Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Potential impact of migrants on Europe

By Holger Schmieding (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-17 07:45

This could lead to a small increase in consumption growth in the coming years and to even marginally firmer real estate markets in the metropolitan areas that the migrants are mostly striving for. This, in turn, will possibly accentuate the divide a little between metropolitan and less favored rural areas in real estate markets over time.

The vast majority of migrants seem eager to work despite occasional evidence that some originating from within, rather than outside Europe, may also be drawn by welfare benefits.

If recipient countries integrate the migrants reasonably well, migration could be a boost to aggregate supply: firmer growth trend for a while.

The faster the EU member countries can process the claims of migrants and the earlier they are allowed to work, the better. Even fiscal hawks should consider that to be money well spent.

To realize this supply potential, recipient countries need to keep their labor markets flexible and upgrade their education system, with a focus on basic education such as language skills.

If Germany gets this right, it may just be solving part of its demographic problem for the next decade. Migrants who take huge risks to get where they want to often tend to be more entrepreneurial. That may also help keep an aging economy vibrant. However, if Germany and countries with significant immigration get their policy response wrong, they may end up creating problematic areas with disaffected second-generation immigrants some 20 to 30 years from now.

The domestic policy response, notably labor market and education policies, matters more than any decision on an initial distribution of migrants. The worst policy would be to tighten employment laws in countries that are currently a draw for immigrants due to their recent labor market dynamics.

If Britain and Germany make it more difficult to create jobs, they could store up social trouble for the future. For example, raising minimum wages, tightening rules for temporary work contracts and erecting other barriers to entry into the labor market would not seem to be the right policies amid a rise in immigration.

The author is chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London.

The Globalist

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