Wednesday, October 14, 2009

EU Needs To Allow Worker Relocation

In light of high unemployment rates, many politicians in Europe continue to fear that workers from low-income nations within the expanded European Union could come to steal the few menial jobs now still held precariously by locals. Immigrants may take advantage of generous health care, unemployment or welfare systems. And they’ll never go home once they discover the burial benefits.

Europe is different from the United States, but some post World War II U.S. experience can offer insights: Year after year, U.S. movers to a different state almost reach 3 percent of the population. That is the equivalent of the entire U.S. population transiting to a new home state in little more than one generation. 

All this mobility has maintained a sense of adventure in America. It has retained a spirit of flexibility and exploration. If there are no new jobs in Illinois but lots of new opportunities in Arizona, then that’s where people go. There has been the creation of entirely new regional industry and service clusters, the absorption of many immigrants into the economy and relatively low long term unemployment. There remains strong local pride of place yet there is little xenophobic fear from out of state migrants. 

What does all this mean for the new Europe? Even large increases in mobility would only represent a small population flow (which is now less than one half of one percent). Europe needs new approaches and perspectives. People deserve to explore new options. New moves may well become an action signal for the European economy and way of thinking. This is a key opportunity to enrich the quality of life of regions and individuals. Opening up to others should bring the reward of growing flexibility, better understanding, and rising tolerance levels. Mobility has brought the power of improvisation and adjustment to the United States. Today’s world needs a Europe of courage, innovation and a willingness to take risks, with citizens that want all members to be part of rather than apart from them.


  1. Remember that the States has been builded mainly by emigrants out of Europe. That means in argumentum e contrario that all the non-movers stayed at home. So basically you are suggesting to all the non-movers - who did'nt do bad in the past - to move, what for?

  2. Well yes, they were once non-movers but people learn over time to adjust to the changing environment (we hope). So yes, though it may not be intuitively obvious, I do think that there needs to be more mobility - otherwise, look what happened to the birds when the snakes came to Guam.

  3. The question is: isn’t there a bias in history about this fact? We naturally know about the successful movers – nobody knows about the vapourized ones. We know nothing about the suffer and the misery of those who are gone. But at the end most of the movers turned into non-movers and stayed. So it seems to be the ulitmate adaption to the environment to stay and fight - and sometimes loose. Perhaps the States are still to young to be wise and stay.
    (b.t.w. last week my son smashed a snake – it shouldn’t have come here)