Last Thursday, the European Union’s interior ministers agreed on the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum.
Until recently, immigration policies in the majority of EU countries have tended to be “skill blind”, and large inflows of immigrants have been admitted for humanitarian reasons. Now, the trend of re-directing migration policy towards economic (largely skilled) immigration, initiated by Australia, New Zealand and Canada, is being followed by the UK and other EU countries.
The objective is to make the EU more attractive to highly qualified workers and further facilitate the reception of students and researchers and their movement within the EU.
There is no agreement yet on the definition of “skilled workers” and there is no agreed upon list of occupations either. The Pact proposes that a migrant skilled worker have five years experience or recognized qualifications It is also proposing that foreign engineers or scientists applying for jobs in the EU have earned at least 1.5 times the average salary in their host country in order to be defined as “skilled workers” while doctors and professors should earn at least 1.2 times the average salary.
It would be interesting to know how the “average salary” would be estimated. In the case of US H1B Visas, migrants are required to earn only the prevailing wage of the occupation in which they will work. Since 2004, Congress requires the US Department of Labor to provide four skill-based prevailing wage levels for employers to use. Employers using this system classify most workers at the lowest skill level.
Naturally these measures raise a number of questions: Will they allow EU member states to compete for skilled workers? How will they facilitate the opening of the labor markets in Europe? How will an individual’s credentials from non-EU country be assessed?