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Does ageing Europe need more young migrants?

In 2020, more than one fifth of the EU population were 65 or older. 

The share of people in the European Union aged 80+ is projected to more than double between 2020 and 2100, from 5.9% to 14.6%. Will a shrinking working age population be able to support a growing cohort of pensioners? Confronted by this ticking demographic timebomb, what is the solution? Will technology and automation provide an answer? Can birthrates be boosted? Or does ageing Europe need more migrants?

What do our readers think? 

First up, can we move beyond racism when we discuss immigration to Europe? We had a comment come in from Josh, who told us his personal story of immigration:

💬 I am an immigrant and a European citizen; I hold an Australian as well as Irish passport. I even overstayed on my visa for 6 months on accident, I turned up to the police station to renew it – nobody cared. I fell on hard times around then too, we had to accept charity and welfare to stay in our house. Nobody came and said I was just some lazy immigrant for doing so. Nobody ever built a wall to keep me out.

Is it because I’m middle class? Speak English? Am white? I conform to your prejudice of what is ‘European’ despite being a naturalised citizen and not a born European? The issue here isn’t that immigrants are a problem. It’s the ‘wrong sort’ of immigrants, who maybe have less money or a different skin colour.

Is Josh right? How much of the immigration debate in Europe is being driven by racism? To get a response, we put Josh’s comment to the panel during a recent Friends of Europe event on Confronting the EU’s ‘Great Migration Muddle’. We got a response to Josh from Giles Merritt, Founder of Friends of Europe and author of the book “People Power: Why We Need More Migrants”.

Also responding to Josh was Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of Lithuania (2009-2019) and a former European Commissioner (2004-2009).

Next up, we had a comment from Nefeli, arguing that what immigrants need most in order to join the labour market is language support:

💬 We mostly need language support and not obligation. Most of the immigrants want to learn the language of the place where we live but it is often hard… With the correct infrastructure it would not take more than a few months for an educated person to be capable of communication in the new language. A year or so and we could be fluent. We don’t need laws to prevent people from entering. We need weekend classes to help them strive!

Finally, we had a comment from David, who told us his story:

💬 I am the child of a Vietnamese political refugee, otherwise known as the ‘boat people’. My parents came with nothing but the clothes on them and now have 3 tax-paying professionals as children.

I would say integration of refugees needs to be recognised as both an economic and social policy issue. As such, any policy should be fully integrated in this way. 3 practical implications (amongst many others) for policymakers, given that the assumption is that refugees have been appropriately screened for national security:

  1. 1. Focus on social inclusion through language and culture classes to help integrate them into society.
  2. 2. International cooperation. Encourage countries to play their part in taking refugees/contributing to cost of refugee camps until a well-thought out integration plan can be implemented.
  3. 3. Understand current skills of refugees then map these to vacancies in labour market. Then have a long-term perspective around how low skilled refugees (or refugees with less relevant skills to jobs available) could be trained to give employers skills they’re looking for.

We put Nefeli and David’s comments to Anne Kjær Bathel, CEO & Co-Founder of the ReDI School of Digital Integration in Germany. For another perspective, we also put them to Giorgos Stefanidis, Local Coordinator of the Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS) in Greece.

You can see their responses in the video at the top of this post.

Does ageing Europe need more young migrants? 

How much of the immigration debate in Europe is being driven by racism? Should governments invest more in language classes for migrants? Should Europe have a long-term plan for migrant labour market integration? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!