Flexmarkt column may 2022

“Circular economic migration requires appropriate regulation”

"The vast majority of foreign workers working in our country return to their countries after some time. Circular economic migration, especially from outside Europe, must be properly regulated. We should not bring in just anyone, but regulate and control the influx,” says Frank van Gool (OTTO Work Force) in his latest article for Flexmarkt.

Labour migration is entering a new phase. Labour reserves in traditional European recruiting countries are depleting – and there, too, the ageing of the population is very acute. Economic migration from outside the European Union is becoming more and more visible. However, different rules apply there. Due to legislation and regulations, this must be a regulated process in which professional qualification is carefully checked and the return to the country of origin is clearly marked. In short, the key words are regulation, functionality and circularity.

The number of people working in Europe is clearly decreasing. This applies not only to countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal but also to Germany and France. The Netherlands is in the middle at European level, with countries such as Romania and Poland experiencing the biggest drops; the latter is even leading the way in Europe. The European average old-age dependency ratio (i.e. the number of people aged 65 and over per working person) is currently 35%. In the coming years this percentage will rise to 50% in the Netherlands and to 70% in Poland; Poland is therefore no longer a recruiting country. Not surprisingly, countries outside Europe are already being considered for specific jobs, but then things will have to be organised differently and better.

Labour migration is more than just a benefit to the host society. It is time to abandon this one-sided approach and look at things from a broader perspective. Labour migration is also beneficial for international workers themselves as well as for their country of origin. So it is a win-win situation for all parties. The figures show that economic migration makes an important contribution to the economy of the country of origin: firstly, because foreign workers transfer money to their families but, above all, because they return with the knowledge and skills they have acquired: it is not a brain drain, but a gain.

It is important to organise the process in such a way that foreign workers return to the country after, for example, five years.

The great majority of foreign workers in our country return to their own country after a certain period of time, so we are already seeing circular labour migration; and this is also the objective when it comes to labour migration from outside Europe: the whole process must be circular, and it all starts with the definition of working conditions. Labour migration from outside Europe will mainly concern recruitment for specific jobs. We should not simply bring in anyone, but regulate and control the influx of workers. Legislation should be provided and the process should be organised in such a way that international workers return to their home countries after, for example, five years. This benefits us, the international workers and the country they come from.

Germany has shown with its “everyone benefits” programme that circular labour migration in the healthcare sector can be a success story. In recent years, 3,500 non-European nurses have already started working there. Extensive research has shown that their experience has been very positive. There are lessons we can learn from this experience; above all, we need to approach the process in a precisely structured manner.


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