However, I believe that Spain and many other developed countries are going the wrong way around this problem, and, through flawed immigration policies, are importing not only people, but also the social problems from their countries of origin.
In Spain, for example, most immigrants are unskilled workers who come to do jobs that Spaniards will not do at the price that Spanish entrepreneurs are willing to pay, mostly in the services industry. What does that mean?
In my opinion, all this means is that Spanish entrepreneurs have found a class of worker who is willing to work for a wage that Spaniards will not work for, though there are plenty of available Spanish workers. Immigrants work longer hours, have less social benefits, and pose less problems than a "first world worker". The argument in favour of this state of affairs goes that if we did not engage in importing unskilled workers surely Spain would suffer given competition from lower wage countries.
This argument is manifestly flawed. The industries that cheap unskilled workers are involved in are eminently non-tradable, primarily construction and tourism. You cannot trade a coffee in a bar in Majorca or a block of flats in the coast of Spain with China. Therefore, the benefit of cheap labour accrues mainly to the entrepreneur...notice the boom in wealth derived from residential construction and the service industry in Spain.
On the other hand, Spanish society has to bear the costs implicit in paying people a wage which is below what local or European citizens would work for. Remember we are talking about unskilled workers from emerging markets. In general this are people with little education, few democratic or liberal values, fundamentalist religious beliefs, no family connections in their host countries and, in many cases, imported health burdens. These costs have to be borne by Spanish and European welfare systems. Take a walk around a public hospital or school if you don't believe me...
So, first message: when we import unskilled workers to serve in non-tradable sectors of the economy, we are also importing the social problems of their countries of origin. The benefits accrue to the entrepreneurs in these sectors while the costs are spread across society.
At the same time, however, it is incredibly difficult for skilled workers to obtain legal permits to work in Spain. I read a case in Expansion newspaper two days ago of two Japanese biotech researchers who, in view of the long delay in obtaining their visas, and under encouragement from the Spanish subsidiary of a Japanese company, worked in Spain under a tourist visa, only for them to be fined by the tax authorities for fraud. They eventually got their visas, ten months after the request, and some months after they had returned to Japan. This type of immigration benefits tradable sectors of the Spanish economy and society as a whole, yet because these immigrants traditionally respect immigration laws, they often find it next to impossible to come and work in Spain.
To conclude, unskilled workers are coming in droves, ignoring the legal requirements to work in the country and importing their social problems while benefitting a minority of the Spanish population. On the other hand, skilled workers, who usually respect the legal requirements to work, find it increasingly hard to work in Spain where they would work in tradable sectors which would benefit Spanish society as a whole.
Are we mad or what?