European Business Summit, Bryssel 26 mars 2009
Tobias Billström, Migrationsminister
Tal vid European Business Summit i Bryssel, på engelska
"Economic migration: brain drain or brain gain?" Tal av Tobias Billström Tobias vid European Business Summit i Bryssel, 26 mars 2009,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to be invited to the European Business Summit to talk about this very important topic: "Economic migration, brain drain or brain gain?" Questions related to migration is indeed an engaging topic and continuously relevant.
Migration and human mobility are no new phenomena. People have always moved - both within and between countries - and human mobility has often been a source for both economic, cultural and technical development. The free movement of capital, goods, services and people across borders are the fundamental principles of the European Union and a defining feature of our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. Even if increased mobility poses significant challenges - for the countries of destination as well as for the countries of origin - the benefits that can be realised through well-managed global migration cannot be put into question. Migration is thus a positive force that we neither can, nor should, try to restrain!
For countries of destination, well-managed migration can help to prevent labour shortages and bottlenecks in the labour market, increase tax revenues, and make economies and cultures more dynamic. For countries of origin remittances and the temporary - or permanent - return of migrants can facilitate investment and the transfer of new knowledge and social capital. Even when we are in a time of global economic crisis like now, migration can play a vital role in the recovery.
It is therefore important to stick to the goal set out in the Lisbon Strategy that the EU should remain a competitive player in the global economy. However, if we are to fulfill this goal we will have to face, among other things, the problem of an ageing population. According to demographic data the working population in Europe will have shrunk by 48 million between now and 2050 while the number of people aged 65 and above will increase. The EU will change from having four to only two persons of working age for each citizen aged 65 and above. Facilitating expanded opportunities for labour migration is therefore crucial. To that end it is crucial to fulfill the objective to make the European labour market as attractive and competitive as possible.
The goal for the European Union should therefore be to develop a forward-looking, broad and comprehensive European Migration Policy that can benefit all stakeholders. Restricted mobility and protectionism is not the answer to our future challenges. Mobility and openness must continue to be embraced - even in times of economic crisis! Tendencies towards closed borders and protectionism could deepen the economic downturn and slow down the recovery.
Sweden introduced new rules for labour immigration in December 2008. We now have a system for labour immigration which is self-regulating since it is completely needs-based. There are no immigration quotas or points that must be reached by the immigrants in our system. It is the employers' need for manpower that is decisive in the determination of how many work permits to third country nationals that will be issued. As long as basic requirements such as the level of salaries and social insurances are met, and provided that the requested competence cannot be found in Sweden or the EU/EEA, there are no restrictions.
Since there are differences between the various Member States' needs for manpower, an EU migration policy must allow for some variations between the Member Stats' in their approaches to labour immigration. Nevertheless, if we are going to be able to achieve the goals set in the Lisbon Strategy that the EU should remain an open and competitive labour market, we need to create more legal ways to come to Europe for labour immigrants. In my view, a flexible and demand-driven labour immigration policy will best meet Europe,s needs. We hope that the Swedish system can serve as an inspiring example and as a role model for the EU.
However, if we are to deserve the confidence from countries outside the EU when developing a common migration policy this policy cannot focus only on our need for manpower. A successful European Migration Policy is dependent on a deepened and broadened dialogue and cooperation with third countries.
The natural tendency of many migrants to move back and forth between their countries of origin and destination must be encouraged. The policy should therefore seek to avoid obstacles to voluntary return and circular migration. In this regard, more attention should be given to strengthening the many positive aspects of migration for countries of origin, countries of destination and the migrants themselves. Increased coherence between different policy areas, such as foreign policy, development policy and migration policy, is desirable.
A common migration policy must also balance the countries of origins' interests in keeping their manpower with the individual's interest and right to move to another country to achieve his or her dreams and ambitions. The policy must therefore consist of a component that focuses on migration and development. This component should facilitate circular migration and mobility, which is in the interest of the individual, as well as capacity building in order to meet the countries of origins' interest of development.
As a conclusion, I would like to underline that well managed economic migration is definitely a question of brain gain, not brain drain. It can be an efficient development tool for countries of origin. Both through remittances and through the skills and networks that returning migrants bring back home. We have indeed a challenge ahead of us for the future, but there are also great opportunities to seize.
Thank you for your attention!