Skip to navigation

Skip to main content

Rural Migration News

contact us

October 2011, Volume 17, Number 4

EU: Agriculture, Immigration

Farm Employment. The EU-27 member countries had 26.7 million workers employed on 13.7 million farms in 2008. The EU distinguishes between commercial (7.3 million) and subsistence (6.4 million) farms. Romania (6.5 million) and Poland (5 million) had 43 percent of the EU's farms, and the largest number of both commercial (and subsistence operations. The EU-27 have about 104 million hectares of arable land, including almost 20 percent in France and 11 percent each in Germany, Poland and Spain.

There were 16.4 million workers employed regularly on commercial farms in 2007, including 14.6 million farm operators and family members and 2.2 million hired workers (annual work unit equivalents). The hired workers included 1.4 million year-round workers and 800,000 seasonal workers. France had the most regular hired workers, 340,000 full-time equivalents, followed by Spain, 160,000 and Germany, 135,000. Spain had the most full-time equivalent seasonal workers, 175,000, followed by Italy, 130,000.

Immigration. The EU's 27-member nations had 501 million residents in 2010 and are projected to have a peak 521 million residents in 2035. About 2.6 percent of EU residents are intra-EU migrants, such as Poles in the UK. Another four percent or 20 million are non-EU 27 nationals, such as Turks in Germany. The three largest groups of non-EU residents in the EU are Turks, Moroccans and Albanians.

Two-thirds of EU population growth is due to immigration from outside the EU. Non-EU nationals have relatively low employment rates, lower than nationals and intra-EU migrants. For example, 83 percent of nationals of an EU member state with a high level of education were employed in 2010, compared with 77 percent of intra-EU migrants and 67 percent of non-EU migrants with a high level of education.

The European Commission, the executive of the 27-member EU, has been proposing the admission of more immigrants to deal with Europe's shrinking labor force for the past decade. The Commission acknowledges high unemployment rates in some member countries, but its 2010 annual report on migration said: "given both the seriousness of the skills mismatch in European labor markets as well as irreversible demographic developments, a well organized legal immigration and integration policy? has a central role to play in ensuring the EU's long-term competitiveness and ultimately the future of its social model."

The Commission won approval of Blue Cards, visas issued by member states to non-EU foreign professionals who can move freely within the EU after four years in the country to which they were first admitted. Blue Card holders must be paid at least 1.5 times the average gross annual income of the destination country, or 1.2 times in science and engineering occupations, ISCO 1 and 2. EU member states were supposed to enact national legislation to implement the Blue Card program by June 2011, but not all did.

The Commission's proposal to standardize higher education with a three-year Bachelor's degree was also accepted; the Commission hopes EU member states can attract more non-EU foreign students who remain and work after graduation.

It has been much harder to forge consensus on increasing low-skilled migration. In May 2011, the Commission proposed "mobility partnerships" with Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. These promise easier access to EU visas for students, researchers and business people and faster recognition of the credentials of nationals of these countries in the EU in exchange for cooperation from the sending countries to reduce illegal migration and accept the return of unauthorized foreigners.

The Commission in Fall 2011 found itself on the defensive on migration, trying to maintain the free-travel Schengen system that allows one member state to check entries for all 25 Schengen member states. France re-introduced controls on its borders with Italy in Spring 2011 after Italy issued papers to North Africans who arrived in southern Italy by boat and sought to join relatives in France, and Denmark reinforced checks at its German and Swedish borders.

The Commission proposed that Schengen member states wanting to re-introduce border controls first receive EU help to deal with immigration emergencies and then seek permission from the EU to re-establish border controls for up to five days. France, Germany and Spain indicated they are not likely to give the Commission power to determine when they can introduce border controls.

EU. 2011. Food: from farm to fork statistics.

Subscribe via Email

Click here to subscribe to Rural Migration News via email.