EUI Forum on Migration, Citizenship and Demography: Follow-Up

Florence, 4-5 February 2016

by Géraldine Renaudière

On the 4 and 5 February, the Migration Policy Centre (RSCAS, EUI) hosted the Forum on Migration, Citizenship and Demography. The forum was aimed at providing a frame to reflect on these significant issues in the current context of mass movements of refugees and migrants worldwide. On the initiative of Pr. Philippe FARGUES, Director of the Migration Policy Centre, a two-day Conference took place at the EUI and brought together a wide range of academic experts and practitioners to identify the key challenges posed by Demography for Europe and its neighborhood, particularly focusing on migration’s far-reaching impact on population reproduction.

Europe’s population has entered a stage of gradual decline and fast ageing calling into question both Europe’s weight in the world and its wealth and welfare systems. Long-term strategies are needed; this is why more and more scholars and politicians, despite an overall negative perception among public opinion, consider immigration as a possible response to these demographic trends. This Conference was, therefore, designed to explore these avenues further and to formulate practical recommendations to policy-makers and public institutions in charge of these areas, at the national, European and international levels.


The welcome addresses were given by the EUI’s President Joseph WEILER and Brigid LAFFAN, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, who both stressed the importance of Demography in migration studies and the crucial need for long-term solutions and political strategies in this field. The Forum, then, opened with an introductory speech from Pr. Philippe FARGUES, presenting the Conference’s agenda which featured four thematic sessions.

1st Session

The first, chaired by Alessandra VENTURINI, Deputy Director of the MPC, addressed Europe’s Demography, with a particular focus on ageing and its connections with longevity, working skills, productivity and economic growth. Wolfgang LUTZ (Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital) first looked at multi-dimensional demographic projections and emphasised the impact of migration on the future population structure in Europe. In his view, adding the “education” and “labour force participation’’ components to the existing “age’’ and ‘’gender’’ dimensions helps better assess changes in population forecasts. As for migration, one might notably rely on migrant status or religion, provided that the dimensions chosen are stable sources of observable population heterogeneity. Gustavo DE SANTIS (University of Florence) then provided statistics on male and female longevity, as well as on regional life expectancy data. While stressing the serious consequences of ageing on pensions systems’ sustainability and on overall costs of healthcare, he pointed out the need for adapted measuring approach when making population projections: by adjusting threshold ages (at entry in and exit from the labour force), the part of ageing that is driven by longer survival should no longer be seen as a problem for inter-generational transfers; if not (entirely) possible, a greater transfer from the working age to the retired population is needed. After further discussions with the audience, e.g. on education, working skills and the uncertainty surrounding academic forecasts, another aspect, skills ageing, was addressed by Philippe FARGUES. While individual ageing may have an overall positive impact on a cohort’s productivity over the life cycle, population ageing defined as the succession of birth cohorts of decreasing size generates a reduction in the mass of recently acquired education and skills. This, naturally, may harm economies. The first ‘replacement migration’ may partly respond to skills ageing by increasing the stock of up-to-date skills in Europe, provided that migrants are selected according to skills. Finally, from a more economic perspective, Juan DOLADO (EUI) pointed out the challenges of an ageing population for savings, investments, capital markets and for overall productivity: with the progressive depreciation of skills, savings fall and potential investments become scarcer – both facts which undermine the sustainability of the PAYG pension systems. Whereas some governments advocated a shift from savings to fully-funded systems, such option would in DOLADO’s view seriously hamper financial stability (particularly given the low interests rates for loanable funds in our societies). Instead, he advised policy-makers to adopt a two-armed approach: first, dismantling dysfunctional labour markets and product market regulations (including an increase in internal mobility); second, further investing in (useful) economic infrastructures (such as education and professional training) to foster employment and improve productivity growth.

PPT Presentations

2nd Session

The second session, chaired by Emmanuel Comte (EUI), introduced the migration dimension in demographic analysis and revisited the notion of ‘replacement migration’ as a conceptual solution for declining and ageing populations. Pablo LATTES (UN population division) began by showing how migration has indubitably a role to play in the size and ageing of Europe’s population. But it also implies a certain numbers of factors and prior considerations (such as the type of migration considered and the categories to be replaced). With regard to refugees, Massimo LIVI BACCI (University of Florence) stressed that the concrete impact of the current crisis on Europe’s demography remains limited and difficult to assess (given the volatility of the factors taken into account to understand refugees’ net contribution) especially if made regardless of past historical experiences. From a legal perspective, Philippe DE BRUYCKER (EUI) pointed out the difficulties of establishing a clear connection between legal rules in migration law and demography: unless economic growth is specifically at stake, European legal instruments rarely refer to demographic concerns in migration flow management. This is especially the case for the most dominant form of migration into Europe today: family reunification. As noted by Daniele VIGNOLI (EUI), this major entry channel for third-country nationals to European Member States continues to be overlooked, usually being considered as subordinate to labour migration. Yet family reunification often brings positive effects to the countries of destination (the rebalancing of gender, stronger social and cultural integration of migrants, contribution to labour, etc.) and significantly affects demography. In view of the above, it would, therefore, deserve much more attention from both academic and policy-makers. This panel ended with a presentation on the close connection between ‘ageing’ and ‘public attitudes’, by Justyna SALAMONSKA (EUI), who showed data and evidence (EUROBAROMETER) that migrants continue to be perceived negatively in most European hosting countries. They are seen either as a threat to collective identity or as non-contributors to the host society. Although views on non-contribution have now shifted to a more positive perception in most EU-15 countries, large variation in attitudes towards immigration remains depending on the country and the age group in question. Additionally, accurate estimates on this issue are difficult to provide, given the lack of proper longitudinal data’s addressing individual level effects.

PPT Presentations

3rd Session

The second day of the Conference was mainly dedicated to the external dimension of migration (beyond Europe) and its impact on global demography. The third session, chaired by Ivan MARTIN (EUI), thus first focused on the migratory situation in Africa (Anastasia GAGE, Tulane University) and in Iran (Mohammad Jalal ABBASI-SHAVAZI, University of Tehran). While Africa’s high fertility rates are likely to decline with education policies targeting girls, migration – including towards Europe – should be expected to gain momentum. This will require individual skills better adapted to European’s labour markets, higher employment opportunities and good governance conditions. Iran has for its part a significant migration background, and has received a high number of Afghan refugees over the last thirty years and has therefore developed various adaptation patterns (such as the long-term integration of protracted refugees). Here lessons might be drawn for the future European strategies. Afterwards, Alessandra VENTURINI (EUI) highlighted the increasing demand for caregivers in Europe, encouraging more women to migrate in the longer term. She notes this as an example of positive outcomes for both migrant workers and EU Member States’ declining population. In the last presentation of the panel, Hillel RAPOPORT (EUI) used the French model as a starting point to illustrate the cultural diffusion of the fertility transition by (internal) migrants (Malthusian remittances) and emphasised in this regard the close connection between emigration and fertility rates. In France, the low annual emigration rates have significantly affected fertility, yet in different ways according to the self-selections patterns of migration (international/internal rural-to-rural or urban areas etc.) and the types of fertility norms prevailing at destination.

PPT Presentations

4th Session

The afternoon session (the fourth and last) was chaired by Peter BOSCH (European Commission) and addressed the future challenges and perspectives of demography and migration, through optimised and more efficient tools and policies. Hence, Gianpiero DALLA-ZUANNA (University of Padua) recalled the beneficial contribution of migration to the Italian educational system: as long as foreign students are well integrated and treated with equal respect to natives. Thomas LIEBIG (OECD) insisted on the need for further harmonization with regard to the national measurement of immigration flows. He also called for greater internal mobility within the OECD countries and more effective selections of skills (beyond formal education) in order for the countries to better attract and retain the highest-skilled migrants needed by their labour markets. When assessing the relationship between human capital components of foreign labour force (size, level of education, age diversity of countries of origin) and innovation at industrial level, Sona KALANTARYAN (EUI) advocated for a migration policy to be more sector specific and demand driven. This would include proper mechanisms enabling the cross-border transfer of skills and capacity to retain highly-skilled young migrants after they graduated. This last panel ended with a presentation by Giampaolo LANZIERI (EUROSTAT) on the current and future challenges of migration in EU demography, providing a wide range of statistical indicators and tools for monitoring preparedness for demographic changes.

PPT Presentations

Concluding remarks

After a final discussion with the audience, the Forum concluded with remarks from Brigid LAFFAN (RSCAS) and Philippe FARGUES who officially announced, as the main outcome of this two-day meeting, the forthcoming publication of a policy-brief and possibly an edited volume on demography and migration in a European and global perspective.


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