On the 3rd Congress of Local and Regional Governments took place a series of panels on questions of integration and migration in cooperation with the Italian UNCEM Piemonte „ACCESS Project”.
One of the panels dealt with the question of the influence of migration on the labor market. There is a widespread public perception that the presence of minority groups in European labour markets causes the rise of unemployment. On the other hand they are affected by malfunctioning systems of social insurance and social policy pursued by the governments. Does the political discourse in terms of the refugee crisis mask fundamental defects in the functioning of the European labor market system? Can immigration be a salvation for aging European societies? What will be the impact of the crisis on labor migration within and between EU Member States as well as on the access to the labour markets for the non-Schengen European citizens? These and other questions were to be raised during the discussion.
Before the panelists entered the debate, Lech Wikaryjczyk, Marketing Manager of Learnetic, presented the related topic of new forms of education free-of-charge and their influence on the qualification of the work-force. The presentation “Which aspects of education should be free?” touched issues like e-learning and the need to invest in new media to improve professional education.
Andrzej Brzeziecki, Editor-in-Chief of the magazine New Eastern Europe, moderated the following panel discussion with participants from Poland, Georgia, Slovenia, Russia and Austria.
Paweł Kulaga, CEO of Greygoose Outsourcing Ltd. explained that without the work force from Ukraine, the Polish labor market would face serious problems. Before the Russian aggression, Russia was the most popular destination for Ukrainian emigrants. Today, Poland has become more attractive for Ukrainians and more and more specialists are among the Ukrainian immigrants. Mr. Kulaga presented the hypothesis that the Polish labor market is an employee’s market, i.e. demography enhances the bargaining power of the employees.
Ia Makasarashvili, Member of the Tbilisi City Municipal Assembly, presented the point of view of Georgia, a country having to deal with the loss of population through economic migration. Still, she welcomed the agreement with the EU on visa-free travel, which came into force the same day. Time will show, whether this will lead to a higher rate of Georgian immigration to the European Union.
The HR Expert Tjasa Polc from the Regional Development Agency Zasavje in Slovenia focused on positive aspects of immigration. She emphasized that Slovenia is dealing with a immigration wave not for the first time and that the country already took in many refugees from Bosnia. To make immigration a success cooperation between NGOs, the public and the economic sector are necessary. “Maybe the migration crisis is something like a mirror, showing us problems, which already existed more precisely”, Mrs. Polc concluded.
Valentina Vedeneeva from the Institute for World Economy and International Relations from Moscow depicted the genesis of integration problems in today’s Russia. In the 90’s, due to lack of perspectives and military conflicts, many citizens of former Soviet Republics immigrated to Russia, to a large part illegally. This is, why today it is hard to estimate the number of immigrants. Since there were no integration concepts, most worked low-skilled positions, even if they had a higher education. Also in Russia a debate takes place, whether immigration is necessary or not.
The director of the Austrian Integration Fund, Franz Wolf, opened his statement with the remark that today, Austrian society consists to a large degree of immigrants. 50 years ago, only 1% of the population had a foreign background, today 20% of Austrians come from abroad themselves or have parents who immigrated to the country. In Vienna the number amounts to 50% of the city’s population. Mr. Wolf appreciates this new openness, but sees also a field of tension. There is the need for more qualified workers, but Austria wants to avoid immigration into the welfare systems. This is, why the social benefits for children of immigrants, who do not live in Austria, and the flow of refugees is being reduced. It is hard to achieve these goals due to European and international agreements.