Apparently I saw this one coming when I posted my short Comment on the report «As migrações num mundo interligado: Novas linhas de acção», CMSMI (2005) thursday night. These are conturbated times; the French government just announced a drastic reduction on the list of professional occupations available for non-EU foreigners in a bid to reduce legal immigration. According to the Frech press «trade unions criticised the plan and employers said that it was not a priority but President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, which is under electoral threat from the anti-immigration Front National, pressed on with changes».
Following my comment’s argumentation, I insist that there is a great gap between reality and political practice on this particular subject. This sort of measures serve only one purpose: to feed the uninformed masses while pursuing electoral advantages. As expected, we’re experiencing mixed reactions here in Portugal as the nationalist arguments are now revigorated by the crisis and the ever increasing unemployment. Although some claim that national low-income unqualified labor is severely hurt by the incoming immigrants the reality may not follow such statement. Instead of a total labor supply expansion that would push wages down and increase national unemployment (mostly associated to unqualified jobs), the reality suggests the existence of a highly segmented labor market, where immigrants and nationals compete in different markets for completly different jobs and positions. Obviously, there are exceptions (sectors where immigrants and nations actualy compete for jobs) but overall the effects of an immigrant labor supply increase will affect the rest of the immigrant community more than anyone else; there are empirical studies that take this segmentation theory even further and suggest the existence of different labor markets for different subgroups of immigrants (click here for a great academic paper on labor market segmentation and migrations). Moreover, we Europeans are getting old and we have a bankrupt social state to save; who do you think can pay for it? Who do you think will take care of us when we’re all getting old? Our sons and daughters? Yeah, right.
In order to solve the immigration problem we citizens and the public opinion of developed countries have first of all to realize the benefits of such reality and identify clearly the associated challenges. It’s all about honesty; developed countries have shrinking populations and a great need for labor (mostly qualified labor), developing countries are in great demographic expansion and have too much labor to deal with, labor which their economies are unable to absorb. Young labor. Come on, how can it be that difficult? A suggestion? Well, I do believe that honest temporary work permits would do well for both north and south countries. Assuming of course that developing countries are able to create good conditions to receive back their emmigrants (typicaly the greatest entrepreneurs of their societies) and take advantage of the boost they can provide for their economies. Because there’s both supply and demand of migrant labor, a cut on legal immigration will always lead to an increase on illegal immigration and that serves none.
Take a minute to think about it by yourself. And I still hate Sarkozy and what he represents for Europe.
Read my comment in portuguese here.