domingo, 25 de abril de 2010

Catalonia, a welcoming society. Immigration and the job market

Reproduzco en esta entrada del blog la versión inglesa de un artículo sobre inmigración publicado en el número 3 (septiembre a diciembre de 2009) de la revista “Món.cat. Catalunya al món”, del patronat Catalunya Món.

The process of statutory reform underway in many autonomous communities (ACs) in Spain, especially in Catalonia, has meant that the regions will take on competences in immigration at different levels. These include welcoming and integrating immigrants, as well as granting work permits for foreigners and organizing Catalonia’s participation in migratory policy and in determining the contingent of workers wanting to work in Spain. These responsibilities are going to imply a stronger regional presence in the decision-making that affects many people’s working lives, and simultaneously are examination of the state authorities’ competences in the corresponding regional and even local spheres.

The statutory reforms will make it necessary for there to be a clearer articulation among the different administrations with authorities in this matter so that foreign non-EU citizens can fully exercise the rights that the foreign resident laws grant them, as well as to ensure proper enforcement of the statutory rules. Granting the initial work permits to foreigners who work in Catalonia, a competence that will start on the 1st of October is a regional competence on labour matters. However, because other issues are also at stake, the exercise of this competence will require coordination with the state authorities on matters related to foreigners’ entrance and residence in Spain.

Giving the ACs decision-making authority on the work contingent, as well as having them participate in certain forums with competences in this matter, can help to improve assessments of the region’s labour needs, and therefore the final determination of the number of job offers in it. However, the Generalitat of Catalonia’s participation in this sphere does not imply decision-making authority when setting this figure; rather it merely entails participation in drafting the proposal that the state government must approve.

The National Immigration Pact in Catalonia

This important pact was signed in December 2008. It aims to serve as a roadmap for structuring an immigration policy in line with Catalonia’s needs in the forthcoming years. I had the honor of participating in developing it as the coordinator of the working group on labour issues.

The studies conducted by the Centre for Opinion Studies (CEO) reveal that a broad swath of the population perceives immigration as one of society’s chief problems despite the fact that many of the Catalan economy’s productive sectors would be hard-pressed to subsist without the presence of foreign-born workers. Any policy that aims to manage immigration flows must be grounded on a fundamental premise: the need to articulate the regulatory mechanisms for the entry of foreign workers. These mechanisms have to link up directly to the job market’s current and future needs.

Therefore, ascertaining these needs, designing the mechanisms that allow immigrants to enter and managing migratory flows are three factors within the same process. Without them, it would be difficult to design effective migration policies, that is, policies that facilitate and stimulate integration. Linking the bulk of the immigration process to the needs of the job market requires us to define new policies that meet the production demands with the country’s real or potential supply capacity.

The pact includes proposals that aim to ensure equal rights and access to the job market for everyone in Catalonia, in close coordination with the demands of the job market. More skilled professionals are needed in most productive sectors, the employment rate and the percentage of female workers should rise and diversity management must be brought into companies. All of this must take place parallel to the regular entry of foreigners into Catalonia, while the public employment services also need strengthening.

The draft law on receiving immigrants and returnees in Catalonia This important text was approved by the regional government on the 2nd of June of this year. It is currently going through the Parliament and may be approved by the end of this year. The purpose of this law is to contribute to effective implementation of the principles of equality and social cohesion. These goals will be achieved by creating an early reception service aimed at promoting the personal autonomy of foreign immigrants and returnees who are at a disadvantage because of their lack of knowledge about Catalan society and its principal juridical rules, or because they lack basic language skills. All foreign immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, stateless individuals and returnees over the age of 16 will have the right to access the early reception service.

From the labour perspective, I want to stress that the draft law states that everyone who benefits from this right has to be capable of getting the knowledge needed to fully exercise their labour rights and responsibilities, to both secure jobs and perform the job and develop their professional careers. The department in charge of labour matters will have to define and set forth the content of the training actions in workplace knowledge in coordination with the department in charge of immigration, which will do the same for knowledge on immigration law. This knowledge will be accredited through an official certificate (issued by the Generalitat and local entities, within their competences) in order to facilitate access to the job market and other educational opportunities. Furthermore, through companies and other entities, and with the participation of legal workers’ organizations, the administration of the Generalitat will promote positive action measures aimed at both finding work and establishing working conditions, including for seasonal or campaign work, within the framework of the applicable labour laws.

Statistical figures

According to figures from the municipal population census performed on the 1st of January 2009, a total of 7,518,272 people lived in Catalonia, 1,236,443 of whom are foreigners. By nationality, Morocco ranks first (235,133 people), followed by Romania
(96,695), Ecuador (86,922), Bolivia (63,301), Colombia (51,684), Italy (48,360), China (46,765), Peru (37,345) and Argentina (36,644).

If we look at the figures on foreigners with registration certificates or residence cards that were valid on the 30th of June 2009, the autonomous communities of Catalonia,
Madrid, Andalusia and Valencia are the home to 65.82% of the foreigners in Spain. The provinces of Madrid and Barcelona are the home to the highest number of foreigners, with 847,303 and 699,411, respectively.

Of the remaining provinces in Catalonia, Girona is the home to 141,163 foreigners, Tarragona to 125,091 and Lleida to 67,715.

The general system (allow me to simplify: the “true foreigners”) includes 2,503,818 people (54.13% of the total) and the community system (again, allow me yet another simplification: the ones who have almost the same rights and responsibilities as the locals) account for 2,121,373 persons (45.87% of the total). In Madrid, the foreigners under the general system account for 57.45% of the total, a percentage that is ten points higher in Catalonia, where it stands at 68.20%. Barcelona and Madrid are also the home to the highest number of working-aged foreigners (726,631 in Madrid and 577,297 in Barcelona). There are five autonomous communities, including Catalonia, where more than 25% of the residence authorizations are permanent.

Also very important are the figures on affiliation with the social security system. According to the most recent figures available when this article was written, in August 2009, Catalonia was the home to 22.82% of the foreign population (437,092 people) in Spain, 117,742 of whom are from the EU and 319,350 from outside it. By social security system, 68.79% of the affiliates are included in the general system, 9.99% in the family household system, 12.89% in the agricultural system, 7.64% in the freelance system and 0.7% in the coal system Moroccan workers are the largest contingent (61,391), followed by Ecuadorians (40,399), Romanians (35,471), Colombians (23,847), Italians (21,011), Chinese (20,623), Bolivians (19,925), Peruvians (19,526), French (14,046), Argentines (13,838), Pakistanis (11,640) and Dominican Republicans (8,596).