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January 2020, Volume 26, Number 1

Europe, Asia

Almost nine million foreigners applied for asylum in the major EU countries between 2003 and 2017, including 1.2 million in 2015-16. About 30 percent were recognized as in need of protection during their first adjuration, and half of these or a sixth were recognized as refugees (the others received some form of temporary protected status). An additional 10 percent received refugee status or TPS after appeals of negative first decisions.

Recognition rates varied by country of origin and destination. Almost all Syrians got refugee status or TPS, as did more than three-fourths of Eritreans and Yemenis. On the other hand, fewer than five percent of applicants from the Balkans, Georgia, and Moldova received protection.

The European Union Trust Fund for Africa created in 2015 provides E4.6 billion to "address the root causes of migration" by supporting projects that keep migrants at home. In Eritrea, a dictatorship of five million, some EU funds involve Eritreans who are forced to work for little or no pay.

Eritrea became independent in 1991 and, during a 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia, declared a state of emergency that includes ?National Service,? mandatory, universal and indefinite conscription. Eritreans are often in National Service for decades, prompting the US to suspend aid to Eritrea.

Switzerland has the highest recognition rate, granting protection to half of asylum seekers. Other countries that grant protection to more than 40 percent of asylum applications include Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and Sweden. In France, Greece, and Spain, fewer than 20 percent of applicants receive protection.

A UNDP report, Scaling Fences, interviewed 2,000 migrants from 39 African nations living in 13 EU nations and found that almost 60 percent were employed or in school before departing for Europe. The report noted that development in Africa increases wealth and enables more Africans to finance a trip to Europe, leading to a migration hump.

The report found that 85 percent of African migrants in Europe from urban areas, and 98 percent would have tried to migrate even if they knew about the dangers they faced en route.

The EU is reducing unemployment by creating jobs, but many are temporary. Over 14 percent of jobs in EU countries were temporary or atypical in 2018, offering limited pension and other work-related benefits. The workers who are most likely to hold a series of temporary contracts are frustrated, unable to gain the human capital and seniority that accompanies permanent contracts.

In Spain, 27 percent of jobs are held by workers with temporary contracts, followed by 23 percent in the Netherlands; 17 percent in France and Italy; and 12 percent in Germany. Others work part time: almost half of workers in the Netherlands, and a quarter in Germany, work part time.

The UK illustrates the jobs dilemma. The unemployment rate is at a record low, and share of adults with jobs is at a record high, but many of the jobs are atypical, an estimated two-thirds of those created since 2008. This means that workers may have contracts with an employer, but not a guaranteed number of hours of work.

The EU is struggling to develop a budget for 2021-27. Net contributors such as Germany want the EU budget to be limited to one percent of EU 27 GDP of E20 trillion or about E200 billion a year and a total of E1.1 trillion, while net receivers such as southern and eastern European countries want the EU to have more than one percent of GDP to spend on agricultural subsidies and regional aid.

Britain. Voters went to the polls December 12, 2019 and gave the Conservatives of PM Boris Johnson, campaigning on a Get Brexit Done platform, its largest majority in Parliament since the 1980s. The Labor Party, which had called for more government intervention in the economy and a second referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU, saw its share of seats sink to a 50-year low.

Many ex-Labor voters in northern England cited immigration from Eastern Europe that began under Labor PM Tony Blair and Brexit as reasons for voting Conservative. Pew estimated that Britain had a million unauthorized foreigners in 2017, up from 600,000 in 2007, and that there were about four million unauthorized foreigners in the 32-member EU plus EFTA.

A refrigerated truck container with 39 dead Vietnamese was found 25 miles east of London in October 2019; most of the victims were from north central Vietnam. Emigration from the poor provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh has a long history. Monthly incomes in 2018 were a third of the $170 per capita average in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Some of the Vietnamese who worked in Eastern Europe during the 1980s were able to stay and send home remittances, fueling inequality in Nghe An and Ha Tinh that spurred ever more youth to seek opportunities abroad. Nghe An is the leading Vietnamese province sending legal migrant workers abroad, and smuggling networks evolved to take other migrants abroad illegally. Many of the Vietnamese in Britain work in nail salons and cannabis farms. Their remittances transform the lives of recipients and encourage others to go abroad.

Some 18,000 Vietnamese a year are believed to be smuggled into Europe, paying $10,000 to $50,000 each to earn at least five times more than they could at home. There are 20,000 to 35,000 illegal Vietnamese in the UK. Remittances to Vietnam were $17 billion in 2019.

Many migrants who reach Europe want to get to Britain. Almost 1,900 migrants crossed the English channel in 2019 in small boats. Many were intercepted by police boats.

France. President Emmanuel Macron in November 2019 cracked down on asylum seeking and opened doors to skilled non-EU foreigners seeking jobs in France. There were 124,000 asylum applications in 2018, and the number of foreigners applying for asylum will be higher in 2019, including some whose applications were rejected in other EU countries.

Macron suggested that some foreigners apply for asylum to gain access to health and social benefits. Migrant shelters are full, leading to informal migrant camps in and around Paris that housed over 3,000 migrants and drew protests from local residents.

Jean Raspail's 1973 novel, The Camp of the Saints, imagined millions of starving Indians sailing for France, and the government unable to decide whether to allow them to enter the country. The book's draws from the Bible's Revelation, which describes a camp of saints that opposes the army gathered by Satan. Raspail foresees changes to France's culture and language due to immigration.

French writer Renaud Camus has since developed The Great Replacement hypothesis, the idea that white populations of European countries could be supplanted by immigrants from Africa and Asia.

French workers, students, and others protested Macron's top-down policies, charging that they help the rich more than the middle classes and poor. On December 5, 2019, a million people demonstrated against Macron's proposals to consolidate France's 42 often occupation-specific pension systems into one plan, to require workers to work at least 40 years before receiving a full pension, and to raise the official retirement age from 62 to 64.

Strikes persisted in December 2019-January 2020, reducing business and tourism in Paris and other cities. In January 2020, Macron backtracked and allowed the normal retirement age to remain 62.

The largest pension plan, which covers salaried workers in the private sector, bases pensions on the worker's 25 highest-earning years and faces a looming E20 billion deficit. Public sector pensions are based on the worker's last six months of earnings. France spends 14 percent of its GDP on pensions, the most of any European country, and pension payouts typically replace 70 percent of previous earnings. The mix of pension systems is expected to have a deficit of E17 billion by 2025 unless spending is reduced.

Macron increased spending by $19 billion to dampen the yellow-vest protests that were set off by a planned increase in gas taxes in Fall 2019 that were later rescinded. Many French residents expect the government to provide economic security, and complain of increasing precariousness or uncertainty about their economic future.

The ex-CEO of France Telecom (now Orange) and two subordinates were convicted in December 2019 of "institutional moral harassment" after the suicides of 35 employees in the mid-2000s. The executives tried to reduce the company's $50 billion debt by persuading a sixth of the 120,000 workers to quit, since as civil servants they could not be fired. Unions accused the executives of "social violence."

Germany. Germany has the world's second largest number of foreign-born residents, 13 million, after the US with 45 million.

Germany celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall on November 9, 2019 with concerts and remembrance for those who died trying to escape. Many of the assessments of the three decades since 1989 emphasized tensions surrounding the integration of foreigners, especially the million Muslims who arrived in 2015.

After three decades, there remain many differences between the former West and East Germany. West Germans were taught that they needed to redeem themselves because they supported the Nazis, while East Germans were taught that they were part of the communist movement that defeated fascism. Over 90 percent of foreign-born residents live in the former West Germany, but anti-foreigner sentiment is strongest in the former East Germany

Germany's vaunted apprenticeship program, which offers training for 350 occupations, is seeking more youth who want to study in school and learn on the job for up to three years. A third of German firms could not fill all of their apprenticeship slots in 2018. The number of registered apprentices fell from 800,000 in 1999 to 536,000 in 2018.

Germany enacted legislation that requires all children attending public schools to be vaccinated against measles beginning in March 2020. Adults working with children must also prove they have been vaccinated against measles. There have been more cases of measles as more parents refuse to immunize their children.

A climate change law enacted in November 2019 introduces a carbon pricing scheme that charges emitters E10 a ton and provides $60 billion for incentives to buy electric cars and to take other steps to reduce carbon emissions. Green critics said that the E10 price to emit a ton of carbon was too low; they wanted a price of at least E25 a ton.

Italy. Unemployment rates, especially for youth, remain high, as does low labor force participation, especially for women in southern Italy. Less than 50 percent of Italians aged 15 to 39 were employed in 2017, meaning that only 23 million workers were employed in a country of 60 million instead of the 26 million that would be employed if Italy had the average employment rate in the EU.

Per capita GDP in southern Italy, which has a third of Italian residents, was 55 percent of the Italian average in 2017, E19,000 compared to E35,000, about the same ratio as in the early 1970s, reflecting both low productivity and low labor force participation, especially of women. Italy's informal economy is large. The four PIGS, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, have informal economies that are 20 percent or more of the total economy.

ArcelorMittal's ILVA steel plant in Taranto, Puglia, the largest in Europe, employs over 10,700 workers. ILVA was failing when the government took over in 2014, and then leased the plant to ArcelorMittal at the end of 2018 for $200 million a year in exchange for modernization and job preservation and protection from suits for environmental damage. Italy's Five Star party wants to revoke ArcelorMittal's immunity for environmental damage, which prompted ArcelorMittal to threaten to withdraw and close the plant.

Half of the five million foreigners in Italy work, including 500,000 irregular foreigners, mostly in low-skilled jobs that pay less than E800 a month. Low earnings, high remittances, and employment in the informal economy mean that adding immigrants may not help Italian public finances because neither they nor their employers pay taxes. Adding more low-skilled migrants could perpetuate Italy's dualistic economy, bolstering the low-skilled and small firm segment of the economy that remains outside the formal labor market.

Spain. Voters in November 2019 gave the ruling Socialists 120 of 350 seats in Parliament, followed by the conservative Popular Party's 87 seats and the anti-migrant and anti-separatist Vox party's 52 seats. Spain, long split between conservatives and socialists, now has an even more fragmented political landscape under the previous socialist PM Pedro Sanchez, who leads Spain's first coalition government since the restoration of democracy in the 1970s.

Switzerland. The Swiss People's Party, which won almost 30 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections in 2015, lost seats in October 2019 elections but remained the largest party in the 200-seat parliament. One reason for the Swiss People's Party's losses is its opposition to combating climate change; the party hopes to have Swiss vote in May 2020 on a proposal to end the free movement for EU citizens.

Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered an invasion of northeastern Syria in October 2019 to attack Kurdish forces that had been fighting ISIS alongside 1,000 US troops. Trump ordered the US troops to withdraw, opening the door for the Turkish invasion that was widely condemned in the EU and likely stalls progress towards Turkey's accession to EU membership. Turkey plans to resettle some of the four million Syrians in the country in northern Syria.

Erdogan borrowed money to fuel a construction boom that has transformed Turkey and maintained his popularity. After an attempted coup in 2016, Erdogan crushed dissent by arresting suspected supporters of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania. Erdogan's allies planned mega projects including Canal Istanbul, a $100 billion shipping lane parallel to the Bosporus waterway to link the Black and Marmara Seas.

China. There are an estimated 288 million internal migrant workers in China, more than the 258 million international migrants, including 173 million Chinese who work far from their home towns. The government has revised the hokou or household registration system that generally limits social welfare services to residents who are registered in a particular place, but few migrant workers are able to access local social services.

China had a one-child policy between 1980 and 2015 to slow population growth; couples have been allowed to have two children since 2015. The population was 1.4 billion at the beginning of 2020, but births are not rebounding as expected. Some 15 million babies were born in China in 2019, although some demographers believe that there were a million fewer newborns than reported by the government.

Japan. Japan's population fell by 512,000 people in 2019 to 124 million, reflecting 900,000 births and 1.4 million deaths and continuing a population decline that began in 2007. Almost 30 percent of Japanese residents are over 65, and the government is trying to raise the fertility rate from the current 1.4 babies per woman to 1.8.

The government's Society 5.0 program aims to use robots to compensate for a shrinking labor force. Japan is the leading producer of industrial robot and is among the leaders in robots per employee. Robots are used widely in agriculture, including eight robots that milk 400 cows three times a day on one farm.

India. The pro-Hindu government enacted a new citizenship law in December 2019 that makes it easier for non-Muslim minorities to become Indian citizens. The 200 million Muslims in India believe that the law discriminates against them, prompting protests that resulted in the government shutting down the internet in some cities. Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindu, but there are 200 million Muslims.

The Citizenship Amendment Act expedites Indian citizenship for migrants from some of India's neighboring countries if they are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Parsee or Jain. The Indian government says the new law will speed the integration of persecuted minorities migrating from India's predominantly Muslim neighbors, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Muslim fears are driven by what happened in Assam, where residents of the northeastern state bordering Bangladesh had to prove that they or their ancestors lived in India since 1971. Two million of the 33 million residents of Assam failed to provide such proof, which could make them unauthorized foreigners.

The government of PM Narendra Modi wants to expand the Assam citizenship verification process nationwide via the National Register of Citizens. The open question is what will happen to those who do not pass citizenship tests and obtain registration.

Bonatti, Luigi. 2019. Is Immigration Necessary for Italy? Is it Desirable? EconPol Policy Report 17.