9th Dec 2023

EU to overhaul 'Blue Card' work permit for migrants

  • The EU is keen to overhaul its "blue card" system to attract skilled migrants to come and work in the bloc. (Photo: Tax Credits)

The EU is keen to overhaul its "blue card" system to attract skilled migrants to come and work in the bloc amid fears of the long-term economic consequences of a population that is living longer and having fewer children.

"Europe's member states have a difficult period in front of them in terms of the jobs market. Europe's working population is going to decrease so [it] needs legal immigration," said EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday (13 May).

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  • Some 12,854 blue cards were issued in the EU in 2013, the vast majority by Germany (Photo: Paolo Margari)

The Blue Card system, granting special residency rights and a work permit, is designed to attract highly-skilled migrants to Europe. But the system - meant to be implemented in all member states by 2011 - has not had widespread take-up.

According to Eurostat figures, 12,854 Blue Cards were issued in the EU in 2013. Of these, the vast majority (11,580) were issued in Germany. France, as the next in the rankings, awarded 371 blue cards and Spain handed out 313.

Meanwhile, Sweden, Greece, Cyprus and Austria issued none while Belgium, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Finland handed out five each or fewer.

The commission has said it wants to "overhaul and modernise" the system, noting that Europe's economy is "increasingly dependent on high-skilled jobs" and migration is needed for "sustainable growth".

The Blue Card reform is part of a four-pronged migration strategy launched Wednesday (13 May) in response to a political and legal system that is ill-equipped to deal with the thousands of migrants trying to come to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.

The push for more "legal migration" comes as figures show that the EU's population is expected to peak at 526 million - up from the current 507 million - in 2050 and then start declining, reaching 523 million 10 years later.

By 2060, there is expected to be about two working-aged people for every person over 65, down from four at the moment.

While the UK is expected to be the most populous state (80 million) by 2060, and Belgium's population is set for a 40-percent increase, other countries are heading for a large population decrease, such as Lithuania with an almost 40-percent decline.

Age-related expenditure will account for 30 percent of GDP in countries such as Malta, the Netherlands and Slovenia and as much as 34 percent in Finland.

The commission is set to launch a public discussion on the Blue Card in the coming weeks but it has already indicated what kind of proposals it wants to make, including formalising a dialogue with business and industry to find out what kind of skills are needed and putting more money toward integration policies.

It also moots setting up an "expression of interest" platform which would use a set of criteria to "automatically make an initial selection of potential migrants".

A further step meant to help migrants is final agreement on updated rules to make remittance payments easier and more secure.

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