Majority of migrants seek work but need short-term support

In an affluent city of Northern Europe, the beautiful people bask in the sun beside rivers and lakes.

A procession of people, mainly male, generally Asian, forage in the bins in search of beer cans.

This was the scene in Copenhagen, days ago, one that is repeated no doubt in many other spots.

Across Southern Europe, barriers are being erected, or swept aside.

A tide of humanity is surging northward as people seek the good life, or simply trying to escape from the madmen of Islamic State and the various other militia which have sprouted across the Middle East.

In places like Copenhagen, Stockholm and Hamburg, it is hard not to notice both the enduring benefits of good governance and the continued presence, also, of the poor and downtrodden.

Optimists see in this tide of migration great potential. We should remember New York’s Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century. It too was a place of desperation where the sick, those riddled with TB, for example, were turned back to face a grim fate.

Yet through the milling halls came families who produced some of the great business figures, writers and comedians of the next generation.

Pessimists fret about the impact on job and housing supply and about the spread of alien, sometimes hostile ways of life.

Today, the citizens of European countries have been coming to terms with demographic stagnation and the ageing of indigenous populations.

Last year, deaths in Germany outnumbered births by around 150,000. A good year for Teutonic reproduction, in fact. In 2013, a decline of around 200,000 was recorded. An ageing population requires carers for hospitals, nursing homes and in individual residences.

Germany’s great swathe of small manufacturers are also running short of young apprentices despite its excellent system of technical education.

These firms would like to draw on labour pools in places like Ireland and Poland, but the economies of these countries — happily — are growing and other countries such as the UK act as rival magnets.

And into the breach are stepping the young men and women who trudge forward like a peaceful citizens’ militia seeking to improve their lot. The vast majority of these migrants are in search of work though, in the short term, they will require State support.

Out of benighted Syria, in particular, are pouring many highly trained people. Migrants have shown a willingness to trade down in terms of career expectations.

They have little choice in the matter.

Yet few would question the positive contribution brought to this country by the hundreds of thousands of legal migrants from Eastern Europe.

The main problem — and it is a very real one — is the displacement effect, temporary but potentially long term, caused at the bottom end of the labour market.

Equally, however, in areas such as construction, migrants bring benefits to many, with wage rates kept in check to the benefit of many householders who might otherwise be unable to afford the repairs and improvements carried out at their properties.

It is no coincidence that it is in countries like Germany and Sweden where the demand for labour is highest that the greatest welcome has been accorded to the refugees, political, economic and econo-political.

Spain, on the other hand, has offered to take in a tiny number of the latest wave of boat people, but then unemployment on the Iberian peninsula is more than 20%.

It is not hard when you think about it to make the case for migration, but equally, the individual circumstances of countries must be taken into account.

It is unfair to expect tiny Macedonia or struggling Greece to host hundreds of thousands of incomers indefinitely.

Behind the utterances of populist politicians like Donald Trump with his talk of concrete walls the whole length of the US-Mexico border lies more than a grain of truth.

Trump speaks to the fears of people concerned at being swept along by a tide of uncontrolled change.

Mass migration can have very damaging short to medium term impacts on labour markets where financial cutbacks and the spread of technology is already leading to a reduction in the supply of jobs for the low-skilled.

We return to the issue of how to supply enough education, training and of course, sustenance and shelter for those participating in this movement of humans of near biblical proportions.

This will require the commitment of resources which are otherwise destined for indigenous populations, some of whom are still coping with the fallout from the last great financial crisis.

It is worth recalling, however, that in the aftermath of the Second World War, scores of millions were on the move across the devastated landscapes of a continent that had witnessed six years of slaughter. People managed then in much more straitened circumstances.

It is hard not to question why the wealthy states of the Gulf are not doing more in support of their fellow Arabs in difficulty.

Is there not a tradition of hospitality deeply embedded in Middle Eastern culture?

Has this tradition gone missing following the rapid development of these resource-rich countries?

Staging great status boosting sport events takes precedence over aid programs for migrants, particularly those of different religious persuasions.

What regimes in the Arab world and across much of Asia and Africa appear to share in common, with some exceptions, is a reluctance to spread resources and opportunity widely across their populations.

At the same time, the failure to educate and train local citizens looks set to return to haunt the petro dollar societies of the Arabian peninsula.

In recent weeks, we have been witnessing what would appear to be a major turning point in recent economic history as the great China-driven commodities boom implodes.

Its consequences in the financial/commodity markets are already being felt, but we are likely to witness a new wave of political and even military ructions as leaderships wake up to the fact they can no longer buy off their populations with bubble-era expenditure programmes.

The real fear is that governments from the China Sea to the Atlantic Ocean will look for distractions from financial woes in the form of flag waving and bellicose actions as a result of which, an awful lot more people could be taking to the road.

It’s not hard to make the case for migration, but individual circumstances of different countries must be taken into account, says Kyran Fitzgerald

Out of benighted Syria, in particular, are pouring many highly trained people


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