Zimmermann on Britain after the Brexit in “The International Economy”

In a contribution about “An EU disintegration after Brexit is not a likely possibility” recently published in The International Economy, Spring 2016, 26-27, as part of a set of articles of prominent public individuals, Klaus F. Zimmermann (Center for European Studies at Harvard University, UNU-MERIT, Maastricht, and on leave from Bonn University) contributed to the debate on: “Brexit: The Unintended Consequences. A Symposium of Views” . The text is:

“Europe is facing a large number of challenges. Its labor force is aging and shrinking. It is economically and politically threatened by the rise of Asian states. It is disorganized and unable to cope with the euro, refugees, terrorism, and the Ukrainian war, and suffers large delays in joint decision-making—if decisions come at all. For years, we have witnessed a rise in EU-skepticism and an ever larger mistrust in European institutions, while anti-
European right-wing parties grow stronger. Hence, Brexit may be seen as a “luxury crisis,” adding to the present disaster and not solving any of the existing problems.

The Brexit would leave a different European Union in its wake. With a loss of about 13 percent of its population and 15 percent of its earnings, the European Union would be a significantly less powerful economic zone. The voting balance between the north and the south would also shift: currently, the northern and the Mediterranean countries have blocking minority votes. The remaining north would face a larger demand for transfers by the lesser-endowed countries in the south and east. Other country-members could leave, and without a common vision the European idea would collapse.

However, an EU disintegration after Brexit is not a likely possibility. While it would probably be a coup to clear the table, we can re-invent the European idea with a better integration and identity strategy that would allow for a more dynamic union. A new flourishing core of Europe could establish the European dream with new trade zones
with the north and the south of the Mediterranean. Turkey could join the new European Union, thereby strengthening the southern element of the community with a large diaspora already present in the current union. In the sequence, the Scots would probably leave the United Kingdom to join the new Europe.

The core of the current crisis is the hesitation of the member states to strengthen the political integration strategy. With the British “no,” the countries left behind after Brexit can develop much faster. The current challenges call for a Europe as a whole, and less for national sovereignty. Europe needs more burden-sharing, more migrants to deal with aging societies, and more labor mobility to increase welfare.

To deal with the dissatisfaction with European institutions, which are part of a larger mistrust in government in general, less bureaucratic interference is needed in matters that can be done at the national level. Essential parts of the European model like the common market as well as reliable solidarity and reciprocity foundations should be strengthened. The further development of the European identity is essential.”

Other contributions:

Zimmermann at the Boston waterfront.

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Brexit, Migration and the Labour Market

In the face of a potential Brexit, the UK debates whether the economic impacts in terms of wages, employment and public services due to migration are beneficial or detrimental to the country. Those pushing for Brexit argue that it is European labour migration organized by Brussels that causes British workers to lose jobs, earn lower wages and lead to higher payments for the welfare state. This view is at odds with the European project suggesting that free markets including free labour mobility will lead to a more efficient allocation of resources in the long term and hence to greater welfare.

Is this all a mistake? The empirical evidence globally, but also for the UK, shows that in spite of all fears, labour migration does not come with relevant harmful effects for jobs and earnings. If anything, it does come with more equality. The effects on the public coffers depend on selection, but European labour migration typically leads to net benefits. Skilled people are better protected against adjustments, but this is independent of migration. Yes, leaving the EU would lead to a loss of labour migrants but cause economic harm including a raise in taxes to balance the British budget.

Recent European migration provides insights: EU enlargement has not caused Europe a problem, to the contrary it was beneficial. See:

Kahanec, Martin, and Zimmermann, Klaus F. (Eds.), Labor Migration, EU Enlargement, and the Great Recession, Springer 2016.

A flyer can be found here. More details: Further information!

Klaus F. Zimmermann talking about European migration, the EU enlargement book and Brexit in Wroclaw, Poland on June 20, 2016.


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New Affiliations of Zimmermann in Germany

To intensify his presence in Germany, Klaus F. Zimmermann, Harvard University and UNU-MERIT, Maastricht, has accepted the following affiliations:

Mannheim, Bonn and Berlin have previously been places of professional activities and affiliations. Zimmermann had studied economics and statistics at the University of Mannheim, and got his doctor and habilitation degrees from there. He is Professor of Economics at Bonn University (on leave) and Honorary Professor at the Free University Berlin. He has previously been the President of the German Economic Institute (DIW Berlin) for more than a decade. He is also Founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn.

Further affiliations.



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Economic Policy in a Dynamic Environment

On May 27-28, 2016, the Joint Annual Meeting of the Slovak Economic Association and the Austrian Economic Association (NOeG-SEA 2016) in cooperation with the University of Economics Bratislava took place. The theme of the conference was “Economic Policy in a Dynamic Environment”. The two keynote speakers were Martin Hellwig (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods and Bonn University) and Klaus F. Zimmermann (Harvard University, POP at UNU-MERIT & Global Labor Organization, GLO). The full Program can be found here.

Zimmermann spoke about:

The European Migration Crisis: Challenges and Opportunities

Relevant literature with free downloads. See also:

The Immigration and prices: quasi-experimental evidence from Syrian refugees in Turkey by Binnur Balkan and Semih Tumen, Journal of Population Economics (2016) 29(3): 657-686.

On creating a point system in a new immigration law for Germany, see:

Holger Hinte, Ulf Rinne and Klaus F. Zimmermann: Punkte machen?! Warum Deutschland ein aktives Auswahlsystem für ausländische Fachkräfte braucht und wie ein solches System aussehen kann, Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, 2016, 17(1): 68-87. Pre-publication version.

Klaus F. Zimmermann on May 28, 2016, in the University of Economics in Bratislava:


During his speech:

160528 Bratislava

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Zimmermann in Hannover über die europäische Flüchtlingskrise

In einer stark besuchten Seminarveranstaltung sprach Klaus F. Zimmermann (Harvard University and UNU-MERIT) am 26. Mai 2016 in der Leibniz Universität Hannover über:

Die europäische Flüchtlingskrise: Herausforderungen und Chancen

Er stellte dabei fest:

“Die Flüchtlingsfrage wird in Europa gerne als schwere Belastung für Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft oder als wichtiger Lösungsbeitrag künftiger demographischer Herausforderungen diskutiert. Sie demaskiert aber in Wirklichkeit die Unfähigkeit nationaler und internationaler politischer Institutionen, angemessen und flexibel auf Veränderungen zu reagieren. Flüchtlinge sind Spielball für mediale und politische Auseinandersetzungen geworden, die zeigen, dass es mit der europäischen Wertegesellschaft und Solidarität nicht weit her ist. Denn die Zuströme sind quantitativ für Europa eher gering und die bisher gefundenen Lösungsansätze ungenügend. Die Flüchtlingskrise ist in Wirklichkeit eine Krise der politischen Institutionen. Dabei böten die aktuellen Herausforderungen Möglichkeiten, sich besser auf zukünftige Entwicklungen einzustellen. Und man könnte dabei viel von der internationalen Migrationsforschung lernen.”

Der Vortrag (Literaturhinweise) gab einen Überblick über Fakten und Handlungsoptionen. Er wurde durch eine Einladung von Stephan L. Thomsen  (Niedersächsisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung Hannover und Leibniz Universität Hannover) initiiert, der Zimmermann auch einführte und auf die große Bedeutung der evidenzbasierten Politikberatung für politische Prozesse hinwies. Zimmermann griff dies auf und verdeutlichte die Notwendigkeit, Migrationspolitik weniger an Mißtrauen und Veränderungsdruck, sondern mehr an Fakten festzumachen. Zuvor hatte Dekan Axel Haunschild (Leibniz Universität Hannover) den Redner sowie die zahlreichen Kollegen, Forscher und Studenten begrüßt. Zimmermann führte den gesamten Tag zahlreiche Fachgespräche mit Wissenschaftlern aus der Fakultät.

Klaus F. Zimmermann vor den Grabmalen von Hammet und Hasan von 1691, der ältesten bekannten und erhaltenen islamischen Grabstätte in Deutschland, in der Nähe der Leibniz Universität Hannover.


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Trotz Flüchtlingswelle: Ein Punktesystem für Zuwanderung

Die deutsche Zuwanderungsdiskussion ist in Bewegung – nicht erst seit der jüngsten Flüchtlingswelle. Erfordert eine angemessene Reaktion auf den zunehmenden Mangel an Fachkräften weitere Verbesserungen im Zuwanderungsrecht wie etwa die Einführung eines aktiven Auswahlverfahrens für Zuwanderer aus nichteuropäischen Staaten („Punktesystem“)?

Eine gerade veröffentlichte Studie plädiert für eine derartige Reform und unterbreitet einen konkreten Gestaltungsvorschlag unter Einbeziehung eines Punktesystems. Nach Ansicht der Autoren kann ein solches Konzept einen doppelt positiven Effekt erzielen und ist damit der bestehenden, insgesamt noch zu intransparenten Gesetzgebung überlegen:

  • Erstens wird deutlich, für welche Fachkräfte sich Deutschland öffnet.
  • Zweitens wird klar, dass Deutschland die Zuwanderung in den Arbeitsmarkt aus Drittstaaten aktiv selbst gestaltet und sie nicht nur passiv hinnimmt.

Holger Hinte, Ulf Rinne und Klaus F. Zimmermann: Punkte machen?! Warum Deutschland ein aktives Auswahlsystem für ausländische Fachkräfte braucht und wie ein solches System aussehen kann, Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, 2016, 17(1): 68-87. Pre-publication version.

Schlüsselwörter: Zuwanderungspolitik; Zuwanderungsgesetz; Auswahlverfahren; Punktesystem; Fachkräftemangel; demografischer Wandel.

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Evaluating EU Policies by Micro-econometric Methods

19 May 2016; Brussels, Berlaymont. The EU Commission launches an important step to strengthen the instruments to judge and improve EU policies. The successful “Centre for Research on Impact Evaluation” (CRIE) will become the “Competence Centre on Microeconomic Evaluation” (CC-ME).

The initiative is discussed and presented at a workshop on

“The role of microeconomic evaluation in ex-post impact quantification of EU policies”

For the program and the list of high – ranked speakers and participants see the website.

Klaus F. Zimmermann (Bonn Graduate School of Economics, Harvard University and UNU-MERIT) will speak in the session on “The practice of policy impact evaluation outside the European Commission”.

The purpose of this half day event is to bring together policymakers, analysts and researchers from the European Commission, international organizations, think tanks and academia, to discuss the role of quantitative, ex-post evaluation of policy impacts in the European policy process.

The event will also see the launch of the European Commission’s Competence Centre on Microeconomic Evaluation. The Commission’s focus on quantification of EU policy results generates on the one hand demand for transversal, robust, objective and transparent impact evaluation tools; on the other hand it calls for an increased accessibility to existing administrative micro-data sources to foster microeconomic impact evaluations.

By bringing together relevant policy and scientific expertise across the Commission, the Competence Centre on Microeconomic Evaluation will help ensure that both appropriate counterfactual methods and micro-data sources are used in a systematic way across the Commission policy cycle. Quantitative evaluation of EU policies across a variety of socio-economic outcomes could greatly contribute to the Better Regulation agenda, the European Semester and the targeting of the European Structural Investment Funds.

The Competence Centre will serve as a focal point of reference to support policy-making across a wide range of areas of impact evaluation of EU policies, by providing advice on data collection and evaluation design, capacity building on counterfactual methods, microeconometric analysis and counterfactual impact evaluation. It will also provide infrastructure for evaluation knowledge management, in the form of a (Micro)Data Bank and an Evaluations Bank.


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The Fate of Empirical Economics When All Data Are Private

Society of Government Economists Annual Conference 2016

  • Washington, DC. May 13, 2016. Organized by the US “Society of Government Economists” (SGE), the annual conference took place at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in Washington DC. Program
  • The very successful conference with a remarkable set of excellent paper presentations and a large audience was opened by President Amelie Constant (Temple University) in the Janet Norwood Conference Center of BLS. The local organizer was Susan D. Fleck (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Recent elections had confirmed the SGE Board in office, including the second re-election of President Amelie Constant, who will be in office for her third period until 2017.
  • The keynote speaker was John Abowd (Census Bureau and Cornell University), who spoke about “The Fate of Empirical Economics When All Data Are Private“. The slides of his amazing lecture can be found here (with permission).

John Abowd and President Amelie Constant

SGE 2016 Abowd and Constant

SGE 2016 Abowd and Constant

  • At the conference, Klaus F. Zimmermann (Harvard University and UNU-MERIT) had presented papers on:
  • Left Behind but Doing Good? Civic Engagement in Two Post-Socialist Countries” with Milena Nikolova (IZA) and Monica Roman (Bucharest University). More info here.
  • The European Refugee Crisis: Policy Challenges and Perspectives“ More info here.

John Abowd and Klaus F. Zimmermann

SGE 2016 Abowd and Zimmermann

SGE 2016 Abowd and Zimmermann

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Transition Economics: Left behind but doing good?

In a new research paper, the authors document that migration can affect the values and norms of those left behind at home. This is shown for two post-socialist countries (Bulgaria & Romania):

Left Behind but Doing Good? Civic Engagement in Two Post-Socialist Countries

by Milena Nikolova (IZA and Brookings Institution); Monica Roman (Bucharest University of Economic Studies and IZA); and Klaus F. Zimmermann (Harvard  University, UNU-MERIT and Bonn University). The paper has been accepted for publication in the

Journal of Comparative Economics

The abstract is below. The online version of the Journal can be accessed here.  A pre-publication version can be found here. See also a recent Gallup Blog. And a related  Linkedin blog.


The fall of socialism in Central and Eastern Europe restored ordinary citizens’ rights and freedoms and ended their political and social isolation. While the freedom of movement was quickly embraced, civil society revival lagged due to the eroded civic norms, declining social capital, and worsening economic conditions. This paper examines the link between the out-migration of relatives and friends and the pro-social behavior of the left behinds in two post-socialist countries—Bulgaria and Romania—the EU’s poorest, and among the least happy and most corrupt member states. It shows that having close contacts abroad is consistently positively associated with civic engagement and that the cultural transmission of norms from abroad could be driving the results. Specifically, the strength of the civic engagement culture of the family or friend’s destination matters for the pro-social behavior of respondents in the home countries. The results imply that the emigration of family and friends may have positive but previously undocumented consequences for the individuals and communities left behind in Bulgaria and Romania. Given civil society’s role for development in post-socialist Europe and the socio-economic and institutional challenges that Bulgaria and Romania face compared with the rest of the EU, understanding the channels fostering civil society and well-being are important for national and EU policymakers.


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Zimmermann speaks in Washington DC

  • Emerging Diaspora Opportunities and Challenges

  • Washington, DC. May 10, 2016. Organized by KNOMAD (Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development) & the World Bank, a workshop on “Emerging Diaspora Opportunities and Challenges: Host and Home Countries” takes place: Concept note and program.
  • Klaus F. Zimmermann (Harvard University and UNU-MERIT) will present and discuss in the session “First generation, second generation diaspora: mobility, opportunities and challenges“.
  •  The debate will include recent efforts to obtain a better understanding of the demographic profile and educational and income mobility (particularly given the recent participation of diaspora youth in conflicts in the Middle East). The panelists will discuss the importance of labor market integration challenges and strategies for advancing first generation migration who do not fit into their new society and second generation diaspora that is not integrated.
  • Society of Government Economists Annual Conference

  • Washington, DC. May 13, 2016. Organized by the US “Society of Government Economists” (SGE), the annual conference will take place at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington DC. The conference will be opened by President Amelie Constant (Temple University). The keynote speaker is John Abowd (Census Bureau and Cornell University), who will speak about “The Fate of Empirical Economics When All Data Are Private“. Program and register.
  • Klaus F. Zimmermann (Harvard University and UNU-MERIT) will present papers on:
  • Left Behind but Doing Good? Civic Engagement in Two Post-Socialist Countries” with Milena Nikolova (IZA) and Monica Roman (Bucharest University)
  • The European Refugee Crisis: Policy Challenges and Perspectives




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