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April 2013, Volume 20, Number 2

France, Germany, Benelux

France. There are five million Muslims in France; most are immigrants or the children of immigrants. However, at least 100,000 non-Muslims, mostly young men in low-income areas known as banlieues, have converted to Islam, raising fears of home-grown terrorism. Muslim converts, experts say, are more likely to join extremist groups than otherwise similar youths.

Unemployment in France at the end of 2012 was almost 11 percent, and 25 percent among youth under 25.

The Socialist government elected in 2012 aims to increase the competitiveness of the French economy by reforming the labor market, which provides extensive protections to workers with long-term contracts and discourages some employers from hiring such workers. France has an insider-outsider labor market that gives workers with long-term contracts extensive protections and benefits. The third of French workers with temporary contracts, on the other hand, receive few work-related benefits and can be terminated when their contracts end.

Many youth who joined the labor force in the past decade can obtain only temporary employment contracts. An agreement between the employers' confederation Medef and three of the five major union confederations would raise taxes on short-term temporary workers to encourage employers to hire them as long-term workers. Under the agreement, short-term workers will receive private health insurance benefits and accumulate the right to unemployment benefits from several jobs.

News reports during the debate over labor law reforms emphasized that some firms have divided into several smaller firms each with fewer than 49 employees to avoid the requirements for protecting workers and having union representation that come with 50 or more employees.

European car-makers are suffering from overcapacity. There were almost 16 million newly registered passenger vehicles in Europe in 2007, and 12 million in 2012. Fewer than two million new cars were registered in France in 2012 and, with little hope for a significant increase in demand, there is talk of closing more auto factories that employ both French and immigrant workers.

Germany. Some 193,000 Turks in Germany moved to Turkey between 2007 and 2011, according to Faruk Sen of think tank TAVAK, including many who cited "discrimination and unemployment" as reasons for leaving. Sen said there were three million people of Turkish origin in Germany in 2012, including a million who are German citizens, and that the unemployment rate of those in the labor force was 30 percent, far higher than the overall six percent rate. Sen said that 44 percent of Turkish-origin residents in Germany have incomes below the poverty line of E372 a month.

Germany aims to attract more skilled non-EU foreigners, and 41 percent of non-EU arrivals now have a college degree (www.bmbf.de/en/19727.php). A third of the 495,000 non-EU foreigners who moved to Germany in 2010-11 found a job within 12 months, but the job-finding rate for non-EU men, 53 percent, is much higher than for women, 20 percent.

The OECD in February 2013 recommended that Germany also open more doors for less-skilled non-degree holding health-care and construction workers to meet what it projects will be a shortage of over five million such workers by 2025. The OECD noted that some German employers have strict requirements for applicants, including good knowledge of German. It concluded: "Germany is not sufficiently competitive in a global race to attract talent, despite its relatively robust labor market, well-regarded training and industrial system, and high standard of living. More generous conditions should be offered to skilled workers recruited from abroad."

Germany has Europe's largest and one of its strongest economies, and is attracting more workers from southern European countries such as Greece, almost 7,000 in the first half of 2012, and Spain, almost 4,000. Many of Germany's smaller firms with unfilled job openings require applicants to have both technical skills and knowledge of German, and many are located in smaller towns and cities that may not be familiar to southern Europeans seeking jobs.

Austria. Austria on July 1, 2012 introduced the Red-White-RedÿCard to facilitate the entry of highly skilled non-EU foreigners who can achieve at least 70 points on a 100-point test that gives up to 40 points for education and 20 for work experience (www.migration.gv.at/en/types-of-immigration/permanent-immigration-red-white-red-card/very-highly-qualified-workers.html). Skilled workers are admitted if they can achieve at least 50 points on a 75-point test (www.migration.gv.at/en/types-of-immigration/permanent-immigration-red-white-red-card/skilled-workers-in-shortage-occupations.html). Other key workers (including the self-employed) as well as foreigners who graduate from Austrian universities can also receive red-white-red cards.

There are other programs for seasonal workers employed on Austrian farms and in tourism, for foreign workers posted to employers in Austria, and for outsourcers who bring foreign workers into Austria and then send them to Austrian firms to work. (www.migration.gv.at/en/types-of-immigration/fixed-term-employment.html)