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The European Blue Card: Towards a cognitive colonialism?

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There are many political players who have insisted that economic recovery will be green and digital. The situation of international instability, triggered by the invasion of Ukraine, has helped strengthen this bet. However, it would not only entail great technical challenges, but also in its human dimension. The energy transition and digitization will require even more highly qualified workers, the same ones that are scarce today.

Under these circumstances, who would not wish for qualified immigration in their country? The always divided positions of the European groups on the migration issue seem to converge In this regard. This consensus was reflected in the blue card policy revision process, the process of which ended on October 7, 2021.

Designed in 2009 to attract highly skilled workers from non-EU countries, had proved ineffective. With the new policy it aims to make the European Union (EU) more attractive overall and to overcome some of the limitations of the previous text. It is clear that the EU cannot solve the labor shortages they face in the short term these sectors without resorting to demographically prosperous areas.

Source: Center for Global Development.

However, the general consensus among political forces on the need to attract more skilled immigrants contrasts sharply with the border control policy from the EU. In the field of labor migration itself is the lack of reforms for the Seasonal Worker Policy, aimed at less skilled sectors. This despite significant shortcomings. For a long time. EU policy has established a double standard with extractivist overtones. This practice, which characterized 19th-century European colonialism, in which industrialized centers drew labor and raw materials à la carte from conquered territories, has mutated into more subtle forms.

On the one hand, strict work permit management is imposed on medium- and low-skilled migrants who recruit in their countries of origin and only for a limited period of time. This system leaves many migrants in the hands of their employers sometimes forced to accept wretched housing conditions and salaries lower than those offered to local workers. This type of exploitation is well known in agriculture, which is characterized by seasonal work.

On the other hand, it aims to attract the largest possible number of highly qualified profiles from non-EU countries by offering them exceptional conditions and advantages compared to the previous category of workers. The interests of the European Union are given priority and the needs of the countries of origin are disregarded. Recording is often in Regions that cannot afford it do without such professionals.

Source: Usman et al.  (2022).  Note: Percentage calculated based on the total number of highly skilled workers in each region.
Source: Usman et al. (2022). Note: Percentage calculated based on the total number of highly skilled workers in each region.

The text of the new Blue Card Directive recognizes the importance of reconciling the economic objectives of Member States that are demanding skilled workers and those from which they are migrating. However, the EU’s efforts to prevent the brain drain from the countries that need it most do not seem to be taking hold as quickly as in the area of ​​border security. Perhaps the most promising bet is a series of pilot projects involving the EU, in the so-called Global competence partnership.

Conducted under bilateral agreements between a Member State and a non-EU country, these training programs aim to train people in the country of origin and accompany those who wish to migrate to the EU, for example. Thanks to this agreement, the two countries achieve their goals. The recipient ensures that the migration they receive meets the needs of their labor market, and the country of origin receives technology and funding to carry out the training. These are aimed both at workers who intend to migrate and at those who would rather stay in the country and improve their salary prospects.

With this approach, the European economy fails to benefit from the efforts of impoverished countries and diverts workers that have been trained with difficulty and with scarce resources. Through these programs, the destination country commits to increasing the total number of qualified profiles, thereby rebalancing.

The obsession with security monopolizes all efforts. Projects to create new avenues for legal migration are only marginally developed

As promising as this initiative is, it is far from up to the challenge. Nowadays There are only two projects involving European countries. Meanwhile, the blue card policy was relaunched without including sufficient safeguards to prevent brain drain. The obsession with security monopolizes all efforts. Projects are being developed to create new avenues of legal migration only at the edge.

The European Union needs to change its approach. Playfully build sandcastles around its edges to see if they can withstand the tide. Migration is an unstoppable phenomenon and arises from one of the feelings we need most in a world facing enormous challenges: hope. In any case, work can be done to stabilize the rhythms with which shifts occur. The problem is not immigration, but the economic, political and ecological crises that are deteriorating people’s living conditions. Attracting talent from countries least able to do without it will only worsen their situation and make them more vulnerable to the challenges they are already facing.

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Source elpais.com

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