Demographic challenges: Immigration and integration – an EU perspective

Against the background of an ageing population in the European Union there are ongoing discussions about how to tackle the future challenges resulting from demographic change. On the one hand the number of silver agers is going to increase markedly in the member countries, while on the other workforce populations will not only age, but are also going to shrink or at best remain constant. In addition, there are also likely to be major social shifts as traditional family structures are going to alter, not only due to a rising number of childless persons, but also due to higher mobility and changing lifestyles leading to an increasing number of single households. Against these scenarios, there are not only the questions of how to finance the social security systems in the future and of how to maintain a minimum of social cohesion. The question of how to compete with the emerging Asian and Latin American economies with their young and dynamic labor forces gets even more pressing, as economic growth is crucial to at least maintain the accustomed living standard.

One often proposed solution is to promote qualified immigration to compensate for shrinking workforce populations and the foreseeable shortage of skilled labor. In 2011, there were around 33.3mn immigrants living in the EU 27. Around 38% of them were in fact intra-EU migrants.[1] Due to demographic change, the share of immigrants coming from third countries outside the EU is expected to increase further. However, the competition amongst industrialized countries for qualified migrants is set to become stiffer as most of them face the same demographic challenges. Therefore, the attractiveness of EU member countries for qualified immigrants gains in importance. The latter is last but not least influenced by how successfully they cope with the integration of their immigrants into the labor market and society today.

[1] Cf. Eurostat (2012): online database, data code: migr_pop1ctz

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