Migration debate: fight against clichés


How can we talk rationally about migration? That’s the question addressed by Thomas Baudin, an associate professor at both UCLouvain's Institute for Economic and Social Research (IRES) and the IESEG School of Management, and Simone Moriconi, IESEG associate professor and Lille Economics and Management (LEM) member. Both are part of a team of researchers who have just received four years of funding from the French National Research Agency (ANR). Their project, entitled ‘Migration and Labor supplY wheN culturE matterS’ (MALYNES), was officially launched in March 2019.

It’s a fact: over the last 20 years’, Prof. Moriconi says, ‘inter-European migration has doubled. Some of the most recent estimates even suggest a change in the share of migrants, whatever their origin, in the total European population from 6% in 1990 to 12% in 2016 to a projected 28% by 2100. In addition to the migratory crisis, the phenomenon exists within Europe, which of course must address it via cooperation between EU countries, but it’s useless to deny it or pretend we can “close the borders”. Migration is part of life! It’s existed since antiquity and has long-term impacts on economic development and European society.

A scientific take on inter-European migration

The general trend,’ Prof. Baudin says, ‘is to consider the contribution of migrants to the labour market solely through the prism of this market. ‘However, the cultural aspect is crucial in observing these movements. The family economy – analysing the social and family interactions with this society – reminds us how greatly imported values are related to work and family. These themes are often taken up by extremist parties, but it’s up to everyone to seize on them in order to put science back into the debate and fight clichés.’

He and Prof. Moriconi, a specialist in labour market and cultural economy trends, noted during their research that most scientific literature on the impact of migration on host countries deals with economics and addresses the unsettled argument that migrants ‘steal’ work from native citizens. Prof. Moriconi sweeps that argument aside: ‘Studies show that migration directly affects the supply and diversity of skills in the destination country. In addition, welcoming individuals who possess cultural wealth and different professional strengths keeps pace with progress.

Intent on addressing these issues rationally, Profs Moriconi and Baudin formed a team of several researchers and submitted a proposal to the ANR: the MALYNES (Migration And Labor supplY wheN culturE matterS) project. It aims to provide a rational perspective on the impacts of migration and migrant family cultures on the labour market and labour supply in Europe over the long term.

A complex, time-consuming project

My specialisation in the family economy combined well with Prof. Moriconi’s work on the labour and culture market’, Prof. Baudin says. ‘We discussed at length the effects of migration on the host country’s labour market and the importance of migrants' relationship to the culture of their country of origin in order to explain our labour market observations. For example, Danes coming to work in France may be more open to a flexible labour market than the one they’ll face in France. But it must be borne in mind that migration for work doesn’t only affect an individual's work life; it’ll also affect the migrant's personal and family life. Whether arriving with an already formed family or entering the “marriage market” of the host country, marital behaviour will greatly influence job-seeking behaviour. This is an aspect that the project wants to consider in detail.’

Project researchers imagined the possibilities that could be offered by an inter-European migratory impact analysis scheme that included cultural interactions and their impact on the native and ‘neo-native’ workforce. The proposal, finalised in late 2017, was accepted in July 2018. In the meantime, the two researchers set up an international team. In March 2019, Prof. Moriconi, Prof. Baudin and UCLouvain PhD student Riccardo Turati began working with Claudia Senik, Giovanni Peri, Robert Stelter and Ylenia Brilli. Several additional PhD students will also contribute.

Three key steps before 2023

Delighted to ‘get down to business’, Prof. Moriconi explains the key stages of research over the next four years: ‘The first is to analyse current migration policies and develop scenarios. It’ll first involve myself, Mr Turati and the University of California, Davis Prof. Giovanni Peri. The questions: How will migration policy evolve in the coming years? Will we achieve totally free movement in Europe? Or will we have definitively closed the borders? We’re already working upstream on these issues.

The second task will be to build a sort of patchwork of family cultural practices in Europe: marriage, education, division of workload between men and women, etc. ‘These are very important decisions because they directly influence the labour market’, Prof. Moriconi says, who will then work with Prof. Baudin, Claudia Senik, a professor at both the Paris School of Economics and the Sorbonne, and Ylenia Brilli, a postdoctoral student in economics at the University of Verona.

Finally, in the third stage, Profs Moriconi and Baudin will team up with Max Planck Institute Prof. Robert Stelter to link the two previous steps – possible migration policy scenarios and family cultural practices – in a kind of structural analysis model. ‘We can then draw estimates for the next 15, 50 or 100 years, but not for sooner’, Prof. Moriconi says. ‘The press and politicians focus on the debate in a completely irrational way, via data disconnected literally from the realities of and real migrant contributions to the host country. Migrants’ economic contribution to host countries must be taken into account, because it determines crucial economic decisions that must be made scientifically, not emotionally.

Marie Dumas



What data is the MALYNES project based on?

The goal is to produce several scientific articles during our research, punctuating our work until 2024. The articles will be based on abundant European statistics and data—our job is not to collect data, they already exist. Survey data on the culture, family life and work of ‘neo-natives’ and migrants who live in the European Union are available online with a European institution, European Social Survey, as are data from specific countries, such as France or Great Britain, or even from non-European countries with many immigrants of European origin, such as Australia. Our task is first to sort the data and extract relevant aspects for analysis ... that is, to reconstruct the original cultural traits of migrants and see how they’ll affect family relationships and work prospects in the European destination country. This is a big job that’ll take a lot of time.

You talk about taking the heat out of the debate at the political level. What’s the key?

First, conducting scientific research, such as the project we’re undertaking. We must impose rationality on the irrationality that guides our current policies. Secondly, it’s a fact: migrants can be an extremely positive force for a host country economically and culturally! In addition to increasing the population and overall purchasing power, they work in professions sometimes disregarded by natives. A compromise that’ll help elucidate the value of migratory movements would be to select newcomers according to their professional criteria and the host country’s needs. In the MALYNES project, research shows that a balance between ‘low-skilled’ and ‘highly skilled’ migrants would help the population of European countries understand the concrete and beneficial effects of new arrivals and thereby abandon little by little the irrational ‘fear’ that makes them vote for completely backward-looking nationalist parties.

Glossary :
Labour market: The labour market is the theoretical meeting place for the supply of labour power, know-how and skills and the solvent demand for work. This market is most often regulated by law that distinguishes between multiple variants of paid work and self-employment.
Migrant: International migration refers to the movement of people from one country to another in order to settle. Migrants are the individuals that make up these movements. This phenomenon is as old as humanity itself.
Culture: Customary beliefs and values that social groups transmit relatively unchanged from generation to generation (Guiso et al., 2006).1
Bibliographie: Moriconi Peri Turati (2018) Skill of the Immigrants and Vote of the Natives: Immigration and Nationalism in European Elections 2007-2016, NBER Working Paper No. 25077, Issued in September 2018
(1) Luigi Guiso, Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales “Does culture Affect Economic Outcomes?” Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 20, Number 2—Spring 2006—Pages 23–48.

A glance at Thomas Baudin's bio  

Thomas Baudin is associate professor at the IESEG School of Management in Lille and a member of Lille Economics and Management. His scientific background has brought him back into the fold of UCLouvain many times, as a postdoctoral fellow in CORE, a lecturer in DEMO, a visiting professor at LECON and, today, a corresponding member of the IRES. His area of specialisation covers the family economy and the growth economy.

Mor info here

A glance at Simone Moriconi's bio  

Simone Moriconi est professeur associé à l’IÉSEG School of Management de Paris et membre de Lille Economics and Management (LEM). Durant son doctorat en économie de l’Université catholique de Milan, il passe par l’UCLouvain et la London School of Economics (LSE). Aujourd’hui professeur à l’IÉSEG School of Management de Lille et de Paris, il est spécialisé sur les questions économiques liées au marché du travail européen, et l’économie de la culture.

More info here


Published on September 26, 2019