No Jobs? Come to Germany, Young PIGS Citizens

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 6/28/2012 07:20:00 AM


From station to station
Back to Dusseldorf City
Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie
Trans-Europe Express 

Whew! We haven't had a video feature in a while, so here's a classic, Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express. Economic migration is often driven by differentials in economic opportunities, whether they be more job openings or higher pay. Whereas in the past the Poland to UK route used to be popular in Europe along with other Eastern to Western European migration corridors, times have changed. Poland for instance is faring rather better than the UK economically and so on.

The WSJ sifts through recent OECD data to find, unsurprisingly, that emigration is increasing from the likes of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. As a migration advocate, I see the positive side in being able to defray (hopefully temporary rather than structural) unemployment within the Eurozone through migration within it--just as the United States does with no real limits to movement across state boundaries. Not only does it help lessen unemployment benefits the troubled states pay out, but it also [shhh] helps rid them of angry young persons in the meantime. As Europe's troubles continue, these countries are returning to their former status as migrant-sending rather than migrant-receiving ones:
The OECD report shows how the contrast in economic fortunes between countries undergoing harsh austerity measures and those still showing robust growth may be starting to turn emigration trends on their head. Following the end of World War II, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy all experienced "significant emigration," but in the years running up to the financial crisis they had become countries of immigration "hosting significant numbers of labor migrants," the OECD said. The economic and fiscal crisis appears to have turned them back into countries of emigration, although the OECD cautioned that reliable data aren't readily available for some.
Reuters, however, illustrates certain barriers to the free flow of migrants in Europe. Unlike say the United States where they all speak English (and share a national fondness for debts 'n' fats, but let me not get into that right now), linguistic and cultural differences are far more pronounced in Europe despite also having free movement of labour--at least in theory. That said, the Germans are like everyone else in trying to pick off other nations' best and brightest if they are to welcome migrants--no surprises there. Consider the plight of Spanish health care workers as an illustration:
After more than a decade working as doctors, Spaniards Elena Casillas and Esther Perea are back in the classroom, and it's not easy. Some of their classmates need dictionaries to compose basic sentences. Others need help with word order. For everyone, the biggest challenge is pronunciation. "When I first heard German, I thought, ‘My God, it's horrible,'" says 40-year old Casillas, one of a dozen medics recruited by a private German hospital group which is giving the pair free classes in Madrid with the promise of work at a German hospital if they come up to scratch.

Casillas' class is part of a German campaign to attract people who have skills in medicine and engineering. Germany can use up to 200,000 immigrant workers per year to maintain its economic potential, according to the Bundesbank, while Spain currently has the highest unemployment in Europe, more than 24 percent or around 5.6 million people.

Given that free movement of labor is one of the foundation stones of the European Union, you might think job-seekers from Spain would be filling Germany's gaps. A few are making the shift: in 2011, Spanish arrivals jumped 52 percent according to German data. But the overall numbers are still tiny. Between 16,000 and 21,000 came to Germany from Spain last year, compared with more than 100,000 immigrants from Poland. "Looking at the economic situation one might have expected a bit more outflows," said Thomas Liebig, an expert in international migration at the OECD.

Europe's relative lack of labor mobility can be pinned on cultural obstacles, as well as increasingly choosy employers and stiff competition from established migrants. For Spaniards, in particular, Europe is not working, and this highlights a structural trend just at the time the region needs to make the most of its single market for workers. "Where governments are able to manage the inflow they are becoming more selective," says John Salt, a professor at University College London who specializes in international European migration. "What they want are workers with high-level skills who can initiate new ideas or developments, or fill certain skill gaps."
It's the same old story heard around the world, although it plays out in interesting ways in Europe given the aforementioned cultural differences and the limited number of promising destinations (sad to say). Make no mistake: intra-EU migration is a buyer's market in this day and age. And do learn German fer cryin' out loud if you plan to take the "Trans-Europe Express" bound for D├╝sseldorf.