the delivery of long-term visas or residence permits to students.

In conclusion, the MPC considers that the EU and its Member States should take more care about the treatment of persons that they invite within the purview of EU-financed programmes. Specific procedures involving the Commission and Member States (in particular consulates) should be put in place to make sure that immigration procedures run smoothly and bona fide researchers and students are really treated as welcome guests in the EU. This is essential for a good public image of the EU and would also help in promoting it as an attractive destination for non-EU students and researchers.

Neha Sinha, Policy Analyst to the MPC

Philippe De Bruycker, Deputy Director of the MPC

Acknowledgment: Special thanks to Ashley McCormick, Research Assistant to the MPC, for his kind assistance with the statistical data.

[1] Please note that the MPC responses to EU consultations are not to be taken as scientific research findings but only as well informed opinions

[2] European Commission’s consultation questionnaire on “The future rules on the entry and residence of non-EU national researchers, students, school pupils, unremunerated trainees and volunteers in the EU”


[4] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32005L0071:EN:NOT

[5] Source: EUROSTAT Database

[6] http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/international-affairs/global-approach-to-migration/index_en.htm


[8] Amendment to the ConventionImplementing the Schengen Agreement and Regulation (EC) No. 562/2006 as regards movement of persons with a long-stay visa http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32010R0265:EN:NOT

[9] Directive defining the Right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member Stateshttp://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32004L0038:en:NOT


[11] http://ec.europa.eu/immigration/Immigration2012 (3)

[12] For further details of the case, visit: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?language=en&num=C-508/10

Migration Myths: Migration & Unemployment

There are many populist myths surrounding migration. One that is commonly shared is migrants moving, en masse, into so called ‘richer’ countries irrespective of the job market. The rationale follows that with more immigrants rising unemployment ensues. To date there is no strong evidence to support such claims. Contrary facts highlight a lack of evidence to such assertions. A basic and telling example is a simple pair of correlations which highlight the relationship between overall immigration levels and unemployment. Each EU country with sufficient data has two correlations; pre-recession and recession. Although correlations cannot claim a causal link between two events (A causes B), what they can do is signal any potential links between two phenomena. In this case there is a clear, consistent and telling set of trends.

Figure 1 shows correlations for 23 EU member states. The greyed area signals weak correlations, hence little can be taken from such results i.e. Sweden, Belgium and the United Kingdom.  There are two types of country. In figure 1 from Finland to Belgium all pre-recession and recession correlations highlight a negative correlation between unemployment and immigration. In short, there are two ways at interpreting these results: (1) the higher the rate of unemployment the lower the rate of immigration: unemployment deters potential migrants; (2) rising immigration lowers the levels of unemployment: immigration generates net employment. Correlations cannot claim to prove either hypothesis but the consistency in these 16 country results does signal a widespread and linked relationship between rising unemployment and decreasing immigration or vice versa. The second type shows a pre-recession positive correlation between unemployment and immigration in the cases of France, Luxembourg, Austria, Hungary and Cyprus. Prior to the recession claims could be made that rising unemployment and immigration were linked. Once the recession occurred all of these countries saw a shift to negative correlations. France shifted to a weak negative correlation whereas the remaining countries moved to significant negative correlations. In all cases there are negative correlations after the recession – unemployment and immigration are negatively linked, a rise in one means a fall in the other.

Germany is an important and ‘average’ example of negative correlations in both pre-recession and recession times, with all results baselined to quarter 1 of 2012. In both time periods when there is a decrease in unemployment (red line) there is an increase in immigration.

In the case of France (figure 3) there is a fairly consistent trend in the immigration levels, with fluctuating levels of immigration. However when the recession took place the levels of unemployment and immigration took an interesting turn – unemployment rose, immigration fell, a negative correlation.

There are many examples of more in-depth studies that highlight very similar results to the ones above (see ‘’ The Labor Market Impact of Immigration and its Policy Consequences’ by Herbert Brücker – http://www.migrationpolicycentre.eu/docs/MPC%20ASN%202012-04.pdf. Although it must be noted that Brucker’s paper includes emigration as well as immigration). Although no definitive answer can be found by correlation analysis it is clear that there is a very consistent and telling trend in the relationship between unemployment and immigration. When unemployment lowers, immigration tends to increase. Results from this analysis suggest that immigration cannot be regarded as a factor that creates or adds to unemployment. In fact the opposite conclusion is more plausible; migrants are likely to move to where jobs are available, especially since the recession took place. A recommendation for policymakers is to utilise immigration to stimulate to employment. For example, if unemployment rates are lowering, nation states should look to increase the rate and number of immigration. Furthermore, a continual populist myth of ‘high immigration = high unemployment’ needs to be responsibly tackled by the media, especially when there is little to no evidence supporting such claims. Unemployment and immigration are complex phenomena but it looks like the relationship between the two has a simple rule of thumb – low levels of unemployment create higher levels of immigration.

Ashley McCormick, Research Assistant to the MPC

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.