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‚Getting Asylum Seekers into Employment‘? – Ein Allheilmittel für die Europäische Einwanderungspolitik?

Tausch, Arno (2012): ‚Getting Asylum Seekers into Employment‘? – Ein Allheilmittel für die Europäische Einwanderungspolitik?

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The cross-national empirics of the international asylum system are in their infancy. While Hatton, 2009, and Neumayer, 2005, 2006a and 2006b provided important and valuable cross-national insights on the drivers of the asylum seeking process, as yet little is known in terms of hard-core evidence about the effects of asylum-driven migration processes on the recipient countries. But such analyses are necessary, since asylum plays such an important role in the overall South-North migration process, and several international decision makers, especially on the European level, are increasingly stressing the necessity to get asylum seekers into employment, while others – like the Austrian Ministry of the Interior in its long-term strategy, published in 2012 – vehemently argue in favour of a clear separation between legal, employment-related migration and asylum. Will ‘getting asylum seekers into employment’ have any effects on social and economic development, or will it motivate more and more people to emigrate for work as “free riders” of the asylum system?

This paper should preliminarily attempt to close this widening and politically highly relevant research gap. The EU's total population was 502.5 million, with a yearly increase of 0.5 million due to natural population increase and 0.9 million due to net migration. While the European Union accepts about 2.4 million immigrants per year from third countries, among them more than 800.000 people in the framework of work visas, and more than 750.000 people under the title of family reunifications, 260.000 to 300.000 people apply for asylum each year.

All official European Commission data, surveyed in this article, seem to suggest that asylum and illegal migration are part and parcel of the overall migration process. While on average ¾ of the asylum applications in Europe are being rejected by the authorities as unfounded, there was a stock of up to 4.5 million illegal residents already residing in the entire EU-27; and in addition, we can assume that around 450.000 illegal entrants are apprehended each year at the EU external borders. The illegal inflow and shadow economy migration statistics also have to take into account the around 340.000 persons, denied entry each year, suggesting that the overall shadow migration pressure, resulting from unfounded asylum and illegal or rejected entries amounts to more than 1 million people each year, by far exceeding the 800.000 work visas granted annually. Thus there is an urgent political need to act.

The somewhat surprising, but undisputable net end result of all these European immigration procedures (work visas, family re-unifications, and other migration) up to now was a sharp and clear-cut rise in the total stock of the resident population in Europe from only three countries: Turkey (approx. 2.4 million), Morocco (approx. 1.8 million) and Albania (approx. 1 million). They are the absolute winners of the hitherto existing de-facto European migration ‘policy’. The combined size of illegal border crossings, denied entry applications, and rejected asylum applications of more than 1.0 million persons seems to suggest that indeed there exists a huge migration-related shadow economy (Graphs 1-3).

Our ensuing data analysis is based on the tradition of cross-national development accounting, using an expanded version of the Tausch, 2012b data set (“Corvinus University data set”) and UNDP, 2009 and UNHCR, 2012 figures on migration.

We start these empirical cross-national analyses by providing some calculations about the societal effects of the well-known Migration Policy Index, which measures the general institutional ease with which migration recipient countries integrate migrants economically in general.

Our calculations reconfirm the reservations by the present author (Tausch, 2010, 2012) against the generalized neo-liberal thesis that a free migration process automatically ensures economic prosperity. With the level of development and the overall conditions of the migration process being constant, there are some very serious and significant negative partial correlations of the MIPEX Index with indicators of political participation and the fight against discrimination. Our data also show the significant pull-factors, caused by an open migration regime, as measured by the MIPEX Index, as well as the societal consequences of a high MIPEX Index score - growing xenophobia against the weakest groups in society - such as the Roma and Sintis, an ensuing growing public debt burden, and lower economic growth. One might still argue that, on ethical grounds, one should be still in favour of increasing MIPEX index performance, but in terms of its societal consequences, our results suggest to be pessimistic.

We then move on to analyse systematically the effects of the UNDP cross-national migration variables on socio-economic development and vice versa. Our hypothesis is that opening the gates of unlimited access of asylum seekers to the labour market an even more substantial number of people would decide to enter the labour markets in the developed countries in Europe via the asylum procedure, thus thwarting any attempts to arrive at a more education and skill oriented immigration system. We try to corroborate this by first looking into the question of the relationship between access liberalization, measured by the MIPEX Index, and the UNDP documented asylum burden rate (Graph 1 and 2). Although the relationship is not too strong, there are some positive trade-offs between the two variables. In Table 3 of this study, we then provide a very clear-cut argument on how a migration policy, based on asylum influx, is ill-conceived, and several important phenomena are significantly being undermined - internal security, the balance of tolerance in society, gender relations, education, and environmental conditions. Our partial correlation analysis shows that with increasing dependence on the immigration system based on the influx of asylum seekers, there is a significantly larger societal acceptance of the value orientation that men have precedence on the labour market over women when jobs are scarce; and in addition, the import of polluting goods and raw materials; maternal mortality, terrorist attacks, and the violations of civil rights and political rights increase, independent from the development level reached and the general conditions of the migration process being in place.

The near bankruptcy of the current de facto existing European asylum-based migration policy is also reflected in Table 4 of this study – documenting the partial correlations of asylum seekers per head of population with processes of socio-economic development. Again, the level of development and general overall conditions of the migration process were held constant. Crime rates, macho values, and the terrorist threat increase significantly, while fiscal freedom, growth prospects in the current crisis and the employment of older workers are being curtailed, and important areas of environmental policy, measured by the Yale-Columbia environment policy data series, are again being negatively affected. In addition, also the World Values Survey data on the work ethics of society are negatively being affected by an asylum-based migration system.

Table 5 then documents the positive effects of work permit requirements for asylum seekers, still in place in several European countries and documented by the European Commission/Europäische Kommission (2012), on various socio-economic indicators from the Tausch 2012b Corvinus data set, including environment data, economic growth, education, and World Values Survey indicators of tolerance and volunteer activities. Social security, growth, environmental policy, education, health, liberal values in society - all these are positively affected by a work permit regime for asylum seekers in Europe, which the European Commission seems to be inclined to abolish.

Table 6 shows the sobering results of the determinants of average economic growth rates in the EU-27 in the era of the current world economic crisis, 2008 to 2011. The crisis hit the poorer EU countries - ceteris paribus - far harder than the richer countries, and immigration rates are a significant negative determinant of growth, while the work permits regime for asylum seekers significantly and positively affects economic growth.

Table 7 shows our final estimates of the determinants of asylum burden rates in the world system. In addition to the famous "bell-curve" of the levels of development, private health expenditures and the military personnel rates are significant drivers of asylum burden rates, while we also show that dependency from the large transnational corporations (measured by UNCTAD data on MNC penetration and its rise over time) are conducive to such higher asylum burden rates. Thus, we can show that traditional quantitative approaches to international development, initiated by the Swiss sociologist Volker Bornschier, which are based on UNCTAD data on MNC penetration and its rise over time, explain well contemporary social asylum process realities of the world today.

By contrast, an employment policy favouring the employment rates of older workers generally deters higher asylum dependency ratios.

In Tables 8a and 8b, we finally show bivariate and partial correlations of asylum procedure global recognition rates, as documented by the UNHCR for 2010, and key variables of socio-economic development, as documented in Tausch, 2012a, 2012b. Our results again would caution against an asylum-based or asylum-driven immigration policy.

We conclude by saying that the European Commission would be well advised to seek to redistribute current asylum inflows from countries like Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden, and Austria to other EU-member countries, thus providing more fairness in the current Schengen system. Doubling or even tripling the European numbers of legal work permits would also be an advisable strategy, and Europe should seriously consider the new Austrian migration procedure for third-country nationals (Red-White-Red-card) as a best practice model.

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