Migration Minister José Luis Escrivá’s plan has already passed the first screen of 10 ministries to reform the provisions of the Immigration Law with the aim of integrating thousands of foreign workers into the labor market. The final comments were sent on Friday and a phase of negotiations on the proposed amendments to the draft is now beginning. Escrivá reiterated on Monday that his proposal had been received “very positively”. The Interior Ministry, which is least in favor of relaxing rules on regularizing immigrants, is not outright opposed to the reform, but has warned that some articles need to be reviewed to avoid “abuses,” according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
The reform has three main axes: strengthening the hiring of workers in their countries of origin, creating a new route of regularization through rooting “facilitation for immigrants to be trained in sectors that need labor” and making some demands flexible so that those who are already in the submerged economy can legally enter the labor market. In addition, it provides that international students can combine their studies with a job.
The ultimate goal is to attract a high and medium-skilled workforce from inside and outside Spain and to bring out the doomed economy at a time when key sectors – such as transport, hospitality or agriculture – are suffering from labor shortages. Escrivá suggests that there will be “true global competition for talent and human capital” on the road to post-pandemic recovery. The draft adds: “The current regulations, designed at the beginning of the century, create an obvious constriction to cover the needs and imbalances of the current labor market.”
The Home Office, a key department in the negotiations, has called for more safeguards in the drafting of some articles over fears they will be used “abusively,” according to the sources consulted. Among these items is precisely the one that creates a new figure from roots associated with training. This path would allow the regularization of immigrants who, after staying in Spain for two years, will be trained in areas where there is a shortage of qualified personnel. Initial eligibility for one year would be for residency only but could include the possibility of gainful employment upon completion of education if a contract is presented. Interior doesn’t want this path to become a mixed bag to legalize immigrants. His demands also include that the final version expressly states that applicants who benefit from the reform must not have a criminal record.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska’s department wasn’t the only one to object. The Department of Territorial Policy, which manages immigration services, is concerned about the “significant increase in applications” that the reform will bring. Sources familiar with the negotiations explain that before approving the regulation, the ministry has required that a study be carried out and that the human, technological and material resources needed to meet the decision deadlines set by the law and those currently already be increased be crossed, be exceeded, be passed.
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Support for employers and rejection of unions
According to sources familiar with this negotiation process, Escrivá has the support of businessmen, but also of the government’s business wing. Finance Minister María Jesús Montero came to publicly defend the reform after unions branded the initiative “classist” because it would encourage immigrant employment in precarious conditions, which the Spanish oppose. The executive, Montero replied, seeks “a balance to ensure that a necessary labor force can come into the country in an orderly manner, but without in any case implying that the conditions of the laborers might be adversely affected if that were the case.” is not good and better through”.
Labor, economics and finance have fundamentally made technical observations. United We Can sources explain that there are also concerns in Yolanda Díaz’s department about the labor regime applied to temporary workers and foreign workers hired in the country of origin for other sectors.
The circular migration model that Escrivá wants to create involves hiring groups of workers in their countries of origin, beyond the seasonal workers who come to harvest specific crops. The proposal allows them to work for a maximum of nine months a year for four years and encourages their return to the country of origin by offering them an extension for a further four years or a two-year permit to reside and work in Spain after this period. The Díaz ministry’s demand is that these migrant workers have permanent employment contracts, which means that after the labor reform, they will have the same health and safety standards as the rest of the workers. The same sources have expressed interest in making forms of employment more flexible to benefit thousands of domestic workers working irregularly in Spain.
Escrivá’s ministry must now negotiate the changes with the rest of the departments and examine the 27 contributions received during the public consultation, which is open to all citizens and ended on Monday. The process also involved the Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants, an advisory body made up of representatives from public administration, immigrant associations, trade unions and business organisations. According to sources consulted, the forum has proposed changes to allow asylum seekers to work faster and has called for more flexible requirements in other cases. “In general, we received very constructive input that improves the text and delves into the philosophy that supports the opportunity of this proposal,” say sources from the Department for Inclusion.
With the contributions, Migrations will draft a final draft to be analyzed by the Council of State. Once evaluated, the text will reach the Council of Ministers, which will have to approve it as a royal decree. The processing is urgent, although the last amendment to the regulation facilitating residence and work for migrant children arriving alone in Spain, passed in October, was also urgent on paper. The process lasted almost a year, partly because of the lack of understanding with the Ministry of the Interior.
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