El desafío oriental de Europa occidental

En enero, la Unión Europea se volvió a expandir hacia el este una vez más. Tras la ampliación tipo "Big Bang" de 2004, que incorporó 75 millones de nuevos ciudadanos a la UE, el acceso de Rumania y Bulgaria sumó otros 30 millones. ¿Qué significa esto para los mercados laborales de Europa occidental? Los políticos tienden a decir que, si bien algunos plomeros migran a Occidente y las empresas se instalan en el este, Occidente gozará de más empleos en términos netos debido a la probable expansión de sus exportaciones. Ese razonamiento es familiar, ¿pero es correcto?

Algo es seguro: la ampliación llevó a Europa occidental a enfrentar una competencia salarial extremadamente dura. Mientras que un empleado en el sector industrial de la antigua UE gana en promedio 26.09 euros por hora, en Rumania el promedio es 1,60 euro y, en Bulgaria, apenas 1,39 euro.

La visión de que una ampliación hacia el este creará empleos en Occidente presupone que los trabajadores de bajos salarios del este de Europa serán un complemento de los trabajadores de Europa occidental, y alimentarán la demanda de estos últimos. En realidad, en alguna medida es así. Los ingenieros de Europa occidental son necesarios para diseñar productos de nivel mundial que serán fabricados por trabajadores del este de Europa, mientras que la gente con capacidad de gestión puede tener la certeza de que sus habilidades serán necesarias para integrar a los flamantes trabajadores de la UE a la economía europea.

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