The European Commission defines an immigrant as a person from outside the European Union who establishes residency in an EU country for at least 12 months. Immigration to Europe reached its peak during the 2015 migrant and refugee crisis, when over 1 million asylum seekers and economic migrants entered the continent.
Today, statistics show that immigration to Europe has decreased dramatically, likely due to immigration reforms such as strengthened borders in the Balkans, the EU and Turkey refugee agreement, and new arrangements between Italy and Libya. Despite this, immigrants still have a large presence in the EU: In January 2018, 22.3 million people (4.4%) of the 512.4 million people living in the EU were not citizens. The number of immigrant arrivals is expected to rise again soon, prompting more discussions about increased immigration and the effects on the EU.
Reasons for Immigration to the European Union
Violence, poverty, war, and economic depression are the biggest reasons for the increase in immigration to the EU, with most people migrating from the Middle East and Africa. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the top three countries of origin for people immigrating during the 2015 migrant crisis were Syria (46.7%), Afghanistan (20.9%), and Iraq (9.4%).
Asylum, the protection granted by a foreign state to people unable to seek protection in their home country, is a substantial reason for increased immigration to Europe. The Syrian Civil War led more than 919,000 Syrians (a large portion of Syria’s original population) to apply for asylum in the EU between 2014 and 2017. Germany is the country that granted asylum to the greatest number of refugees, followed by France, Italy, and Austria.
Where People Are Immigrating to in Europe
Germany has the largest number of immigrants and non-nationals living in their country out of all 28 EU member states, reporting 9.7 million immigrants in January 2018. The United Kingdom has the second highest number of immigrants at 6.3 million, followed by Italy with 5.1 million, France with 4.7 million, and Spain with 4.6 million.
The number of citizenships granted to an EU Member State in 2017 was 825,400, a 17% decrease from 2016. Italy granted the highest number of citizenships in 2017 to 146,600 people, followed by the United Kingdom with 123,100, Germany with 115,400, France with 114,300, and Sweden with 68,900.
Immigration’s Effect on the European Job Market
In most cases, a spike in population increases the number of people in the workforce and creates jobs in response to a greater demand for goods and services. Under the right circumstances, population booms can lead to economic prosperity. The effect of immigration on the European job market depends on the skills of the immigrants, the skills of resident workers, and the characteristics of each specific economy. Immigrants attempting to integrate into the European job market face obstacles like limited language proficiency, a lack of knowledge about the job market, and difficulties finding jobs with their skill sets. As a result, immigration is generally expected to affect low-skilled jobs the most, creating greater competition in industries that require less specialized skill sets or in-depth communication. Going forward, Europe will continue to ensure immigrants and non-nationals of any socioeconomic background and with any experience level will find their place in the workforce through labor market integration efforts.