ECONOMY

Immigrants make better use of employment opportunities

Immigration has not had the same impact on European Union member states, as regards both their demographic situation and labor markets, a study by the trade union-sponsored Labor Institute (INE) shows. According to the study, prepared by researchers Christos Bagavos and Dimitra Papadopoulou, immigrant populations into the EU are generally young in age, have a higher birth rate than native people and have contributed to slowing down the aging of European populations. In Greece and Italy the demographic impact has been stronger, contributing to a rise in the total population. According to official data, of the 704,180 people that Greece’s population increased by between 1991 and 2000, 682,563 were immigrants. According to the researchers, however, the presence of immigrants is not sufficient for the renewal of the EU as a whole, as they represent only 3.5 percent of the total. The different economic and social conditions in the member states affect immigrants’ employment prospects: In Greece, unemployment among immigrants aged 15-49 is lower than among the native population of the same ages, in Italy and Spain it is about equal and in the other member states it is between two and five times that of the native population. In the 15-24 age group, immigrant unemployment is 22.3 percent and 30.3 percent among Greeks. In the 25-49 bracket, the respective rates are 10.7 and 11 percent. The study, however, confirms what is more or less common knowledge, that immigrants are more at risk of being laid off than Greeks. In the three Mediterranean EU members, Greece, Italy and Spain, the presence of immigrants in the workforce – the part of the population at work or seeking work – is markedly stronger in proportion to that of native citizens. Depending on the age group, the rates of immigrant participation in the workforce in these three countries are between 15-percent and 27-percent higher, both among men and women. In Greece, this rate is 78.6 percent, against 62.1 percent for Greeks, in Italy the respective rates are 68.2 percent and 59.6 percent and in Spain 73.3 percent and 62.1 percent. At a two-day conference on European immigration policy that ended in Athens yesterday, the chairman of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), Christos Polyzogopoulos, said the EU must now start considering factors such as the effect of its forthcoming enlargement, the flow of migration from Eastern Europe, the need for the reunion of immigrants with their families and the distinction between economic migrants and political refugees, for which a special support fund must be set up. He also called for stronger measures toward the economic and social integration of immigrants, for the reorganization of educational institutions to meet linguistic and religious diversity and the promotion of economic cooperation with the countries of origin, aiming at the gradual elimination of the conditions that favor migration. GSEE yesterday unveiled an action plan in view of the scheduled meeting of the executive committee of the European Trade Union Confederation in Athens on March 6 and 7, including initiatives to promote social security reform and the promotion of relations with the Social Forum which organizes protests during EU summits.