27th Feb 2024

EU needs a million migrants yearly, says EU commission

  • Ylva Johansson (l) in Athens said the EU needs to attract at least 1m migrants annually due to a demographic shortfall (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
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The EU needs a million migrants annually to make up for a demographic shortfall, says the European Commission.

The comments made in Athens, Greece on Monday (8 January) by EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson come on the back of Europe's ongoing struggle to attract top talent.

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The EU's working-age population declines by around a million every year, Johansson said.

"That means that legal migration should grow more or less with one million per year and that is really a challenge to do that in an orderly way," she said.

She noted that around 3.5 million migrants already arrive lawfully every year, compared with around 300,000 that enter irregularly.

A European Commission document projects even higher figures, noting that without migration the EU's working population will drop from 334 million, as of 2014, to around 238 million in 2060.

And the latest population projections by Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, suggest the EU's population will increase through to 2026 when it will peak at 453.3 million, after which it is projected to gradually decrease to 447.9 million by 2050, before falling at a more rapid pace through to the end of the century (419.5 million in 2100).

"The EU's labour force is projected to retract at an even faster pace than population, as older people (aged 80 years or over) account for a growing share of the population," says the Luxembourg-based office, in a report.

But the push to attract talent is likely to come under adverse pressure from Hungary, which is set to steer the EU presidency in the second half of the EU.

It is also the only country that opposed a bill, now a law, that aims to encourage highly-qualified immigrants to work in Europe.

Also known as the EU 'Blue Card' directive, the revised rules were agreed by MEPs and government ministers in mid-2021.

The card is valid up to four years and allows holders to bring their family members to live with them in the EU. An earlier variation of the card, first proposed in 2009, attracted just under 82,000 people in 2022.

Around a quarter of those were nationals of India, followed by Russia, Belarus and Turkey. And an additional 40,500 residence permits were issued in the EU for family members of EU blue card holders.

Most card holders went to Germany, while Hungary took only 18 in 2022 — the third lowest among EU states, according to Eurostat. The lowest is Cyprus with zero blue cards, followed by Slovakia at 14.

This comes despite a massive labour shortage in Hungary.

"Hungary will need 500,000 new workers in the next year or two," Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban said in a speech early last year.

But he also said that the shortfall should be made up internally. "We cannot give foreigners an advantage over Hungarians," he had said.

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