Europe competing for skilled migrants

BRUSSELS: The European Union is in a “global race” with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to scoop up skilled migrants, the European Commission acknowledged on Wednesday.

“Europe is engaged in a global race for talent, the same way that we are fighting a global race for raw materials, for energy,” Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said.

He listed the four rivals as the European Commission presented new initiatives designed to make the EU more attractive to outside professionals and to enhance mobility for them within the bloc.

A key initiative was an “EU talent pool” which would aim to match up migrant jobseekers with employers.

Others sought to promote recognition of degrees and other qualifications — one of the main obstacles for non-European professionals, such as architects and doctors.

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The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are “very powerful competitors who have straightforward avenues for third country nationals” to immigrate and take up skilled professions, enriching their economies, Schinas noted.

He presented the initiatives as the flip side of the EU’s policy of discouraging irregular migration by economic migrants, a complement to legal pathways for immigration Brussels is pushing for as it strives to rework its asylum rules.

The commission’s new initiatives, however, were circumscribed by the fact that individual EU countries are responsible for the vetting and delivery of most of the working visas given to migrants.

Another commissioner, Ylva Johansson, emphasized that, while 2022 saw 330,000 irregular arrivals in the EU, “at the same time, we have 3.5 million legal immigration decisions, 10 times more.”

She underlined the fact that rapidly aging Europe needed migration to fill out its graying workforce.

“We are going to need by 2030 seven more million people in the workforce just because of demography,” she said, pointing to labor shortages already in the construction and health care sectors.

Johansson also said the EU Talent Pool was not aimed at just top-tier professional migrants but “low, medium and high skilled workers.”