Analysis: Bruegel on high-skilled immigration

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Jakob von Weizsäcker (from the economic think tank Bruegel) analyzes European immigration patterns from a skills’ level perspective, and introduces policy proposals for the EU to open up to highly qualified migrants.

Immigration policies often resurface on the EU policy agenda, especially in relation to internal market, security or integration debates. According to J.von Weizsäcker, the debate would be more beneficial if framed in terms of skills’ levels.

As a matter of fact, “many more people would like to migrate to the EU than the EU is ready to absorb,” he argues. Therefore, the EU has to answer the sensitive question of who should be allowed to enter its territory and who should not. Praising the generally positive economic effect of high-skilled immigration, the researcher warns against the temptation to use economic and political complexity of low-skilled migration as “an excuse for procrastination.” 

The EU’s low capacity of attraction onto foreign graduates and high-skilled migrants contrasts sharply with the performance of the Australian, Canadian and Switz “points-based” immigration systems. 

To bridge this gap, J. von Weizsäcker recommends:

  • To adopt a points-based “Blue Card” or “Blue Diploma” -e.g. a European version of the US Green Card aimed at attracting top talents from all over the world;
  • To immediately welcome higher-skilled workers in future rounds of EU enlargement, as long as they reach a certain salary threshold called “External Minimum Wage.” 

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