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Is there room, and how much, for immigrants in the European social model?

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  1. Introduction
  2. Immigration: A window of opportunity for greying Europe
    1. The economic impact of a rapidly ageing population
    2. The contrasted picture of immigration in Europe
    3. The coming of age of a European immigration policy and the economic issue
  3. Beyond the economic rationale, highly sensitive political issues
    1. The limitations of the European immigration policy
    2. The difficult search for an efficient integration model
    3. Populism and xenophobia: A European-wide trend
    4. Critical reflection on the EU immigration policy
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

Immigration is deeply rooted in the European history. In the post-war times several West European governments ? especially in big and devastated countries ? resorted to immigration to cope with important needs for labour force the after-reconstruction economic boom. Immigrants, mostly from Northern Africa and the Middle East, therefore belong to the origins of the European social model and immigration doubtlessly played a crucial role in its coming of age. The existence of a common social model to European countries will not be discussed here. Rather this concept shall refer to the Welfare State as an organizational model of production and work relationships, as well as to the typical social and political arrangement in Europe after 1945. But if it is one constituent of this model, why is the role of immigration in Europe questioned today? When trying to have European-wide glance at the problem, the term immigrants will refer here to non-EU citizens. It should also be distinguished between legal and illegal immigration, which are to relate to different economic and political problems. There are two categories of factors for immigration. On the one hand ?push factors?, ie factors that lead people to leave their home country, are the most crucial: family reunification as most important, asylum seeking and work. On the other hand, ?pull factors? attract people to go to certain countries: it is mainly a demand for labour force which leads governments to create incentives (delivering special visas) or employers to organize recruitment networks . Finally, the level of immigrant population in a country falls back on many dimensions that need to be taken into account: while it has a strong impact on the economy, it is also related to people's identity, societal change and therefore has a strong political and electoral dimension. This paper will argue that while there is room for immigrants in Europe, the acceptable level of immigration depends on societies' capacity to tackle the political problems related to it. In other words, the aim will be to highlight the trade-off between economic rationality and political issues facing decision-makers. This paper will try to provide for a comprehensive overview of the issue. However, the focus will be more on legal and work-related immigration than illegal immigration. The first section will explain why immigration can be seen as a chance for Europe and enlarge on the action undertaken by the EU in this area. The second section will argue, however, that many problematic political issues should be taken into consideration which undermine the relevance of the recourse to immigration for economic purposes.

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