- Category: News
- Created on Friday, 09 December 2011 11:19
- Written by Amsterdam Herald
Joop de Beer, at the University of Groningen, found that even in a country such as the Netherlands, which keeps relatively good records, tens of thousands of people go missing in the official figures each year.
The reason, he says, is simple: people moving into a country have more to gain by registering as a resident, which gives them access to funding and service, than those moving out get by deregistering. Many emigrants, especially those returning home to other EU countries, simply don’t bother to sign out.
As a result, immigration statistics tend to be roughly ten per cent lower than the likely ‘real’ figure, while the number of emigrants is underestimated by as much as 50 per cent.
De Beer, who studied the figures for 19 European countries, said such routine miscalculations had a significant impact on migration policy and contributed to negative views about immigrants.
He has developed a new calculation method, which he claims is more reliable, as part of his PhD thesis at Groningen's Faculty of Spatial Sciences.
“Discussions about migration are mainly about groups arriving that are considered troublesome,” he says.
“The fact that in the meantime large groups are also leaving the country goes unnoticed, although the economic effects of this can be considerable.
“My research shows that immigration problems are overestimated, while the problem of the shrinking working population is underestimated.
“If large numbers of Germans, British and Irish are leaving the Netherlands we should be aware of it, as it could have major consequences for our economy.”
The loss of skilled emigrants to the economy is compounded by two other factors covered in De Beer’s work: the ageing population and falling birth rates.
He expects the life expectancy of Dutch women to rise from its current level of 83 to 87 by 2060, while birth rates in northern Europe will probably converge around a level of 1.6 children per mother by 2030.
The combined effect of these trends – an ageing population, a native population failing to replenish itself and an outward flow of working-age migrants – could have profound consequences for the economy.
De Beer, who is head of the Population Dynamics department of the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), is due to receive his PhD on December 15.