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Can migration work for all in Europe?

On 9 January Bruegel together with the IMF organized a conference on migration and whether it can work for all in Europe.


Alessandra Venturini

Deputy Director Migration Policy Center, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute (EUI),

Samuel Engblom

Policy director, The Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees (TCO),

Antje Gerstein

Managing Director, Head of Brussels Office, Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA),



Session 1

Anna Ilyina kicked off the session by presenting research carried out by the IMF on the economic impact of emigration from Eastern Europe. The analysis was conducted from the sender country’s perspective and highlighted the effects operating through the outflows of labour and inflows of remittances. Ilyina noted that while the impact on public finances was limited, there is evidence that emigration hurt labour productivity and led to higher wages. Moreover, remittances’ positive effect on consumption and investment in the home country was counterbalanced by discouraging labour market participation. Overall, the conclusion was that emigration slowed per capita GDP growth in Eastern Europe to the extent that it halted convergence with the rest of Europe.

Stefano Scarpetta took the opposite view, that of the receiving country, and touched on the economic impact for all Europe. Scarpetta pointed to the high contribution of migration to the increase in the labour supply – 70% of the total in Europe. Nevertheless, he added that large gaps in unemployment rates and employment participation exist between the native and foreign-born population in Europe, in contrast to other OECD countries like the US. He, thus, concluded that the key challenges for Europe is to make better use of migrants’ skills, improve the educational performance of migrant children and restore public confidence on migration issues.

Alessandra Venturini closed the first session with a presentation focusing integration process. However, Venturini first outlined the demographic factors that contribute to the demand for migration in Europe. She remarked that the integration process begins too late and often only triggered by failure, whereas she favoured an approach of immediate intervention and life-long monitoring. Venturini also highlighted the role of linguistic ability of migrants and ties with the country of origin as key factors determining the success of integration. On the refugee crisis, her comment was that more solidarity is needed, not only within Europe but especially with the involvement of other countries, such as Russia and China. Venturini concluded stating that communication of research on migration has to address the anxieties of public opinion.

Session 2

The second session started with the keynote speech by David Lipton. Over his speech, he highlighted some empirical results related to migration flows over the last few years. In general, there has been a positive impact from migration flows for the economies of the receiving countries (e.g. in terms of GDP and labour productivity) and these benefits have been shared across all income groups.

The session proceeded with the intervention of Michal Boni, who highlighted the importance of explaining the reasons and the benefits underlying the migration movements as a key to contrast recent populist views. Talking about Poland, he reported how many skilled people left the country over the last few years to reach the Western economies. This might determine a demographic crisis over the long-term that can be mitigated only by immigrant inflows and consequent appropriate national and European migration policies.

The intervention by Samuel Engblom followed. He underlined the importance of national and European policies to facilitate the integration into the national labour markets of low and high-skilled foreign workers. Elements as the language cannot represent a barrier to integration. Moreover, equal conditions (e.g. in terms of salary) and the respect of the fundamental human rights have to be ensured for refugees and foreign workers.

Antje Gerstein remarked the economic positive effects coming from migration flows, again in terms of GDP and productivity. Moreover, she underlined as foreign workers are paying more taxes than the social benefits they are receiving. Another important point she made was about the necessity of professionally qualifying migrants in order to better integrate them into the national societies (e.g. language courses). The final remark was about a European solution to fight populist movements.

The latest intervention was by Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna. He made the example of Italy as a country that actually needs migrants to contrast its demographic crisis and the fall of the working age population. He also underlined the importance of national and European policies in order to let migration flows become a key factor of countries´ development and growth.

AUDIO & Video recording


Presentation by Stefano Scarpetta