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EU migrants 'are a boost to local economies'

Ben McPartland · 11 Feb 2014, 16:08

Published: 11 Feb 2014 16:08 GMT+01:00

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Just as the Swiss gave the thumbs down to freedom of movement across the EU, a timely new study reveals the benefit EU expats are having on their new communities.

The report by the European Commission focussed on cities in six EU countries including Lille in northern France, Barcelona, Hamburg, Prague, Turin and Dublin and the impact of EU expats living there.

It concludes that the influx of migrants from other EU countries has had major economic benefits, not least in boosting state coffers.

In Turin, northern Italy, local studies revealed that tax revenues from foreigners on the whole brought a net benefit of €1.5 billion to national public finances.

The study also showed that newcomers have helped “fill gaps in local labour markets, contributed to growth in new sectors and have helped balance out ageing populations”.

"Free movement is a benefit for Europe, its citizens and its economies. There can indeed be challenges in some cities which need to be addressed. It would, however, be the wrong response to question the right to free movement,” said Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

"It would, however, be the wrong response to question the right to free movement. I believe we need to work together – at European, national and local level – to turn challenges into opportunities. These examples from the cities of Barcelona, Dublin, Hamburg, Lille, Prague and Turin show that it can be done," she added.

France as a country is home to an estimated 1.8 million expats from the European Union, around a third of whom are from Portugal, with Italians and Spanish coming in second and third. There are an estimated 330,000 Brits living in France, well below the one million who are estimated  to live in Spain.

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The study shed some light on the types of EU expats who are making the most of their freedom to move around the continent, their reasons for doing so, as well as some of the problems they face.

Their main conclusions were as follows:

  •  EU citizens move mainly because of job opportunities and they are on average younger and more economically active than the local population.
  • The migrants are helping fill gaps in the labour market, either taking up mainly low skilled jobs, or helping to create new business ventures, like in Turin and Hamburg.
  • They are more likely to be more qualified than nationals, meaning they take up jobs below their qualification, which implies a wasting of skills.
  • EU migrants often earn less than nationals who are in the same jobs.
  • Mobile EU citizens often do not benefit from the same opportunities in terms of housing and inclusion of children in schools, despite the fact they pay the same taxes.

The results of the study were presented on Tuesday at a meeting of more than 100 mayors and representatives from local authorities from around Europe.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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