‘The gap between election rhetoric and much-needed policies is widening’

Reuters / Francois Lenoir

From childcare to construction, the many vacancies are challenging to say the least.

‘While economic migrants have long been a scapegoat, the labour shortage — decades after our search for “guest” workers — has brought them back into demand,’ notes MO* editor-in-chief Jago Kosolosky. This reality clashes with the anti-immigration discourse that politicians continue to resort to.

Translation of this article is provided by kompreno, using a combination of machine translation and human correction. More articles from MO* are included in kompreno‘s curation of the finest analysis, opinion & reporting — from all across Europe, translated into your language. Original source.

Perception, and the rhetoric behind it, dominate everything in politics today. It is one of the pernicious side-effects of pervasive marketisation. Those who parrot the voter and their gut feeling are more than ever electorally rewarded. Appealing to the primate in each of us, including our fears and instincts, is a formula for success.

The war criminal and Nazi leader Hermann Göring already knew this. He was right when, in an interview with the American psychologist Gustave Gilbert, he said that people ‘can always be persuaded to dance to the tune of their leaders’. It is easy, said the monster at Nuremberg. ‘All you have to do is convince them they are under attack.’

In a modern democracy with a free market economy, finding an imaginary aggressor is no easy task. A handful of generations ago, before the wave of literacy and universal suffrage, the pauper was the ideal target.

And for a long time, in Western Europe until after two world wars, neighbours could also be targeted. But today, with constant international trade and cooperation, it is almost impossible to point fingers in that direction. And in our super-diverse society, it is increasingly difficult to explicitly target members of minority groups.

But lazy politicians can still count on “the profiteers” as the ideal scapegoat. Every Fleming knows this pejorative term, which encompasses people without legal residence (and, until recently, economic migrants).

Today there is limited empathy for undocumented migrants. This, combined with their absence from public debate and the ballot box, makes them the target of choice.

The gap between this kind of electoral rhetoric and much-needed policies is widening. Nowhere is this more evident than in our labour market. While economic migrants have long been a scapegoat, labour shortages — decades after our search for “guest workers” — have put them back in demand. Back in 2021 already, Bert Mons, managing director of the employers’ organisation Voka West Flanders, told MO* journalist John Vandaele that ‘we need economic migration from outside the European Union. Highly qualified people, but also people with low and medium qualifications.’

Anyone thinking about our pensions and looking at the population pyramid knows that as many people as possible need to be employed as soon as possible.

There is still an international hunt for labour going on, as evidenced by the many job vacancies. Anyone thinking about our pensions and looking at the population pyramid knows that as many people as possible need to be employed as soon as possible. And there are more efficient ways of achieving this than continuing to invest in chasing vulnerable people.

Hospital Oost-Limburg is currently recruiting nurses in India. Agoria, Voka and VDAB are already training Moroccan — and in the future possibly Senegalese and Nigerian — IT workers in their country of origin to prepare them for their arrival in Belgium.

But undocumented migrants who are already here and often already part of our society are left out in the cold. They are not allowed to work, so they are forced en masse into tax evasion, illegal work and other criminal activities in order to survive. The obstacles we put in their way, and the costs of doing so, continue to grow and do no ultimate good.

In turn, workers from outside the Union who are allowed to work often find themselves funding social security schemes without benefiting from them. This is the conclusion of a new study by the European Trade Union Institute, the research centre of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

It is a surprising conclusion that runs completely counter to prevailing perceptions and rhetoric. The short period of time that some of these third-country nationals work in the Union often excludes them from benefits.

So we let these people fund our social security, and then turn around and deny them the accompanying rights. What a bunch of “profiteers”, those Europeans.

Jago Kosolosky (born in 1991) has been in charge of MO* and MO.be since 1 August 2020. 

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Over de auteur

  • Hoofdredacteur MO*

    Jago Kosolosky (°1991) staat sinds 1 augustus 2020 aan het hoofd van MO* en MO.be. Hij volgde Gie Goris op, hoofdredacteur van MO* van bij het ontstaan van de publicatie in 2003.

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