Sunday

13th Jun 2021

Blue Card policy bad for EU schools, expert says

  • National governments will tend to invest less in education because they can "import" skilled workers through the Blue Card (Photo: European Commission)

EU governments will tend to invest less in education if they can "import" highly skilled workers from third countries through the so-called "Blue Card" scheme, aimed at matching the US Green Card, Aristide Zolberg, a professor at New York's New School University, said at a conference in Brussels.

Author of "A nation by design - Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America," Mr Zolberg, gave a broad analysis on Wednesday (29 October) of US immigration policies at the Brussels-based Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Contemporary Society.

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Asked how he assessed the EU plans for a "Blue card" scheme aimed at copying the American Green Card for attracting skilled non-EU workers to the internal labour market, Mr Zolberg said "maybe it's not a disaster, but it is certainly not a good policy for the EU."

"Every country wants the same - high-skilled, already trained workers. But I strongly disapprove of subcontracting education to other countries at the expense of not investing in one's own schools," Mr Zolberg argued, citing the 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris as an example of the consequences of having underperforming schools and of ghettoisation.

Governments tend to spend little on education in the first place, but with an immigration policy tailored to get skilled workers from abroad, "they will use it as an excuse" to cut back on the country's own costly educational programs, he said.

The "Blue Card" plan was endorsed last week by the EU's home affairs ministers, with objections by the Czech Republic, which demands abolishing Western labour restrictions for eastern Europeans first. Currently, Austria, Belgium, Germany and Denmark continue to protect their markets from cheaper labour coming from the post-Communist bloc.

According to European Commission estimates, labour shortages will peak by 2050, when 25 million Europeans are expected to retire from work and one third of the population will be over 65 years of age.

In Europe, non-European highly-qualified workers make up only 1.7 percent of the employed population, while the category accounts for nearly 10 percent in Australia, over seven percent in Canada and over three percent in the US.

Italian protests over education cuts

The latest developments in Italy tend to echo Mr Zolberg's warnings, with mass protests of students and teachers after the Italian parliament's green light to cut education spending by €8 billion as part of a controversial school system reform.

On Wednesday thousands of students poured into Rome's Piazza Navona, where three were injured in a scuffle that broke out between far-left and far-right factions before they were separated by police, ANSA reports.

Other protests were staged in Ancona, Brescia, Cagliari, Lecce, Pavia, Padua, Pescara, Macerata and Urbino, while in Naples and Milan students also occupied platforms at city train stations.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said he was satisfied by the parliament vote but reiterated that protests had been fueled by ''lies and false messages'' from opposition politicians about the contents of the reforms.

''The students can protest, but I'm sorry that they're protesting against things that have no foundation. It's a pity to see so many young people fooled and misled by the left,'' he said.

Walter Veltroni, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said he would promote a national referendum to repeal the decree, adding that ''this reform is not a reform. It's a simple cut in resources for schools and universities.''

Nearly half of Italians are opposed to the reforms, according to a poll published on Monday.

EU ministers flesh out foreign worker 'Blue Card' plan

EU interior ministers have formally backed the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, a French-drafted plan on how the 27-nation bloc should cope with migratory flows. In addition, they "more or less" agreed on the idea of an EU work permit, or 'Blue Card' but the Czech Republic insists all European labour markets must first open to eastern Europeans.

MEPs call for workers to have 'right to disconnect'

MEPs called for a new law guaranteeing workers can 'disconnect' outside work hours, without repercussion. But they also passed a last-minute amendment, calling on the commission to delay any legislation for three years.

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