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EU has become emerging destination for highly skilled Indians

Source: Economic Times

EU has become emerging destination for highly skilled Indians

The European Commission in a policy document last year discussed attractive conditions for the admission and residence of highly qualified immigrants in member countries. And even though a common policy for EU nations on attracting and retaining highly qualified immigrants may not yet have become a reality, some of the issues which have been raised are very significant.

The aim of the new proposal for entry and residence of third-country nationals for highly qualified employment is to provide member states and EU companies with additional tools to recruit, retain and better allocate the workers they need. By doing so, the EC intends to increase the competitiveness of the EU economy by enhancing the contribution made by legal immigration.

Various countries in continental Europe have already implemented policies that will help attract skilled workers from countries such as India. Scarcity of internal resources due to mismatches between educational and professional choices and labour market needs are behind the steps taken by ten member states to set up specific schemes to attract highly qualified immigrants, while many others are considering it.

The knowledge migrant scheme of the Netherlands - a work authorisation programme for highly skilled foreign workers or knowledge migrants who are not citizens of Switzerland or the European Union-is an example. The KM scheme is applicable to young, highly skilled professionals and allows for speedy processing of work permit applications through the Dutch Immigration Department’s (IND) desk for knowledge and labour migration.

The KM visa is issued for five years and cuts many steps in the older work-permit and residence-permit procedure. The scheme is very popular among Indians and is a big help for skilled professionals and their families who can often move to the Netherlands and settle down within two weeks. Similarly, Denmark, too, is looking at attracting skilled immigrants from India in the fields of healthcare, IT and communications.

A ‘work in Denmark’ centre is being set up in India to scout for skilled immigrants with the right education qualifications and facilitate the job permits required by them to go and settle down in Denmark. The job card scheme in Denmark is popular with Indians and allows non-European Union skilled migrants to move to Denmark under a non-renewable six-month residence permit for the purpose of finding work.

Meanwhile in Switzerland, a recent project financed by the Geneva International Academic Network and carried out by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in partnership with the International Labour Organization and the University of Geneva, with the help of the Swiss Forum of Migration and Population Studies, Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research and explored the potential of highly skilled migrants as agents of development by focusing on their participation in the production and circulation of knowledge in Switzerland.

The study identified highly skilled Indians living in Switzerland for brain-gain mechanisms and strategies. Highly skilled Indians were found to be a dynamic community benefiting from the global Indian scientific and professional diaspora, as well as for their significant brain-gain experiences.

The ministry of overseas Indian affairs too is aware of the growing job opportunities in Europe for skilled Indians and has entered into an agreement with the government of Belgium under which Indians working on a short-term contract of up to 60 months are exempt from social security contributions in Belgium provided they continue to make social security payments in India.

Those who live and work in Belgium for periods longer than 60 months and make social security contributions under the host country laws will be entitled to the export of the social security benefits should they relocate to India on the completion of their contract or on retirement. Similar agreements with other European countries too are in the pipeline.

Another agreement between the MOIA and Poland’s ministry of labour and social policy, will help streamline labour migration from India to Poland. The sectors which are being targeted include construction, agriculture and services, sectors where there are acute labour shortages in Poland. The two countries will look at signing a social security agreement once the broader migration deal is in place.

Enterprises in EU are faced with difficulties in filling job vacancies, especially for highly qualified workers. The data says it all - the EU is witnessing an employment growth of 3% per year in high education sectors (1% in other sectors); a change in the occupational structure in favour of highly-skilled non-manual workers and, for these workers, high employment rates coupled with low unemployment rates (83.2% against 4.8%1).

The EU with 1.72% third-country highly qualified workers of the total of the employed population, lags behind all the other main immigration countries, such as Australia (9.9%), Canada (7.3%), US (3.2%) and Switzerland (5.3%). These figures highlight the difficulty for the EU in attracting - and in certain cases, valorising - these immigrant workers.

If the economic situation in the EU continues to improve, the EU will find itself more and more in need of highly qualified workers. It is therefore time for the EU to act if it wants to reverse this situation.

The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration - which has entered into an agreement with the Indian ministry of overseas Indian affairs - is also working towards facilitating better management of labour migration between South & South East Asia and selected countries in the European Union which need skilled workers in diverse sectors such as agricultural work, IT, healthcare, hospitality and entertainment.

The twin objectives of the programme is assessing and responding to manpower needs in the EU and enhancing employment opportunities for Indians.

In a clear signal to highly skilled people from all over the world, the EU is trying to reinvent itself and turn into an attractive destination. And in that context, highly skilled and qualified immigrants from India are needed. Besides geographic mobility across the EU region, the new policy which envisages ‘Blue Cards’ - will also provide easy passage for the spouse and other family members of skilled immigrants.

So while Blue Cards - which will bring about a common system to address the diverse labour market needs of member EU states - may not yet have become a reality - continental Europe definitely looks attractive for Indians.

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