Immigrants on the Edge of Europe: The Potential of Replacement Human Capital for Economic Development in the Periphery

Valerie Ledwith, National University of Ireland, Galway
Wojciech Janicki, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University

Given the rise in populist anti-immigrant rhetoric which lays the blame for economic insecurity at the feet of migrants, it is important to reassert the potential of immigration as a positive economic development strategy. A recent OECD report highlights that migrants fill important niches both in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economy, that migrants tend to be highly educated, and that migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in benefits (OECD 2014). Given the scope for migration to make a positive contribution both economically and socially, our research assesses whether immigration is a plausible economic development strategy for peripheral regions in Europe. In particular, our research examines the potential for immigration of non-nationals to replace/substitute the loss of human capital associated with the out-migration of nationals from peripheral areas. Of course, peripheral regions are not homogenous and it is necessary to first consider what, if any, barriers to immigration and integration exist. To do so, we use two case studies as examples – Eastern Poland and the West of Ireland. As a starting point, we are interested in examining whether job satisfaction and/or security among the host population is related to general attitudes to immigration in peripheral locations. We also engage with key business stakeholders to consider whether and how peripherality at the edge of Europe impacts upon the potential of migration as an economic development strategy. This research will provide important insights into the potential for regional migration policy to be explicitly designed for economic development in peripheral regions of Europe. This policy would allow explicit steering of migrants to destinations in the European periphery most in need of replacement human capital. Furthermore, this research will offer empirical evidence on the relationship between economic security in receiving communities and support for immigration and integration.

Presented in Session 1234: Economics, Human Capital, and Labour Markets