Migration is a complex and unpredictable phenomenon, often triggered by political crises, economic downturns, and natural or human-made disasters. A new policy brief and a White Paper authored by IIASA researchers and UK colleagues provide valuable insights and recommendations to support policymaking and increase understanding around the realistic implications of high-migration events.

Past events such as the migration from Syria in 2015-2016 and Ukraine in 2022 have highlighted the challenges posed by high-migration events – in other words, the movement of large groups of people from across international borders. What demographic implications of high-migration events can policy makers realistically expect?

Recognizing the uncertainty and unpredictability of migration patterns, IIASA researchers Michaela Potančoková and Guillaume Marois, together with Jakub Bijak, a colleague from the University of Southampton, set out insights and policy recommendations aiming to enhance preparedness and proactive decision-making in a policy brief and a White Paper. The insights are based on the results of the EU Horizon Europe Quantifying Migration Scenarios for Better Policy (QuantMig)  model-based migration scenarios of rare migration events with and without persistence. The White Paper was well-received by European Commission policymakers and other stakeholders at a QuantMig policy event held in Brussels on 23 May.

The authors highlight the importance of simulations to assess the realistic implications of high-migration events, allowing policymakers to better understand the demographic and labor force impacts that would arise from such events and emphasizes the uncertainty and complexity of migration processes, while exploring different approaches to construct future migration scenarios.

By considering different world regions of origin of immigrants, and taking into account the variation of demographic behaviors and labor force participation, the researchers illustrated the potential consequences of high-migration events on future labor force sizes in Europe using the QuantMig-Mic dynamic microsimulation model, developed by Potančoková and Marois as part of the project. The scenarios assume a continuation of past demographic, educational, and labor force participation trends, as well as differential integration outcomes for immigrants from various regions.

The findings indicate that high-migration events alone have limited impact on future labor force trajectories. While the working-age population is projected to decline in most EU+ countries, the authors found that the high migration events cannot substantially alter these demographic trends. The modeled scenarios demonstrate variations in labor force trends across different countries, with stable or potentially increasing labor forces in France and the UK, moderate declines in Germany, and significant shrinkages in Italy and some southern and eastern EU member states.

“Persistent high-migration events can slightly alter projected labor force sizes, especially when occurring in regions with established migration corridors to a destination country,” explains Potančoková. “While our scenarios confirm the significance of international migration for population change in Europe, its impact on working-age population and labor force size is expected to be minimal until 2060.”

“Immigration alone cannot fully address Europe's demographic challenges without comprehensive labor market policies that promote inclusivity. While immigration may have moderate impacts on labor force size, the simulations underscore the importance of a balanced approach that considers longer-term demographic trends and inclusive integration strategies,” notes Marois. The authors conclude that proactive measures and inclusive policies are crucial for effectively managing high-migration events and ensuring the long-term sustainability of labor forces in European societies. As emphasized in the authors’ previous research, it is suggested that the decline in the labor force can be mitigated through improved labor force participation, longer working lives, and higher participation of women.

The QuantMig project has contributed to mainstreaming uncertainty in migration narratives and provides online tools, such as the QuantMig Migration Scenarios Explorer to support European migration policy and preparedness.

Read the full policy brief here.
Access the White Paper here.
Access the IIASA Report with results from all QuantMig scenarios here.

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