Real costs of neglecting the positive contribution of migrants and how EU policies hinder progress

In most European countries, public dialogue and media features focus on deficits of and conflicts with the migrant population. It has been perpetuated by politicians and media from all camps and colours who have consistently underreported on positive facts, such as the net tax contribution. A new report from the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) focuses on the human potential: “Hidden talents, wasted talents?”

The latest ENAR report starts by stressing the evidence of heterogeneous European societies. European culture is strongly influenced by immigrants, just thinking about food, art, music, literature, film or sports. If one only looks at the most recent past, almost 10% of the European population has foreign roots. Going further back in history, this percentage is higher, and also today, many countries or regions report figures that are more than twice the average.

The new report talks about healthcare as a specific European issue. With a dramatically aging population in many countries and a lack of medical staff, European economies are facing a dramatic talent shortage. Already today, 20% of all medical doctors come from another country and this figure is projected to increase. Migrants unfold significant economic power both as employees and as customers. In Austria, for instance, migrants account for a purchasing power of some €20 billion which amounts to nearly 7% of the annual Austrian GDP. In Germany, the contribution of the Turkish community alone accounts for €35 billion annually. Europe can also rely on migrant taxpayers. In France calculations show that migrants contribute €3.4 billion in income tax; €3.3 billion in wealth tax; €18.4 billion in consumer related taxes, and €2.6 billion in other local taxes.

Another key area of economic prosperity are companies and entrepreneurs. A couple of studies from across the EU show that migrants are more likely than the mainstream population to start up their own businesses. The sad aspect of this is, that they often do so to escape discrimination on the labour market or in the workplace. In some EU countries, officials also note an increasing emigration of migrant experts who are not prepared to suffer from harassment or bullying based on their ethnicity and hence choose to apply their talent elsewhere. Diversity experts have been working on this for years and ENAR has been instrumental in facilitating multi-stakeholder discussions on the European level. They have just published their documentation of a past seminar, pinpointing three issues hindering the employment of migrants, including (1) the fact that policies are defined politically by the non-migrant majority and often with an anti-immigrant feeling, (2) the discrepancy of integration being a long-term process while electoral politics operate on short-term cycles and (3) the low engagement of employers and trade unions at the policy level on migrant issues.