Internal migration and mobility are one of the key elements of our European way of life. When we joined the European Union in 2004, migration and mobility were two key points which prompted Malta to join.
As a young membership activist, membership in me meant freedom. The freedom for all Europeans to move freely in all Member States to live, study, work or retire. However, even with such a system in place, countries that are doing well economically cannot meet the demand for workers that their economies need.
This is clear in the case of Malta. With full employment, or an unemployment rate of just over three percent, we urgently need more people to join our workforce. This is shown by recent interviews that employers, especially in the tourism sector, gave to the media.
Many employers in various industries have made it clear that they are facing a staffing crisis that is impeding the survival and growth of their businesses.
The pandemic has brought with it a harsh reality for many, including foreign workers in countries other than their own, with many returning to their home countries during this difficult time (a reality has also brought some because they were not registered as employees and, therefore, were not entitled to benefits but this requires another article for further discussion).
At the same time, while credit must be given to the government and its COVID-19 strategy, much of Malta’s success during the pandemic was due to the hard work and dedication of thousands of workers, many Maltese but also hundreds of third country nationals working on the front line of the pandemic.
Yes, Malta and the EU must strive to attract the best talent while introducing measures to attract more workers to areas of crucial labor shortage in Europe for the continued growth of our economy.
The arguments in favor of legal migration to Europe are clear. However, in the absence of a legal framework governing the arrival of migrant workers, it is understandable that EU citizens might be concerned about any attempt to bring more migrant workers into our workforce. .
The arguments for legal migration to Europe are clear
What is needed is an appropriate framework that recognizes labor shortages and creates common rules and procedures for sending and receiving countries. In the meantime, it is imperative that the laws protect these workers from abuse and exploitation which, in turn, also leads to the exploitation of Maltese and European citizens.
At the start of last week, I was appointed spokesperson for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament on an upcoming legislative initiative that will propose a number of legal instruments to the European Commission on migration labor.
I have been tasked with negotiating a set of recommendations to the European Commission to find ways to address the structural gaps in labor shortages in European labor markets that are not filled by the internal market.
We need to develop a set of harmonized rules on admission and common rules on workers’ rights.
My main objective in these negotiations is to ensure that these rules serve as the basis for legal and clearly defined pathways for economic migration.
We need a strong package of skills and talents to fill the main gaps in the current legislation. This should go hand in hand with a review of the Long-term Residence Directive, which would allow economic migrants to also move freely across the EU, among others. This should be linked to the Single Permits Directive.
First and foremost, we need a system allowing European companies to consult databases of third country nationals interested in joining the European workforce. Indeed, this would open a safe path for verified potential migrants to be chosen by employers, matching the skills of potential workers to the needs of the economy.
Indeed, it would also draw a clear distinction between legal and irregular migration. With such a distinction in place, the EU can come up with a more robust holistic plan to combat trafficking in human beings, particularly in the Mediterranean, by being able to make a stronger distinction between economic irregular arrivals and people fleeing the country. war and persecution.
With such measures in place, the EU can take a more distinct approach to migration and assert its interest in combating human trafficking and deaths in the Mediterranean.
At the end of the day, no one wants to risk their life trying to get to Europe for employment. Such measures will give citizens the opportunity to make a legal request to do so, in a way that meets Europe’s specific economic needs.
Cyrus Engerer, Labor European deputy
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