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New European Commission immigration plan likely to make EU more attractive for Indians

The proposals, it is felt, will support European businesses in attracting qualified and talented people from around the world.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 08, 2016, 04.34 PM IST
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The European Commission’s action plan to support member states in the integration of third-country nationals and their economic and social contribution along with a legal proposal to reform the rules on highly skilled migrants going to the EU to work were presented to the European Union on Tuesday. The proposals, it is felt, will support European businesses in attracting qualified and talented people from around the world. These initiatives follow up on the commitment of EC President Jean-Claude Juncker's political guidelines, which set legal migration as a priority.

At the core of the proposed reforms is the idea that the EU is a single labour market from many points of view, yet it isn’t perceived as such by potential immigrants. The EU hasn’t, so far, acted as a single labour market in its relations with third countries regarding labour migration.

"If we want to manage migration in the long-term, we have to start making those investments now, in the interest of us all. The early and effective integration of third-country nationals is key to making migration a benefit for the economy and cohesion of our society. At the same time, we have to better equip our systems to deal with labour market and skills shortages in the future. The revised EU Blue Card scheme will make it easier and more attractive for highly skilled third-country nationals to come and work in the EU and strengthen our economic growth," Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner for migration, home affairs, and citizenship, at EC said.

If the plan is adopted, the EU blue card scheme which was adopted by member states in 2009, will be revised and improved. Among some of the reforms that have been recommended are the blue card salary threshold being lowered and countries being able to reduce the requirements for notarised, recognised and authenticated degrees. So far, the blue card has competed with other permits in the same countries, as well as with permits in other countries.

The action plan which addresses the key issue of why is the EU getting such a small share of global talent, is likely to benefit highly skilled Indian professionals in a big way. "Except the UK, the rest of EU doesn’t even attract as many skilled migrants as Australia and Canada, which are almost 20 times less populous. The EU is a single labour market from many points of view, yet it isn’t perceived as such by potential immigrants. The EU hasn’t acted as a single labour market in its relations with third countries regarding labour migration,” Jonathan Chaloff, policy analyst at the international migration division of OECD and the main author of the report, told ET.

He added that some of the changes, if implemented, would make EU a more attractive destination for highly skilled Indian professionals. "First of all, Indians would start to look more at the EU as a destination, rather than individual EU countries. Right now, the EU has just over 21% of the highly-educated Indian-born people living in OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which has 34 members including US, EU, Canada and Australia] countries. The USA has 57%. The process is still country-to-country, and a work permit in the EU has always meant work authorisation only in the country which issued it. That will change in the future,” he added.

Even for international students from India, the changes are likely to make EU a more attractive destination. "It will become easier to stay after completing studies. The recent students and researchers directive gives at least 9 months to look for a job while the blue card will have a lower salary threshold for young people,” Chaloff said.

He added that while language continues to remain a barrier for Indians, the EU actually has a huge competitive advantage since it is multilingual, and there is a vast population of Spanish, French and Portuguese speakers outside of the EU. "University tuition is much lower in most EU countries than it is in Australia, Canada and the United States, and each country has its own specialities at university; some have very low living expenses. Another advantage is the lack of a waiting list: the only EU country with a firm ceiling on high-skilled labour migration is the United Kingdom: in every other country, if you find a qualifying job, you will not only get a blue card, but you’ll be on a path to permanent residence, and your family can join you and work without restrictions. Compare that with an H-1B visa and the 12-year waiting list for Indians to get a Green Card in the USA,” Chaloff added.

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