Nederland verliest kenniswerkers

Nieuws | de redactie
20 juni 2008 | Nederland behoort tot een kleine groep ontwikkelde landen, die meer kenniswerkers verliest dan het weet aan te trekken. Terwijl het saldo van kennismigratie in heel de OECD 3,6 % is, zakt dit in ons land met 1,2 %. Daarmee zit ons land op het zorgelijke niveau van Italië en van kenniswerkers exporterende landen als Zuid-Korea. Het beleid op dit terrein is bovendien niet echt afgestemd op het bredere EU-beleid en kan daardoor schade lijden.

Buurlanden doen het in dit opzicht inmiddels beter dan ons land. België kent een positief saldo van 3,7 %, Duitsland van 4,1 % en Frankrijk van zelfs 8 %. Klassieke kennismigranten-wervers als Canada en Australië halen positieve saldi van meer dan 20 % van geïmmigreerde inwoners van hun land met een HO-niveau.

Een studie van de WRR analyseert deze ontwikkeling als volgt: ‘Since 2004 it has become easier for foreigners who fit the definition of ‘knowledge worker’ and are sponsored by an employer to get a residence permit to live and work in the Netherlands. Now , with 4 percent foreign employees in the sector ‘science and technique’, the Netherlands is almost at the European average of 4.1 percent (cpb 2007). With the expectation that in the future there will be a larger demand for these workers, proposals are now being formulated to complete the demand-oriented migration with a supply-driven motivation. This means that foreign workers who meet certain criteria can migrate to the Netherlands and find themselves a job also without the invitation/sponsorship of a company in the Netherland.

A complication is that a policy discussion about this same issue is taking place at a European level at the same time,  with uncertain outcomes. In a recent recommendation, the Dutch Social Economic Council found the simplification of the admission procedure to be insufficient (ser 2007). According to ser, the policy for knowledge workers should be less restrictive. In the ser proposal, which immigrants can qualify for a residence permit under the knowledge worker category would be determined via a point system based on level of education, work experience, English and/or Dutch language abilities, and age (preferably young). At the same time ser observes that there are limitations to make working in the Netherlands attractive for foreign workers. Such attractiveness includes housing, schooling, recreation, and culture.

The Netherlands has a negative immigration surplus of higher-educated people. There is a net-outflow of this  category. The question for the Netherlands is whether a larger supply of knowledge workers will also create a larger demand for social security for these immigrants and their family members, who might face difficulties in finding employment, either upon arrival or after they have finished a job for which they originally came to the Netherlands. In supply-driven migration the costs of recruitment and integration are in fact paid by the Dutch taxpayers and not by potential employers.

It is difficult, if not impossible, however, to know in advance which knowledge workers are attractive for an innovative economy. The risk of supply-driven migration at the European level is that the Netherlands might receive immigrants for whom this country is a second choice and in which they are less interested in integrating and staying permanently.

At this time most of the highly educated immigrants into Europe go to Great Britain, France, and Germany. These countries are expected to remain most attractive; Great Britain and France especially have the advantage of being a country with a language in which many knowledge workers already are fluent. And if they are not, investing in learning English or French yields wider opportunities for moving to other countries when the need or opportunity arises.

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