Flexibilisation and labour migration

29 October 2008

Flexibilisation and labour migration

As a Romanian you have reason enough to want to be somewhere else. Almost one in ten have chosen that option. Ten percent of the population, that is, not 'only' ten percent of the workforce. In November the Dutch Parliament will debate the complete removal of all border restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria. For SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer, this gives occasion to confront the European Commission with a number of annoying questions. "Europe prides itself on having made the labour market more flexible," he says. "Wouldn't it be better if the EU measured its success in terms of its capacity to make labour migration unnecessary?"

Not only money

The removal of border controls for Romanian workers means more than simply more migration to, for example, the Netherlands. The gap which they leave in their home country will be filled by workers from Asia by whom Romanian wages of €150 euro (£120/$190), less than the rate per hour of a Dutch lawyer, are seen as attractive. Romanians leave their country, moreover, not only for the money, but as a result of the poor quality of health care, education and the legal system. There is a great deal of corruption, and no inspectorate to enforce such labour standards as in theory exist. Many Romanian children, as a result of this 'flexibilisation of labour', are missing one or both parents, cared for instead, sometimes for lengthy periods, by older brothers, sisters or other family members.

Street interviews

The Netherlands is popular with Romanians, as SP Member of Parliament Paul Ulenbelt discovered this summer when he visited the country and interviewed people in the street. Together with his assistant Bart van Kent, he also spoke with trade unions, employers and state institutions. If papers were no longer required, many Romanians would like to come to work in the Netherlands, because here you can be much more certain that you would get your wages than is the case, for example, in Italy or Spain.

Decent work

"It would be better if Romanians had no reason to have to emigrate," Meijer says. "The EU should be using its so-called structural and cohesion funds in such a way as to ensure that Europeans from low-wage countries are more likely to find decent work in their own countries, and for wages that are competitive with those they can earn in other member states. I have challenged the European Commission to come up with an answer to this."

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