Chapter 3: legal migration and mobility |
41. The GAMM states that the EU faces "labour
market shortages and vacancies that cannot be filled by the domestic
workforce in specific sectors, e.g. in health, science and technology"
and that these shortages will be compounded by long-term population
ageing. The GAMM's
first pillar, on organising and facilitating legal migration and
mobility, aims to address these needs. It is based on "the
premise of offering employers wider opportunities to find the
best individuals for vacancies on the global labour market ...
(while) fully respecting Member States' competence to manage their
Europe's ageing population and
future labour market needs
42. As Chapter 2 demonstrates, the EU population
is ageing and in some Member States the total population is declining.
Most of our witnesses thought that more migrants would be needed
in the EU in coming years in response to these demographic trends,
to fill labour and skills shortages. Peter Sutherland considered
European demographics to be "fundamental" to migration
policy, even if this did not always figure as prominently as it
might in public debates.
Stefano Manservisi, the Director-General of the Commission's DG
Home Affairs, was clear that the EU was "solidly now a continent
of immigration. It will be even more so in future, given the statistics
on demography, the transformation of the labour market and the
global competition for talent".
43. However, none of our witnesses thought that
migration was a silver-bullet for Europe's demographic problems.
For example, Open Europe
were broadly supportive of the arguments that demographic problems
could be addressed in part by more labour migration, but they
emphasised that migration could not offer a complete solution
as migrants would get older and the EU will have to boost its
home-grown skills if it wanted to compete on a global basis.
Tobias Billström thought that migration could not compensate
altogether for an ageing population.
Professor Skeldon agreed stressing that it could help to
solve particular skills shortages at particular times. However,
he stated that the number of migrants that would be needed to
prevent ageing and maintain current dependency ratios would be
Professor Boswell argued that "it will be very difficult
for any (Member State) to make the case for expanded labour migration
on demographic grounds alone
immigration offers a very
highly effective, efficient and swift means of recruiting labour
to fill specific gaps in the labour market. That will unavoidably
be seen as a way of meeting that demand, particularly in the short
term, but I doubt that it could be seen as a big political solution
to demographic problems in Europe".
Sir Andrew Green, the Chairman of Migration Watch UK,
was more sceptical about the demographic arguments for migration,
stating that he did not accept that greater migration was the
answer to an ageing population, because "immigrants also
get older, and therefore you have to have a continuing and increasing
flow of immigrants in order that they should affect your average
Addressing skills shortages
44. Many of our witnesses agreed that migration
was essential to economic growth and competitiveness in a globalised
economy. Bernd Hemingway of the International Organization for
Mobility (IOM) emphasised
that "migration can have a positive impact on economic development
and therefore it should be seen more positively in that respect".
Despite the recession and high levels of unemployment in some
Member States, Europe still faces sector-specific labour and skills
shortages, and will increasingly need to compete with other emerging
regions for the "best and brightest" workers. Highly-skilled
migrants are needed in a number of sectors, as are low-skilled
migrants, partly because as Professor Skeldon pointed out
"the skilled generate demand for services that are less skilled;
high-flying bankers and so on need office cleaners, waiters, and
sandwich-delivery people and so on".
In this respect, Professor Geddes and Bernd Hemingway also
endorsed GAMM's suggestion of supplementing permanent migration
with temporary and circular migration.
45. However, our witnesses diverged in terms
of their assessment of whether migration could provide a complete
or long-term solution to skills shortages. Professor Skeldon
doubted whether "we can match labour market supply and demandthat
is going to be extremely difficult, particularly across such a
diverse series of labour markets as we find in the EU".
Some witnesses also argued that a reliance on migration could
prevent necessary economic, educational, and welfare reforms from
being enacted. In their written evidence, COMPAS stated that relying
on migration would only postpone making necessary training adjustments
in the domestic economy.
The former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, told us that instead
of seeking to plug skills gaps with migrant labour the EU's focus
should be on up-skilling the existing workforce, saying that "sometimes
migration becomes the easy answer, certainly for many employers:
just getting the people in from somewhere else rather than focusing
on the problem we have in our own country". However, he acknowledged
that there should be sector-specific exceptions.
Christopher Chope MP, the Chairperson of the Legal Affairs
and Human Rights Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe, agreed that advocating migration sometimes
"avoids us facing up to the real issues that we need to address".
The Government do not believe that lower-skilled migration from
outside the EU is required for the United Kingdom to address labour
needs given the existence of an expanded European labour market
46. In the context of the EU's demographic
challenges and future labour market needs, we consider that flexibility
by Member States in the operation of the European labour market
to legal migration from third countries, particularly in Member
States with skills shortages, could be essential in order to secure
economic growth and competitiveness. However, such an approach
is not a panacea, and should form part of a comprehensive approach
which also tackles the development of skills among the existing
workforce, as well as any necessary labour market reforms.
European legal migration and
mobility policies: a greater role for the EU?
47. The EU has already adopted Directives on
long-term residents, highly-skilled workers, family reunification,
students, researchers, and a single permit, which have to some
extent harmonised conditions of admission and migrants' rights
in a number of areas. Directives on seasonal workers and on intra-corporate
transfers are currently under negotiation. As we have already
noted decisions about how many and what type of economic migrants
to admit remains a Member State competence.
48. Several of our witnesses expressed reservations
about the feasibility and desirability of a more harmonised approach
to labour migration in the EU. Most thought that viable labour
migration policies must reflect the very different labour market
needs of the Member States. Professor Keith told us that
Member States have adopted different approaches due to variations
in their labour markets, welfare provision, immigration histories
and policy-making processes.
COMPAS considered that while some progress had been made on harmonising
the rights of third country nationals, the harmonisation of admissions
policies was very difficult.
Hugo Brady, from the Centre for European Reform (CER), was sceptical
about the creation of an EU-wide migration system, which he thought
would be overly bureaucratic, and that in any case Member States
would never cede the necessary powers to the EU to allow it to
set labour quotas.
Tobias Billström agreed, stating that such a system would
benefit the larger Member States to the detriment of the smaller
ones. He suggested that Member States should instead compete for
migrants by offering them better terms and conditions.
Charles Clarke simply stated that the idea of an EU labour migration
policy or points based system was "pie in the sky".
49. The case of Sweden highlights the very different
situations across the EU on labour migration: while some Member
States are trying to limit labour migration, Sweden is actively
trying to encourage it and compete with other Member States for
migrant workers, yet it still has a relatively low number of immigrants.
More information is provided in Box 2.
The Swedish labour migration system
|In 2008 Sweden reformed its labour migration management
policy. Since the reform, employers in Sweden have been able to
recruit migrant workers for any occupation, so long as the job
has been advertised for a given period and prevailing wage and
contractual conditions are respected. Sweden now has one of the
most open and liberal systems for economic migration anywhere
in the OECD. In its evaluation of the Swedish system, the OECD
was supportive of the post-2008 reforms, though it noted that
the peculiarities of the relatively highly regulated labour market
in Sweden meant that this model is not easily transferable to
Source: OECD (2011) Recruiting Immigrant Workers:
Sweden 2011, Paris: OECD
50. Tobias Billström told us that the liberalisation
of Swedish economic migration policy has not resulted in a large
influx of labour migrants.
It is highly doubtful whether an equivalent liberalisation in
other countries, particularly those with a less regulated labour
market, longer history of labour immigration, or more widely spoken
official language, would have similarly small effects on inflows.
In fact, Sweden's liberalisation could be seen as an attempt to
counteract some comparative disadvantages that it faces in relation
to other countries when it comes to recruiting skilled migrant
Anticipating labour and skills
51. The Migrants' Rights Network considered that
in order for the GAMM to be effective, a more thorough understanding
of the Single Market, the way in which it interacts with other
economies in the EU neighbourhood region, and the way it generates
demand for migrants was required.
However, most of our witnesses had little confidence in the EU's
ability accurately to predict where labour and skills shortages
may arise and respond to this effectively. COMPAS stated that
for most occupations and sectors, it is very difficult to project
future labour demands, which is why the Migration Advisory Committee
(MAC) in the United Kingdom focused its analysis on current labour
and skills shortages. They did think, however, that the EU could
play an important role in strengthening labour market tests across
Europe to ensure that employers seriously search the whole EU
labour market before turning to non-EU workers.
52. The Commission has promoted some initiatives
in this area but Mark Harper MP, the Minister for Immigration,
did not consider them to be worthwhile. He also stated that the
identification of skills shortages and selection of migrant workers
was best achieved at the national level by bodies such as the
MAC, but above all by employers themselves.
The Government believes that it is primarily a matter for individual
Member States to facilitate economic migration on the basis of
national assessments of economic need.
53. Stefano Manservisi took a more sanguine view
of the EU's potential role. While clearly stating that the admission
of labour migrants was a Member State competence, he said that
the EU had a role to play in facilitating legal migration to the
EU and coordinating Member State actions. The Commission's aim
"to progressively find a better balance between
national competences, in particular the delivery of work permits
and therefore decisions on the number of people who can enter
to work, and the fact that since we are working in an increasingly
integrated Single Market that is producing an increasingly integrated
new labour market, perhaps we can find a solution to have individual
decisions taken in a framework where knowledge is a bit more shared".
54. Claude Moraes MEP regretted that the EU had
failed to adopt a comprehensive approach largely due the resistance
of the Member States who were concerned about sovereignty and
55. Member States should continue to have
the right to choose the number of migrants from third countries
they wish to admit to their labour markets, depending on their
needs. Therefore, we consider that any transfer of responsibility
to the EU in the management of legal migration would be undesirable
and also impossible to agree and achieve.
56. We also doubt whether it is possible for
the EU accurately to predict labour demand or skills shortages
into the future.
Social security coordination
57. The GAMM states that existing EU rules on
social security coordination are "intended to remove disadvantages
and protect acquired rights for EU citizens moving within the
EU and also for all legally resident non-EU nationals with a cross-border
dimension". The GAMM proposes that portability of social
and pension rights could be a facilitator for mobility and circular
migration, as well as a disincentive for irregular work, and should
therefore be improved.
Through a series of Council Decisions concerning six third countries,
the EU intends to create a limited external social security coordination
system applying to personsboth EU nationals and nationals
of these six countrieswho move into and out of the EU.
58. The Government are opposed to being bound
by EU agreements on social security with third countries as they
consider that this constrains their ability to conduct effective
bilateral arrangements. They believe that social security arrangements
with third countries should be a matter for individual Member
States and do not consider that there are enough safeguards in
place to protect the social security framework from manipulation.
59. However, notwithstanding the Government's
concerns, several of our witnesses supported the view that portability
of social security rights was important for encouraging mobility
and circular migration. This is based on the assumption that people
will not freely come and go if they risk losing benefits that
they have accrued while working in one particular Member State.
Professor Boswell told us that if the EU really wanted to
promote circularity and mobility, then access to welfare state
provision in each Member State, which is currently "premised
on the notion of sedentariness", would have to be fundamentally
rethought. She acknowledged that this was quite a radical agenda,
encompassing residency rights, healthcare, insurance and pensions.
Tobias Billström also called for a more coherent approach
between Member States.
60. We note the Government's concerns about
the Commission's approach to the external dimension of EU social
security coordination. However, notwithstanding these concerns,
we consider that the EU may need to consider the portability of
61. The GAMM does not address family reunification
directly. However, since family migration is one of the main legal
migration flows to Europe,
and in some countries the main flow, we asked witnesses about
the EU's policies in this area, and the United Kingdom's position
in relation to these policies.
62. The EU adopted the Family Reunification Directive
in 2003. This measure
aims to establish common rules relating to the right to family
reunification, including enabling family members of third country
nationals residing lawfully in the EU to join them in the Member
State in which they are residing. The Commission is likely to
publish a proposal to revise this Directive in due course.
While the Government decided not to opt-in to this Directive,
we have consistently urged the Government to opt-in.
In June 2012 the Government also announced new requirements at
the domestic level before family reunification would be allowed,
including a minimum salary and language requirements.
With this decision, the United Kingdom has further diverged from
the common EU policy on family migration.
63. Some of our witnesses referred to the substantial
variation between Member States' rules on the admission of family
migrants and most of them thought that a more harmonised approach
to family migration was justified, whether through new legislation
or more stringent implementation of existing legislation. Stefano
Manservisi observed that, while there was a common policy on family
reunification in the Schengen Area, there was a need to implement
it "in a more stringent way".
Charles Clarke referred to the variable rules across the EU and
stated that there was a strong case for the adoption of a more
harmonised approach in this area, as did Rebecca Crerar, from
the Suffolk Refugee Forum.
Professor Keith thought that this issue would become more
and more important over the next couple of decades.
64. When considering the admission of foreign
workers allowance must be made for the fact that many of them
will bring families with them, or seek to do so once legally resident
in a Member State. We believe that there could be problems
with a situation that admits spouses and children more readily
to one Member State than another, considering that, once admitted
they may eventually acquire the right to freedom of movement throughout
the EU. We repeat our view that the Government should seek to
opt-in to the Family Reunification Directive.
Labour market integration and
public opposition to migration
65. The GAMM refers to the "urgent need
to improve the effectiveness of policies aiming at integration
of migrants into the labour market".
It states that "effective integration, in particular in the
labour market, is key to ensuring that both migrants and receiving
societies can benefit from the potential of migration, including
via stronger diaspora communities and migrant entrepreneurs".
66. The Treaty of Lisbon introduced a new article
providing for the promotion of the integration of third country
nationals. The Commission
published a Communication on a European Agenda for the Integration
of Third-Country Nationals in 2011, which highlighted a number
of areas of particular concern including low employment levels
of migrants and high levels of over-qualification (so-called "brain
encourages Member States to develop language courses and increase
the participation of migrants through active labour market policies,
among other things. It also emphasises the need for more action
at the local level, including the effective involvement of local
authorities and civil society organisations.
Of most direct relevance for the GAMM, it emphasises the role
that countries of origin could play in integration processes through
pre-departure information on visas and work permits, language
and vocational training, mutual recognition of skills with Member
States, diaspora engagement, and support for temporary and circular
67. Peter Sutherland and Tobias Billström
emphasised the role that the EU could play in the sharing of best
practice on integration policies.
Professor Keith told us that the integration debate had become
unhelpfully focused on cultural and national identity, but observed
that "all of the evidence demonstrates the importance of
language learning, in terms of a facility to contribute to society
He thought that the United Kingdom has done fairly well in this
regard and could perhaps share some of its best practice with
the rest of the EU.
Professor Skeldon told us that "There is a great difference
between the current approach of EU and European states and that
of states such as the United States, Canada and Australia which
see migration as part of state-building and nation-building".
68. At the Member State as well as the EU level,
Tobias Billström emphasised the importance of politicians
making un-emotive factual statements in this area, referring to
negative public reactions in Sweden to any sensationalist press
Europe echoed this view, stressing that politicians needed to
openly promote a "game plan" while taking "concerns
from individual citizens and the community seriously". It
referred to the large degree of buy-in to the Swedish government's
policy as a success story.
It considered that the best tool for integration is allowing migrants
entry to the labour market as quickly possible.
Bernd Hemingway stressed the vital importance of engaging local
organisations and "grassroots NGOs", not only for implementation
but also in the formulation of integration policies. He stated
that "the small NGOs working in small cities, are very important.
They are the ones who have access to the migrants and are comfortable
in working with them".
However, the Migrants' Rights Network considered that in practice"beyond
the rhetoric"not much was being done to improve the
integration of migrants into EU labour markets, particularly in
69. The Government stressed that good language
skills were key in facilitating better integration, including
within the workplace, and they referred to steps they had taken
to help equip non-EEA nationals with the necessary skills in this
respect. The UK Border Agency also administered projects funded
through the European Integration Fund to help migrants develop
English language skills.
70. We consider that the EU's contribution
to labour market integration policy should primarily be through
the European Integration Fund. We support the recommendations
of the European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals,
and encourage the Commission to develop these recommendations
into concrete proposals, particularly those dealing with countries
of origin in the context of the GAMM.
71. We also support the Commission's efforts
to promote the sharing of Member State experiences and good practice
in the wider area of integration policies. We believe that language
learning has an important role to play in this respect. We would
also stress the valuable role that the voluntary and private sector
can play in this process, and recommend that the views of civil
society be taken fully into account in the formulation and implementation
of integration policy.
32 GAMM, p. 2 Back
GAMM, p. 12 Back
Q 26 Back
Q 302 Back
An independent think tank, which seeks to contribute to new thinking
to the debate about the direction of the EU, including calls for
radical reform. Back
Q 120 Back
Q 52 Back
Q 229 Back
Q 229 Back
An independent, voluntary, non political body, which is concerned
about the present scale of immigration into the UK. Back
Q 213 Back
The International Organization for Migration was established by
a number of European countries and the USA in 1951 to respond
to the large migratory flows which came after the end of the Second
World War. It now has 146 member states (not including China and
Russia) and is based in Geneva. It operates in countries of origin,
countries of transit and countries of destination through 400
field missions and eight regional offices. It is not an UN agency
but its Director General is part of the Global Migration Group. Back
Q 364 Back
Q 229 Back
Q 229, Q 336 Back
Q 149 Back
UK Government Back
Q 183 Back
Q 179 Back
Q 180 & 188 Back
Q 56 Back
Q 150 Back
Q 44 Back
Migrants' Rights Network Back
Q 243 Back
UK Government Back
Q 303 Back
QQ 329-330 Back
GAMM, p. 13 Back
UK Government Back
Q 228 Back
Q 46 Back
Bernd Hemingway told us that the majority of legal migration into
the EU was due to family reunification. See Q 364. Back
Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification, OJ
L251 (3 October 2003) p. 12 Back
Commission Communication, Green Paper on the right to family
reunification of third-country nationals living in the European
Union (Directive 2003/86/EC), COM (2011) 735, 15.11.2011 Back
See EU Committee, Economic migration to the EU (14th Report
of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 58) Back
For more information about the
UK Government's family reunification requirements see:
Q 327 Back
Q 151, Q 78 Back
Q 184 Back
GAMM, p. 4 Back
GAMM, p. 13 Back
Article 79(4) TFEU Back
Commission Communication, European Agenda for the Integration
of Third-Country Nationals, COM (2011) 455, 20.7.2011 Back
Its full name is the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country
Nationals and it will be absorbed by the Asylum and Migration
Fund in due course. Back
Q 33 and Q 58 Back
Q 196 Back
Q 197 Back
Q 220 Back
Q 55 Back
Q 125 Back
Q 126 Back
Q 381 Back
Migrants' Rights Network Back
UK Government Back