Ireland Opting Out of EU Directive to Allow Asylum Seekers to Work is Political not Economic

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Last week in the Dáil Alan Shatter justified Ireland opting out of an EU directive to allow asylum seekers to enter the workforce if their application has not been processed after a year on the grounds that it would exacerbate unemployment:

“Extending the right to work to asylum seekers would almost certainly have a profoundly negative impact on application numbers, as was experienced in the aftermath of the July 1999 decision to do so,” he said.

“The immediate effect of that measure was a threefold increase in the average number of applications per month leading to a figure of 1,217 applications in December 1999 compared with an average of 364 per month for the period January to July 1999.

“Any change in public policy in this area would have to have regard to the very large numbers of people unemployed in this country,” he added.”

But as Michael Burke on Socialist Economic Bulletin shows, inward migration boosts growth – and as inward migration increases, unemployment falls.

“[however,]Correlation does not prove causality. But within the high-income countries higher levels of income are associated with higher levels of migration. Within the middle income countries, higher growth rates are associated with higher levels of internal migration.”

He concludes:

“In reality the debate on immigration in Britain is not about the economic causes and consequences of immigration at all. It is overwhelmingly a ‘debate’ that allows politicians and others to whip up xenophobia and racism, while posing as being concerned about the interests of workers or the poor. The cause of migration is growth, to which migration is a decisive contributor. The consequence is stronger growth. The contrary argument is being raised now as a reactionary diversion from the current economic crisis, and the policies which are responsible for it.”

The only reason Ireland continues direct provision is because it’s politically useful. There is no economic argument.