Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Precarious Position: The Labor Market Integration of New Immigrants in Spain

Spain has experienced dramatic increases in immigration since 2000, entering the millennium with strong economic growth and low unemployment that helped fuel a fourfold increase in its foreign-born population. The economic boom of the early and mid-2000s led to a sharp rise in demand for new workers, particularly in sectors with a high share of low-skilled jobs (such as construction). This demand was in large part filled through immigration, with workers coming from Latin America and Eastern Europe in particular.

A new report, A Precarious Position: The Labor Market Integration of New Immigrants in Spain, examines the labor market experiences for immigrants arriving in Spain before, during, and after the recession. The authors find that immigrants who entered before the recession had little trouble finding work immediately—with those arriving between 2000 and 2003 recording employment rates almost 10 percentage points higher than natives within just a year or two of entering the Spanish labor market. Unsurprisingly, those who arrived after 2008 struggled to find work as Spanish unemployment rates skyrocketed.

The flexible nature of Spain's secondary labor market put immigrants in part-time or contract work at greater risk once the recession hit. The authors' analysis of Spanish Labor Force Survey data finds that some immigrant groups started out in a better position than others. Immigrants from Latin America had the easiest time finding work within their first year in Spain, while African immigrants had the hardest. Men started in a better position than women and maintained their advantage over time. The authors assess the trajectory of these workers, finding substantial evidence of immigrants moving out of low-skilled work into middle-skilled jobs. After approximately five years in the Spanish labor market, the share of immigrants employed in middle-skilled work had almost doubled—a reality not seen in other countries studied as part of a series of case studies evaluating the labor market trajectories of new immigrants in Europe and their ability to ascend into middle-skilled jobs.

The research project, conducted with funding from the European Union and in collaboration with the International Labour Office (ILO), is comprised of two phases. The first evaluates the conditions under which new immigrants can find jobs and progress out of unskilled work in the first decade after their arrival. The second phase will analyze the integration and workforce development, training and employment policies, and programs that can best support new arrivals' access to middle-skilled jobs.

The six case study countries are the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The first case study, on the Czech Republic, can be found here. The next study, out within the next two weeks, will focus on Sweden.


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