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October 2019, Volume 25, Number 4
A March 2016 EU-Turkey agreement commits Turkey to accept the return of migrants who leave Turkey's western coast and arrive illegally on nearby Greek islands. For each migrant returned from Greece to Turkey, the EU accepts one refugee waiting in Turkey for resettlement. Migrants who are returned from Greece go to the back of the line for resettlement.
In October 2015, some 6,000 migrants a day went by boat from Turkey to nearby Greek islands, a total of 210,000 during the month. The outflow of migrants almost stopped after the EU-Turkey agreement, but climbed 12,000 in September 2019, including some days when 500 migrants arrived on Greek islands. Most are from Afghanistan, Syria and Congo.
One reason for more migrants arriving on Greek islands is that fewer than 2,000 migrants have been returned from Greek islands to Turkey since March 2016.
The migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos off the coast of Turkey that was designed for 3,000 people but held 12,000 in September 2019 saw protests after clashes between different ethnic groups that lead to fires and at least one death. There were about 30,000 migrants living in Greek camps designed for 10,000 migrants in September 2019.
Turkey has about 3.6 million Syrian and other migrants; some 20,200 were resettled in various EU member states since March 2016. By August 2019, the EU provided E2 billion of the E6 billion promised to improve conditions for migrants in Turkey. Turkey said the EU has been too slow to provide aid, and threatened to once again allow large numbers of migrants to travel by boat and raft to Greek islands unless more EU aid was forthcoming.
The EU funded the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept boats of migrants headed for Italy and return them to Libya, and the EU operates an asylum processing center in Agadez, Niger. The number of migrants arriving in Italy by sea has dropped sharply, from over 180,000 in 2016 to less than 5,000 in the first nine months of 2019. In September 2019, Rwanda accepted EU aid in exchange for accepting 500 migrants stranded in Libya.
Britain. The Brexit debate continues as the October 31, 2019 deadline for the UK to leave looms. Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains popular despite his failure to get a leave vote through Parliament in September 2019; Johnson has rallied public opinion with a "people against Parliament" campaign. If there is another election, many analysts expect Johnson and the Conservatives to win by consolidating the anti-EU vote.
Johnson suspended Parliament in September 2019, but the suspension was ruled unlawful and Parliament reconvened. Before being suspended, Parliament approved a law requiring Johnson to request a delay from the EU beyond October 31, 2019 if he cannot negotiate a new Brexit agreement. Ex-Conservative PM David Cameron, who called the June 2016 referendum that saw a small majority vote to leave the EU, expressed regret in September 2019 that he failed to make a better case for remaining in the EU before the vote.
France. Hundreds of "Black Vest" unauthorized migrants and their supporters occupied the Pantheon in July 2019 demanding asylum. Black Vest protestors occupied an airport terminal in May 2019 to protest Air France flying deported migrants to their home countries. France received 122,000 asylum applications in 2018, up from 100,000 in 2017.
French writer Renaud Camus deplores the "invasion" of France by African immigrants who are "replacing" France's white population. The "great replacement" has become an everyday talking point, and Camus founded a political party that advocates sending especially Muslim immigrants and their children back to their countries of origin. Camus argues that Muslims seek to conquer France rather than integrate.
About 10 percent of French residents are immigrants, up from seven percent in the 1970s.
France Telecom (now Orange) wanted to encourage workers to quit because labor laws made it difficult to fire them. At least 35 committed suicide, prompting a trial of six managers in July 2019 on charges that they engaged in "moral harassment" of their employees. France Telecom had 130,000 employees when it was privatized in 2003, and the six managers wanted to shed 22,000 workers.
France has an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent and a national minimum wage of E1,521 a month. Many manufacturing jobs pay the minimum wage. Employers say they cannot raise wages because of 40 percent payroll taxes.
President Emmanuel Macron wants to consolidate France's 42 public pension systems, eliminating special plans for "difficult" occupations such as public transit workers. Most French workers retire at 63, but those who work for the Paris public transit agency retire at an average age of 55. A transit strike September 13, 2019 closed 10 of Paris's 14 metro lines to protest the planned pension reforms.
Macron proposed cuts to corporate taxes in September 2019 to spur investment and to reduce tax rates on low-earning individuals. However, the French employers' organization Medef said the proposed tax cuts were not enough to spur new investment, while protestors said that the individual tax cuts would not offset reductions to pensions.
Germany. A quarter of the 82 million German residents, 21 million, had a migrant background in 2018, defined as a person who is a migrant or has at least one parent who was not born as a German citizen. Over half of those with migrant backgrounds, 52 percent, were German citizens, and half of these 11 million German citizens received citizenship at birth. A sixth of those with migrant backgrounds arrived as asylum seekers.
Some 46 percent of the foreigners who took German B1 intermediate language test in 2018 failed, up from a 40 percent failure rate in 2017. About 20 percent of those who participated in language courses were Syrians; almost a quarter of language learners in 2018 did not complete elementary school.
The German economy shrank during the second quarter, as the world's third largest exporter after China and the US was buffeted by trade disputes. Germany is the world's leading auto exporter, and Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW generate a third of their revenue in China.
There are fears that Germany's auto manufacturers and suppliers may be hurt by more electric and fewer traditional cars. Cars fueled by diesel and gasoline are now 95 percent of all new cars sold; by 2030, they may be only half of new car sales. Electric cars are simpler to assemble, so the rise of electric cars may reduce German auto sector employment, currently 870,000. The EU has 309 auto parts and assembly plants that support 14 million jobs.
Slowing economic growth may help the Alternative for Germany (Afd), the anti-migrant party that won 13 percent of the vote in 2017 to become the largest opposition party in the federal parliament. Foreigners are 12 percent of German residents, but non-Germans committed 40 percent of crimes in 2018.
The AfD in September 2019 won 28 percent of the vote in Saxony and 24 percent in Brandenburg, making it the second-largest party in both states, behind the CDU and SPD, respectively. Many East German residents are over 60, and some blame mainstream parties for not making the economy bloom as promised with reunification in 1990. Even though there are few migrants in the former East Germany, many residents resent what they perceive to be generous benefits for migrants rather than disadvantaged Germans.
Hungary. The number of work permits issued to foreign workers has been rising rapidly, from less than 15,000 in 2015 and 2016 to over 60,000 in 2018. Since foreign workers may stay for two to three years, there could be 200,000 foreign workers in Fall 2019.
Hungary, with a shrinking population of 9.7 million, allows employers to recruit workers in Mongolia, India, Vietnam and other countries. Citizens of Serbia and Ukraine can work in 100 occupations without work permits.
All four Visegrad countries have falling populations and unemployment rates and rising job vacancy rates. Poles and other Eastern Europeans have been migrating to Western European EU member states for higher wages, but growth at home has reduced such outmigration and led to more foreign workers.
Poland issued a record 680,000 first-time residency permits in 2017, including 80 percent to Ukrainians, bringing the number of Ukrainians in Poland to over two million.
Italy. Italy, governed by the right-wing populist League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement between March 2018 elections and August 2019, got a new government in September 2019, a coalition of the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, raised his party's profile by taking a hard line on immigration and refusing to allow ships that rescue migrants off the coast of Libya dock in Italian ports. A law enacted in summer 2019 considers rescue ships to be accomplices of human traffickers. Salvini says that the number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, and the number of deaths at sea, have declined because of his hardline approach.
Salvini in August 2019 withdrew support for the League-Five Star coalition in a bid to force new elections that could raise the League's share of the vote. Instead, Five Star formed a new coalition with a center-left coalition of parties led by the Democratic Party.
Italy's public debt is $2.2 trillion or 130 percent of GDP, and the economy has not grown appreciably since the 2008-09 recession, leaving the unemployment rate at 10 percent.
Spain. Spain is the largest European exporter of strawberries, the so-called red gold that generates $650 million a year for farmers, 80 percent in Andalusia. Most Spanish strawberries are grown under plastic-covered metal hoops, and most are picked between April and June by migrants from Eastern Europe, Morocco and Latin America.
A 2001 bilateral Morocco-Spain agreement facilitates the migration of Moroccan mothers with children to pick strawberries in Spain; mothers are expected to return to Morocco at the end of the season. Some of the Moroccan women complained of sexual harassment by managers on Spanish farms, and 100 were fired and returned to Morocco in May 2018. However, nine found advocates to help them file complaints and remained in Spain to testify against the managers who they allege harassed them. Morocco's ANAPEC recruits women to work in Spain, but says that Spanish authorities are responsible for enforcing Spanish labor laws.
Sweden. The Nordic model of cradle-to-grave welfare is based on shared cultural values. When created during the 1930s, there was a sense that anyone could have lost his or her job and be in need government support. The Nordic model also assumes that all those who can work do work and pay high taxes on their earnings.
Immigration is testing the Nordic model in Sweden, which received 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015 that helped to increase the foreign-born share of Swedish residents to 19 percent. Many foreign-born residents do not speak Swedish, making them hard to employ and threatening a new era of foreigners dependent on welfare for decades.
Unemployment among the Swedish-born was 3.8 percent in 2018, compared to 15 percent for the foreign-born. The average refugee receives about 74,000 Swedish kronor ($7,800) more in government services than they pay in taxes.
When the government sent refugees to smaller towns with vacant housing, it provided housing, food and health insurance for two years, after which the newcomers were expected to be working and paying taxes. However, in Filipstad, a town of 10,000 with 2,000 foreign-born residents, two-thirds of the working age foreign newcomers have less than a secondary school education.
Sweden has few low-level service jobs for newcomers with little education, and the government does not want to create low-skill jobs for them. Optimists say that there will be successful integration over time as the children of the newcomers grow up speaking Swedish. Pessimists say that too many poor migrants will erode support for the Nordic welfare state.
China. President Trump levied 10 percent tariffs on many consumer goods imported from China September 1, 2019 to persuade the Chinese government to reduce barriers to foreign investment and subsidies to state-owned firms. Trump delayed tariffs on toys, smartphones and other goods until December 15, 2019, but most Chinese imports will be subject to US tariffs by the end of 2019 if the September and December tariffs go into effect as scheduled.
China began recording its economic growth using global standards in 1992. Economic growth in 2019 slowed to less than 6.5 percent, the slowest pace since record keeping began. Government spending on infrastructure remains robust and consumers continue to spend, but fears of bad debts in China's shadow banking system may erode confidence in China's financial stability.
Half of the 1.4 billion Chinese live in rural areas, where the government owns all of the land. Farmers can farm the land allocated to them, but cannot buy or sell it or use land as collateral for loans. After 1979, farmers got 30-year leases on the land they farmed that were renewed for another 30 years.
Beginning in 2009, farmers could lease their allocated land to other farmers, and a third of farm land has been leased. However, farmers who lease their land can ask for it to be returned to them, which limits how much those who lease land are willing to invest in it.
African swine fever has reduced the number of hogs in China, while tariffs have increased the price of pork. The Chinese consume 50 million tons of pork a year, half of the world?s pork produced each year, and the government is releasing pork from its strategic reserve to hold down price increases.
Japan. A new immigration law effective April 1, 2019 allows employers in 14 industries including restaurants to offer permanent jobs to foreigners who graduate from Japanese universities. Foreigners who pass an exam can receive Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 visas for up to five years; most are Chinese.
Filipino nurses and other skilled foreigners can work in Japan for three years before they must pass a test of Japanese and a nursing exam to stay longer. A Filipino nurse earning $300 a month in the Philippines expected to earn $1,500 a month in Japan, and more if she passed the exam.
The number of foreign workers in Japan almost doubled to 1.5 million between 2014 and 2019. The number of foreign residents rose from 2.1 million to 2.8 million over this period, suggesting that few dependents accompanied the workers. Japan granted asylum to 82 foreigners in 2018, less than one percent of applicants.
Many of the foreign workers in Japan arrived under the Japan's Technical Intern Training Program. Some 9,052 of the 250,000 foreign interns employed by 35,000 firms absconded in 2018. Many of the interns post bonds in their home countries to come to Japan for three to five years; the government may extend the maximum stay to 10 years.
Japan's unemployment rate was 2.2 percent in July 2019, the lowest rate since October 1992. There were 1.6 job openings for each of the 1.5 million jobless workers.
South Africa. Foreign-owned shops in Johannesburg were burned and looted in September 2019; at least 12 people were killed including 10 South Africans who spoke the "wrong" language when confronted by protestors; hundreds of migrants lost their homes. Police arrested over 400 for looting and violence.
Other African governments protested the "xenophobic killings" in South Africa. Nigeria, with the largest economy in Africa, refused to participate in a meeting in Cape Town to discuss the African Continental Free Trade Area and repatriated 600 citizens from South Africa.
About 10 percent of the 57 million people in South Africa are foreigners, often migrants from Zimbabwe and other African countries who seek opportunity in richer South Africa. Over a quarter of South Africa citizens are unemployed, and many resent the success of immigrants who often open shops in Black neighborhoods. There have been periodic outbreaks of xenophobic violence in South Africa, especially in 2008 and 2015.
Some say that attacks on migrants are rooted in competition for scarce resources such as land and public jobs. There is little trust among people or in government institutions in poor townships, allowing self-proclaimed leaders and associations to demand taxes from foreign-owned businesses. Some informal leaders offer houses vacated by migrants to association members.
Crime rates are high in South Africa, prompting many people to order restaurant meals via food delivery apps such as Mr. D Food and Uber Eats. Most deliveries are made by migrants on motorbikes who are independent contractors, earning fees and tips for each delivery and an estimated $10 a day. Accidents are common because some of the motorbikes are not road worthy, and many of the drivers do not wear safety equipment.
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini was given 11,000 square miles or 2.9 million hectares of land before the end of apartheid in 1994, a third of KwaZulu-Natal, making him one of the world's biggest individual landowners and landlord to more than 5.2 million South Africans, almost a tenth of the country's population. The land is owned by the Ingonyama (King in Zulu) Trust, and critics want to give it to the individuals who now pay rent without compensation, a response to efforts by the Trust to get residents to sign leases that include annual rent increases.
Whites are eight percent of South Africa's population and own 83 percent of the country's farm land.
The world produces about 140 million carats of diamonds a year, which is more than can be sold. Alrosa and De Beers, the leading diamond firms, are reducing production as diamond prices fall from their 2011 peak. High prices in 2011 spurred the opening of new mines, which came into production after six years of development, and led to an oversupply.
Most rough diamonds are polished in Surat, India by small and medium-sized firms. Lower prices prompted banks to reduce lending to the industry, which makes it harder for polishing firms to buy rough diamonds. The production of lab-grown or synthetic diamonds is increasing rapidly.