Does Europe need to take in more Immigrants?

August 1, 2000

BBC News recently mentioned that European Ministers were discussing a radical suggestion that EU needs to admit more than 75 million immigrants to cope with labour and skills shortages, over the next 50 years. The skills in demand are mainly in the high technology area.

One can imagine the effect of such large-scale immigration on the EU society. The social fabric can change drastically - on the positive side one can anticipate a mixing of races, cross fertilization of ideas and a better respect for different cultures of the world

If you indulge in thinking on a larger scale beyond the European Union, one could envision a world with a handful of boundaries, few currencies and virtually free flow of information. People will not have to deal with visas, currency conversion, immigration checks etc. Essentially, it would be possible to pursue any interest at any place in the world. Taking it further one can hypothesize that removal of immigration barriers confirms that we are indeed headed towards one 'BIG GLOBAL ECONOMY'.

Could one conclude these changes are entirely positive? Or, could such changes be interpreted to be selfish ploys of the rich? To meet the short time demands is it right for the west to bleed the developing countries of their brainpower? Would differences between the locals and foreigners result in tensions like in Sri Lanka or Kosovo?

May be there is another perspective, would it better for the west to work jointly with the east in a mutually beneficial manner. With present telecommunication links it is indeed possible to work across the continents. For example outsourcing projects to the east could lead to a better distribution of wealth and creation of opportunities in the developing countries. Is it fair for the west to create opportunities in developing countries? Can the developing countries work something out with G8 so that they can indeed retain their hopes and ambitions they nurtured by way of education and training?

What initiatives can the developing countries take to ensure its brightest and smartest talent pool is not extinct?

Was Rudyard Kipling right in saying 'East is East and West is West. Never the twain will meet?'

- Chiranth Nataraj, Richmond, Virginia, USA

The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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