Fewer labor migrants came to the Netherlands last year than in previous years, reports the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). The main reason for this is the corona pandemic. Migrants from outside Europe in particular stayed away.
As the economy was hit by the pandemic last year, there was less demand for labour. And because of the corona measures worldwide, it was more difficult to travel.
In 2020, 171,000 migrants came to the Netherlands. That was 44,000 fewer than in 2019. “In most cases, this concerns a mix of expats, students and asylum seekers and their family members who come along,” says Leo Lucassen in the report. NOS Radio 1 News. He is professor of labor and migration history at Leiden University.
In particular, fewer highly skilled migrants arrived: in 2020, almost half of those came to the Netherlands from outside the EU. It is unclear whether this decline will continue. In the months of April, March and May, the number of labor migrants and knowledge workers increased again, but there were still fewer than in 2018 and peak year 2019.
The number of immigrants from European member states fell by 15,000 in 2020 and was back at the level of 2018 with 109,000. “Traveling was also less complicated for them”, Lucassen explains why the decline is less significant.
Staff shortages for entrepreneurs
This development is exciting for entrepreneurs, as they struggle with staff shortages that they hope to make up for with migrant workers. It’s not just about lower-skilled work that the Dutch don’t want to do, says Lucassen. “There is also a lot of work for which there are simply too few people, including higher educated. Think, for example, of ASML in Eindhoven.” The chip machine manufacturer announced today that it expects a large increase in turnover.
In order to absorb the decline in labor migrants, Lucassen believes that there should be a discussion about whether there should still be room for low-skilled work. He thinks of the many distribution centers and slaughterhouses, where there is a lot of work to be done for which fewer and fewer people can be found.
“The supply of labor is simply too low. And you also see that all kinds of abuses arise in the treatment of the migrants. People are huddled in holiday parks, much too close to each other.”
After the enlargements of the European Union in 2004 and 2007, labor migration became an increasingly important motive for Europeans to come to the Netherlands. Since 2013, work has been the most common reason for migration.
He wonders whether the Netherlands should still want to play such an important role in distribution, where this type of work is required. He foresees that the supply of low-skilled workers, especially from Poland and Romania, will decrease in the next ten years.
“Also because the economies are doing quite well there. Wages are going up there, so the incentive to work here temporarily under primitive conditions will also decrease.”
In the meantime, there is a diligent search for housing for people who already work here, but also for those who are yet to come. According to Flexwonen’s calculations, a total of 150,000 sleeping places are needed for migrant workers. This number is calculated on the basis of the expected growth in the number of labor migrants.