Strasbourg, May 20, EYMD 2016
Text by Kaja Puto, Poland
Europe needs legal regulations that ease the process of integrating immigrants into the European labour market. Rejecting this thesis as “unfair for born-Europeans” will not make people go back to their countries.
The birth rate in Europe is not going to increase, and that is why we need immigrants. Otherwise states will be not able to support the growing number of pensioners. European public opinion seems to accept this fact, even if the so-called refugee crisis was used by several politicians in Europe to make people fearful of foreigners. Nevertheless, immigrants’ access to the labor market is still limited and the liberalisation of migration law has caused a lot of controversy. In a nutshell, many think it’s fine for foreigners to pay taxes in a country once they don’t occupy the work places.
Whether you prefer to call it pragmatic restraint or hypocrisy, this logic is purely ridiculous: it is not only economically unsound, but it will also lead to social exclusion that might turn immigrants against the state that has taken them in.
“There is a shortage of labor force in those countries where immigrants are heading to. Talking about “stealing jobs” is ridiculous, because if somebody is able to be given a job instead of somebody else, that simply means, he or she is better,” Pavel Trantina, the president of the section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship of European Economic and Social Committee, said.
Let’s get back to the 1980’s, when numerous Poles were heading to West Berlin after the Martial Law was introduced in Poland. They usually didn’t obtain a refugee status, but stayed in West Berlin on the basis of duldung (suspension of deportation), ensuring them accommodation and a small amount of pocket money. However, the Poles staying on duldung didn’t get a permit to work.
If you have been to Germany, you might have heard a stereotype of a Pole who steals cars and participates in organised crime – mostly smuggling. This reputation, however, didn’t come from thin air.
Duldung meant that Poles sooner or later ended up working in the black market. And even when Martial Law was withdrawn, they didn’t return home like Germany assumed they would. On the contrary – the number of Polish immigrants continued to increase. Even if today the “Polish factor” in the Bundeskriminalamt’s statistics is definitely smaller than it used to be before, the stereotype survived.
This example shows clearly the vicious circle that stands behind every rotten compromise that starts with the words “we need immigrants, but…”. The more the access to the labour market is limited for immigrants (because of fears that they are not able to integrate into society), the more they are eager to search for the “windows of opportunities”, which strengthens prejudices towards them and precludes their integration.
I do not mean to say that liberalisation of the labor market will solve all the problems that immigration can cause or is associated with. The growing inequality between the first and third world is not only based on GDP, but also education. Then again, diagnosis is not a medicine, and luckily there are a few countries that understand it.
One example is Germany. In April, its government drafted a new integration law which might be perceived as a milestone in striving for equality in the labour market, even if many points are highly controversial. The plan is to suspend a law requiring employers to give preference to German or EU applicants over asylum seekers for three years. Again, this is a temporary solution, and it concerns only one country, but half a loaf is better than none.