Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Moving Up or Standing Still? Access to Middle-Skilled Work for Newly Arrived Migrants in the European Union


Immigrants’ access to stable jobs that command a decent wage are crucial to their long-term integration in Europe. But their pathways into middle-skilled work can be rocky—and many struggle to graduate from the lowest-skilled jobs over time. Over the past few months, the Migration Policy Institute has published a series of country case studies assessing the labor market experiences and integration of immigrants during the first decade of their residence in Europe. From the Czech Republic and France to Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, the case studies detailed the very different trajectories that newcomers have taken in European labor markets.

A new report, Moving Up or Standing Still? Access to Middle-Skilled Work for Newly Arrived Migrants in the European Union, synthesizes the findings of this first phase of a research project conducted in collaboration with the International Labour Office (ILO), with funding from the European Union.

The report paints a mixed picture of immigrants’ labor market trajectories in the first decade after arrival. In some countries, like the United Kingdom and Spain before the economic crisis, immigrants found work relatively quickly. In others, like Germany and France, initial employment rates were low but improved substantially over the first five years. However, immigrants were overrepresented in the lowest-skilled jobs in all countries, and the authors find limited evidence that immigrants are systematically progressing into middle- or high-skilled work over time.

In all countries studied, immigrants’ integration trajectories varied enormously depending on their characteristics, creating a formidable challenge for integration policies that must accommodate this diversity. Some migrant groups—especially those from developing countries outside of the European Union—arrived with considerably lower levels of education than their native-born counterparts and faced greater barriers finding middle-skilled work both initially and over time.

But low levels of education did not fully explain immigrants’ overrepresentation in low-skilled work. Immigrants in most of the case study countries were significantly more likely to work in low-skilled jobs even compared to other similarly educated workers, the authors found.

Many of the factors that shape immigrant integration are beyond governments’ full control—from the heavy toll of the economic crisis to employers’ willingness to invest their own funds in training and promoting migrants. But some dimensions are more amenable to policy intervention. The next phase of this MPI-ILO research project, to be published this fall, 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 country case studies published to date can be found here.


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