Ekrame Boubtane: “Immigration has always been part of our economy”

The cross : Does the French economy need immigrants?

Ekrame Boubtane: Yes, and it always has been! There is not a moment in history when the French economy did not need immigrant labour. Even at the time of the great waves of emigration from Europe, France remained an exception, remaining a country that attracted foreign labour. This has always been part of our economy.

→ ANALYSIS. How the French economy needs immigrants

Does this economic immigration rather concern high-tech sectors or, on the contrary, less qualified jobs?

EB: Some sectors, such as construction or personal services, could not do without immigrant labor today. But high-tech sectors are also concerned: in recent years, foreigners have represented 10% of patent filings in France. We can also see that immigrants are overrepresented both among those with “little or no qualifications”, but also among those who have a bachelor’s degree or more.

The latter have even increased in number over the past five years. This corresponds to the demand: in a hospital, you need doctors as much as nurses or cleaners. It’s the same in the economy: we need everyone to make it work.

Does immigrant labor drive down wages?

EB: The studies we have in France show that, in the short term, we can have a drop in wages for the least qualified populations. But it is accompanied, for non-immigrants, by an improvement in remuneration.

Indeed, when immigrants arrive, those who are already present in the sector will switch to higher positions, and therefore better paid. For example, maintenance workers become team leaders. Among the most educated, on the other hand, we observe that immigration tends to cause wages to stagnate.

What is the effect on the unemployment rate?

EB: It is quite insignificant. Immigration has a greater effect on the employment rate because with the arrival of immigrants, the number of people in employment increases faster than the population of working age. But there is also an indirect effect: the immigrants who are hired often allow the creation of other positions. When you create a factory or expand it, you hire workers, but also logisticians, IT specialists, etc.

If your project is blocked for lack of manpower, it is all these induced jobs that you will not be able to create. Hiring immigrants makes it possible to unblock projects and therefore create jobs. Immigration therefore has a fairly positive effect on GDP.

Is immigration not expensive?

EB: There is a lot of focus on the negative effect of the care of asylum seekers on public finances. This may be true at the time, but over the long term, at ten years, their cost becomes insignificant.

→ DEBATE. Can we dream of achieving full employment?

Finally, in our latest work, we were surprised to note a positive effect on GDP, too, of family immigration, known as “involuntary”, an effect which is even greater than labor immigration.


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