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Friday, September 21, 2007

Migrants and Hungary

The BBJ ran this article this morning:

EC: Hungary needs more immigrants

Thanks to an aging population, Hungary will have to get ready to attract a great amount of immigrants over the next years – the European Commission said.

The EC added that migration is the solution for the EU as a whole, as it is facing acute shortage of workforce in the near future. The Commission also pointed out that Germany, Italy, Hungary and Latvia will be hit by the heaviest shortage of qualified workers. In the next 20 years the EU – currently the home to 18.5 million non-European immigrants - will need an additional 20 million immigrants to ensure its work force.

The article is covering a speech by Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini which is well summarised here. Among other things - and over and above the fact that Hungary was specifically singled out as having a specific problem which needs addressing - Frattini said the following:

"Countries with rapid economic growth in recent years, such as Spain and Ireland, have clearly benefited from the in-flow of skilled workers from both within and outside the EU. Across the EU all skill levels are required. The challenge is to attract the workers needed to fill specific gaps. Working together makes the EU stronger not just when dealing with problems such as illegal migration and border management, but also in seizing the opportunities which migrants embody. Common action at EU level also gives member states a stronger voice on the international stage, bearing in mind that there is competition between different countries and regions of the world for skilled migrants, especially with high qualifications."

Now I have recently been advocating increased migration as one of the ways to reduce the massive wage pressure that is building up in Latvia and the Baltic economies generally. I also have a post here on the more general underlying demographic issues in Hungary here.

The strange thing is perhaps that at the present time all of this seems to be a bit "unworldly" in the Hungarian context, since with the dramatic slowdown which is taking place Hungary is presently the only EU 10 economy where there is NOT a serious labour shortage developing (although there may, even in Hungary, be skill shortages in some specific areas). But we need to think in the longer term here, and look to an eventual economic recovery, and try to consider the specific problems Hungary will be facing given its demographic profile. So changes are needed. Changes in paperwork, changes in regulations, and above all changes in the way people see this particular problem.

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