Immigration at the heart of employment opportunities for the Euro-Mediterranean region

Réflexions Méditerranéennes

Mediterranean Thoughts

In a report that screens employment perspectives in the Mediterranean area, Femise General Manager underlines the key role played by immigration in the success of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.
Employment in the North, workers in the South ? The cliché isn’t so obvious. It is used as backcloth of a study entitled “Employment perspectives in the Mediterranean area” carried out by Femise. The author, Frédéric Blanc, General Manager of the organisation, provides a very precise analysis of the employment situation on both shores of the Big Blue.
The study confirms the split between North and South: less than one out of two employable Mediterraneans currently has a job. But in the Southern bank countries*, the same ratio jumps to one out of three inhabitants. A disturbing imbalance, even more so because these countries are home to 49.8% of under 15 year-olds in the Euromed-Balkan area. The contrast with the North, offering an average 7 jobs out of 10, is striking and even more when one considers perspectives for 2030.
In twenty years, the employable population should increase “by more than 100 million throughout the area. However, 84% of these potential additional workers will be living on the Southern shores”, indicates Frédédic Blanc.

Retirement at 80 ?

In order to compensate for the erosion of the active population due to demographic ageing (20 millions active inhabitants – from 15 to 65 – will disappear by 2030), Northern countries would have no choice but to extend the potential activity period to… 80 ! Unless they accept to open their borders to workers coming from the Southern banks. This would also help the latter deal with demographic explosion. With 1.5 million jobs created annually – largely insufficient to cover current requirements – these countries are likely to see the number of inactive inhabitants increase spectacularly, exceeding 150 millions in 2030.
Still a taboo question, Immigration is however a strategic issue in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, with three possible scenarios. The worst scenario would be a stagnation of the cooperation between the two shores with the worsening of the economic and demographic imbalances. The median scenario would let the Euromed process and the Union for the Mediterranean make progress on some sensitive subjects: “services and agriculture, but also some human aspects with less restrictive conditions of mobility”.

Euro-Mediterranean integration ?

Enough to boost activity levels in the Southern countries, “bringing unemployment to levels similar to those currently registered in the North”. In Europe, “circular and temporary immigration with countries in the South would partially compensate demographic deficits”.
Lastly, the virtuous scenario would see the European Union grant Southern countries the 4 freedom measures already in place. According to Frederic Blanc, this (r)evolution would eliminate any imbalances: inactivity and unemployment in the South would reach the levels registered in many other European countries. Immigration would also contribute positively, with full-employment boosting internal consumption “and social contributions payed by active immigrants limiting the push to lift the retirement age”.

* Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

* This article was written by William Allaire, from the website Econostrum. It belongs to a series of articles that will be published in the context of the partnership between Econostrum and Femise for the year 2010. These articles will also feed the “Mediterranean Reflection” part of the Econostrum Website. You can find this topic and all information at the following address: Registration for the Econostrum newsletter is available here: