The Government is preparing a reform of the regulations of the Immigration Law in order to facilitate the hiring of foreign workers in sectors and occupations where there is a labor shortage. Pending the details, the measure could be a significant advance in the direction of adapting our immigration policy to the economic needs of the country, something very necessary in light of the rapid aging process in which the Spanish population is immersed. Given the foreseeable reduction in the native population of working age and the rapid increase in the retired population, during the coming decades we will need to receive important migratory flows, both to cover our labor needs and to ensure the sustainability of public pensions and other components of our social protection system.
According to EL PAÍS, the Government is contemplating three main measures. The first would be to facilitate the hiring of foreign workers in their country of origin to cover seasonal labor needs, generally unskilled, in sectors such as agriculture, construction and transport. To this end, the system that is now used with Moroccan seasonal strawberry workers would be extended to other sectors, also introducing multi-year permits that could give way in the future to a residence permit to make these contracts more attractive to foreign workers. The second would be to facilitate the regularization of illegal immigrants as long as they acquire training in skills or trades in which there is a shortage of qualified workers. And the third would be to allow foreign students to work while they are training and then be able to stay in Spain after completing their studies. To these three measures should be added another potentially very important one, but one that does not yet seem to be very well defined: a relaxation of the criteria used to draw up the Catalog of Occupations with Difficult Coverage, which in principle limits the possibilities of hiring foreigners.
Although the announced measures go in the right direction, my impression is that they will not be enough to guarantee that the migratory influx reaches the necessary quantity and quality in the coming years. For this, it would be good to take advantage of the occasion to launch a more ambitious reform of our immigration policy, which should be accompanied by a much more proactive attitude in attracting the immigrants we need. The introduction of an annual quota of residence and work permits not conditional on the prior existence of a contract should be studied, which would be assigned according to a point system that reflects the medium and long-term needs of our production system, training and experience of the applicants, and their cultural closeness as an important condition to facilitate their labor and social integration. Such a system should be accompanied by a permanent campaign to attract immigrants with the training and skills that we need among the countries and groups that are culturally closest to us (Latin America, the Sephardic communities, certain areas of Morocco, the countries of Eastern Europe —especially Romania—, Philippines, etc.).
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