Monday, 30 December 2013 - 04:34
Risk for low-skilled not from the east, but from the Netherlands
Romanians and Bulgarians will gain free access to the English and Dutch labor market on January 1, 2014. Fearing disruption, Lodewijk Asscher recently introduced a participation certificate. That does not solve the problem: competition at the lower end of the labor market.Last summer Minister of Social Affairs, Lodewijk Asscher, and the English writer, David Goodhart, pointed to the negative impact of free movement of workers within the European Union (EU), in a letter to the editor of de Volkskrant and the British newspaper The Independent. Skilled citizens in the Netherlands and other richer EU countries often lose out to immigrants from Eastern Europe on the labor market. Such displacement is thought to have a disruptive effect on society. For that reason Asscher and Goodhart argued for a migration regime that will benefit both the migrant and unskilled Dutchman. Vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher - wikipedia The idea of Asscher and Goodhart did not receive much support. Asscher now came up with a participation contract. Starting next year, immigrants in sixteen municipalities will be presented with a statement if they wish to register themselves. In the statement, the rights and responsibilities of migrants are described as well as the 'Dutch' norms and values . The idea is that the "participation certificate" will help prevent exploitation and promote the integration of Central and Eastern European workers . Officially, the Netherlands counts around 120,000 Central and Eastern Europeans. However, Utrecht researchers estimate their actual number to be around 340,000. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Central and Eastern Europeans, consisting of workers, students, and spouses, results from the fundamental right of every EU citizen to move elsewhere in the European Union. The question is how many more migrants to expect once the European labor market is also opened to Romanians and Bulgarians on January 1, 2014. Will the Netherlands be flooded by men and women from the East after January 1, 2014? Although more Romanians and Bulgarians are expected to join in the Dutch labor market, the market will not be flooded. Bulgaria's population exists of more than 7 million people, and many of them are too young or too old to work abroad. In addition, Bulgarians and Romanians prefer to work in southern European countries. This does not make minister Asscher's fear unfounded. Freedom of movement is not the real problem, unfair competition is. The free movement of labor within the EU is not the real problem. Central and Eastern Europeans move to the Netherlands and other Western European countries, but the Dutch can also move to other European countries. The crucial issue is the rather unfair competition on the labor market so that the Dutch low-skilled worker has no chance against the underpaid migrant workers . The blame for this lies not with the workers themselves , but with employers , employment agencies and clients. And also partly with the government, because they fail to ensure the rules are properly observed. The Netherlands will have a great need for trained personnel in the coming years, due to the aging population. Central and Eastern European migrant workers could meet that need. They are in fact different from the former guest workers from the Mediterranean countries, reasonably well educated and able to meet the future demand for engineers, skilled technicians, and nurses. And to work their Dutch counterparts don't always want to get out of bed for.