Many European governments label migrants as a mere financial burden and a potential social destabilisation factor. By saying that, they imply that migrants merely benefit from state welfare while bringing no real contribution to the society that generously hosts them. At the same time, their attempt to integrate in the work market is perceived as a threat to national citizens’ job opportunities.
This sharp contradiction reveals that decades of mislead political rhetoric have produced a substantial lack of knowledge and awareness on migrant population’s position, in particular in relation to Europe’s ongoing demographic trends.
As a matter of fact, Eurostat evidences that European Union is an ageing society. By 2050, the median age is prospected to reach 48.2 years, 4.5 more than in 2019. This is a major issue for long-term policy-making, since the portion of older, work-inactive population is expected to grow at the expense of the shrinking younger working group. An injection of young foreign labour is universally recognised as a way to contain the negative implications of the ageing process.
Acknowledging the truthfulness of this aspect is the first step to dismantle the wrongful assumption of migrants and refugees as not able to produce a positive impact. Moreover, behind the “migrant” or “refugee” label there may be the skilled professional ageing European society will desperately need.
Redesigning the role of migrants in a society requires both quality information among citizens and a proper integration strategy. Unfortunately, it seem that the EU as a whole and national governments are unwilling to take note of their own demographic situation. European populists are preferring short-term appealing nationalistic policies rather than undertaking a challenging but beneficial long-term integration, growth and enrichment project. If no change is made in such an approach, in the future the EU may have to regret the very basic mistake of denying the benefits of immigration and downplaying migrants’ potential.