EU unveils Blue Card for skilled labor

WITH falling, if not fully negative, birth rates and faced with the United States’ own drive to obtain skilled workers and professionals, the European Union (EU) has established its “Blue Card” residence visa for the foreign workers it needs to remain competitive in a globalized post-industrial world. 

This is seen by Manila as a boon for Filipino workers, of whom about 90,000 of the 900,000 in the EU are undocumented, although many of these illegal overstayers are skilled workers and professionals.

The Blue Card visa gives the qualified foreign workers legal work residence in all EU member-countries, and also permits them to transfer from one EU country to another without further documentation.

“The period of validity of the EU Blue Card will be between one and four years, with the possibility of renewal. A Blue Card may also be issued or renewed for smaller periods in order to cover the work contract, plus three months,” said the Council of EU in a press statement.

The Brussels-based Council of the European Union adopted the resolution establishing the Blue Card residence permit on May 25 this year, but it may need up to two years to become effective because each member-country will still have to merge it with its own laws.

Europe’s population growth has been on steady decline in the last two decades, resulting in the scarcity of highly qualified labor, so that in Germany retirees are being called back to work. A European Commision (EC) paper predicts the region will lose half of its work force in the next 50 years if the reduced birth rates continues.

Ambassador Alistair Macdonald, head of the Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines, said the EU Blue Card system will “have to be translated into national laws” by the EU member states within two years before it can be implemented.

But he said EU members such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark are not included in the countries that need to adopt the Blue Card system.

In a statement, the Council of the European Union said the Blue Card system establishes more attractive work conditions for foreign workers to take up highly qualified employment in the EU member states, seeing that it gives them a series of socioeconomic rights and favorable conditions for family reunification and movement across EU states.

Macdonald said the presence of Filipino workers has contributed a lot to the region’s economic development and “Europe is very thankful to the Filipino workers.”

He said the Council of the European Union has also adopted the Employers’ Sanctions Directive that provides criminal penalties to employers of illegal migrants and those who exploit victims of human trafficking.

Human trafficking has been a big headache in Europe, but they do not involve Filipinos. Macdonald said most of the victims of human trafficking in Europe come from Africa and China.

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