The Age Dimension of European Immigration: A New Challenge for European Societies
Social and POlitical Sciences European University Institute San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Italy
European societies are increasingly aging societies. However, aging societies debate has failed to consider that contemporaneous European societies are immigration societies. This paper addresses the age distribution(s) of immigrants in Europe and suggests that there are clear cut cleavages among the immigrants? age groups. Moreover, contrary to the immigration tradition and policies of the member states, across Europe the age of the immigrants converges towards young adult age. Employing Eurostat data, the paper shows that despite the European non-discrimination legislation and, in addition to the age discrimination on the labour market, immigration into Europe has significant negative age dimension. Overall, half of the immigrants are under 29 years of age and only 11 % are age 50 or over. The median age of total reported migration in 15 EU member states was 28.8 years old, for the return nationals it reached 30.3, and for EU citizens was 29.9, meanwhile for non-EU citizens it was only 27.7 years old. For the last citizenship group, there are three years of difference with the returning nationals and one and a half years difference with EU citizens. Thus, the findings show that as immigration is more formally regulated, the age of the immigrants decreases. The paper finds that, on one hand, this is due to the policies of admission (family reunification, student visa and guest worker programs) negatively select on age; on the other hand, the paper claims that in the absence of a protective system against discrimination acting at the international level, age is regarded as a proxy for welfare dependency and low productivity. The age discrimination at admission also generates unintended social consequences such as failure in reuniting families with grandparents who could contribute to childcare and increase fertility among immigrants. It also generates severe unbalancing between the working population and the elderly and the children i.e. the most vulnerable categories in home societies. Consequently, the work recommends the introduction of a weighted quota system for aged immigrants in Europe. The results support an agenda for a better understanding of the "fuzzy logic" of immigration patterns in increasingly convergent European society.