Demographics and immigration: how to transform a crisis into an opportunity
April 10, 2017
On February 2, 2017, the Italian and Libyan governments signed an agreement (the fourth in less than ten years) to reduce the number of migrants that attempt to reach Italian soil from Libyan coasts. In 2016 alone, approximately 180,000 people arrived in Italy by sea. The majority of them claimed to have departed from Libya, taking advantage of the country’s political instability.
The agreement set out that Italy would contribute to developing welcoming centers on Libyan territory (by purchasing medicine and training equipment for employees) and provide technical support to the Coast Guard in the fight against illegal immigration. Libya would in turn exercise greater control over the flow of migrants. The day after the agreement was signed, a meeting of European heads of state was held in Malta to discuss measures to contain illegal immigration from Libya to Italy.
The problem of immigration is thus extremely current. In a paper entitled Flussi migratori e transizione demografica (Migratory Flows and Demographic Transition) presented in March 2016 (a year before the agreement) at the Vises conference held annually at LUISS, Giuseppe Di Taranto argues that immigration must be seen as an opportunity and not as a crisis.
Recent demographic predictions regarding the European Union reveal a progressive aging tendency across the continent and a reduction of active population (due to to slowing birth and death rates). This represents a danger to the Unions productivity as well as financial and economic sustainability. A migratory policy that is able to satisfy the growing demand of skills could be a valid response to the situation.
The European Union must demonstrate that it is capable of managing migratory influxes and integrate migrants into their social fabric. In Di Taranto’s words, it is a win-win situation: Europe is useful to a migrant as a herald of job opportunities as well as human and professional realization; while the migrant is useful to Europe to – among other things – adjust demographic imbalances.