26.09.2019 Author: Valery Kulikov

Europe and the Future of Migration


Just recently, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) announced that the global migration flow reached 272 million people this year, which constitutes an increase of 51 million from last year’s numbers. Migrants now make 3.5% of the total world population.

Unlike refugees, migrants do not venture into the world out of fear of physical persecution or death, instead they’re trying to improve their living conditions, find a better job somewhere else or get better educated.

But migration is just one of the factors that are going to shape the way our world is going to look tomorrow, as sociologists argue that there’s yet another equally powerful demographic phenomena that is going to determine the future of most developed countries – that is population ageing. We live in an era of global migration, where some 60 million are on the move every day, as several hundred million people are involved in the process of voluntary or semi-voluntary migration.

Analysts from the Pew Research Center are convinced that all of G7 countries, namely Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, have been experiencing side effects of their respective populations getting older and older since at least mid-1950s, triggered by declining birth rates. According to the UN, falling fertility rates coupled with aging global population represents a major challenge to most national economies. Older populations can cause labor shortages – as we can witness in Japan, where elderly people have become a burden for the national economy, and this is exactly the problem Italy is facing these days.

In some countries — especially Italy, Germany, and Austria — the indigenous population has been declining for decades. Fertility rates have dropped so low that the number of people born in the next generation doesn’t exceed two thirds shown by the previous one. Italy has hit a historic low in fertility rates together with a number of other European countries, and it is now about to face what is usually being referred to as the “demographic time bomb.”

For a brief moment it time this decline remained unnoticed as there were a lot of people still seeking employment, but as an ever increasing number of native Europeans starts reaching retirement age and dying, migrants from non-European countries, especially from the Middle East and North Africa, would rush to replace them, to take their place across the Old World.

Last year, the population of the EU countries did only increase due to migration, as there’s been no uptick in birth rates across the EU, notes Eurostat. According to its reports, last year mortality rates in European countries wouldn’t exceed birth rates, as 5.3 million people died in the course of the year, while no more than 5 million people opened their eyes for the first time.

This resulted in the majority of European states reluctantly accepting the fact that they need cheap migrant labor to maintain sustainable economic growth. This means that global migration as a trend has its pros and cons, winners and losers, and it’s nearly impossible to look at the problem from the position of an impartial observer for most people.

According to Eurostat, over the last 30 years one fifth of all Romanians, 12% of Poles, 7% of Bulgarians and a very significant part of the population of the Baltic states fled their home to seek better employment opportunities in other European countries. These waves of migration represent a significant demographic transformation, which triggers fundamental changes that may threaten the stability of the European Union. At first, this trend was observed in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but when it took a completely different scale in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, nobody knew what the right answer was supposed to be.

Therefore, Europeans are now trying to find an answer to the most important and pressing question concerning their future – do they have one? The overpopulation emerging in recent decades as a result of the massive migrants flows from the Middle East on its own can trigger a political collapse of the EU.

Unlike the previous large-scale migration waves that emerged throughout the twentieth century, today it’s the young and educated who decide to take a chance, but then their departure strikes a massive blow to the economic capabilities of the country they choose to desert. This trend constitutes a tremendous transfer of national intellectual wealth.

It’s appropriate to ask which country attracts more migrants these days? What are the top ten countries for migrants to seek employment? We can find an answer in the study conducted by Globehunters, that took into considerations such concerns as the cost of life, quality of life, unemployment levels and private security. The list looks like this: in 10th place – Norway, in 9th – the Netherlands, in 8th – Australia, in 7th – the US, in 6th place – Sweden, in 5th – Germany, in 4th – New Zealand, 3rd – Canada, 2nd – Austria, with the 1st place belonging to Iceland.

In terms of the number of migrants dwelling in different countries of the world, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs put the United States in first place, with 51 million foreigners seeking accommodation and employment there. The second and third places on this list are occupied by Germany and Saudi Arabia, which host 19 million migrants each. Russia is in fourth place with 12 million migrants. The fifth place is occupied by Great Britain, where some 10 million foreigners go to sleep each day. In Canada, France and Australia there’s no more than eight million migrants each, while Italy has as little as six million migrants.

Many states have developed rather stringent migration policies in a bid to put a limit to the number of refugees and ordinary migrants trying to cross their national borders, both legally and illegally. It’s noteworthy that the sitting German Minister of the Interior, Building and Community, Horst Seehofer is credited with saying that migration is the root of all problems.

The ongoing migration crisis in the EU hasn’t been resolved. Refugees from countries where average incomes are ten times lower than the benefits one can enjoy in Europe work-free, understandably enough are reluctant to leave. Of course, the would be no refugees in Europe in the first place, if it did not choose to get involved in the armed conflicts across the Middle East.

Now the EU is simply unsafe for regular citizens due to the ever growing number of incidents related to refugees breaking law or committing acts of violence. In most states people’s dissatisfaction with the constant presence of refugees and migrants keeps mounting. Somewhere it’s better, somewhere it’s far worse but the EU has no clue about how it should approach this problem. Indeed, if you stop providing benefits for those seeking shelter, you may face a colossal rebellion, since there’s nearly as many foreigners living in Germany as regular workers who pay taxes regularly.

Valery Kulikov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine ‘New Eastern Outlook’