EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Press release, 23 May 2007

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Eurofound publishes comparative overview report on migrant workers in Europe:

Migrants in Europe face severe challenges

(DUBLIN, IRELAND) Legal immigration of non-nationals into the EU has increased in the last decade by more than 26%, according to the latest comparative overview from Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO). Immigrants play an increasingly important role in the labour markets of EU Member States, but the disadvantages experienced by immigrants represent a major challenge for social and labour market policies in Europe, the report states.

The report, which investigates the working and employment conditions of migrant workers who travel from one country to another for any reason and work as employees or self-employed people in the country of destination, also finds that migrants in Europe are segregated into low-paid jobs that offer limited opportunities for upward mobility. They are more likely than non-migrants to suffer unhealthy conditions at work, to work longer hours, and to perform shift work, night work, and weekend work. They are also more frequently exposed to discrimination in the workplace, by supervisors, colleagues, customers or patients.

‘The recruitment of migrant workers plays an important role in the economic development in Europe, and migrant workers play an increasingly important role in EU labour markets. Although there is increasing awareness of the crucial role played by migrant workers in fostering economic growth, greater attention needs to be paid to their working and employment conditions,’ said Jorma Karppinen, Eurofound’s Director in a comment to the report.

In most countries, these workers tend to be segregated in unskilled occupations and are also more likely to perform undeclared work. Despite being a particularly vulnerable segment of the labour force, migrant workers are often poorly represented by trade unions, according to the report. They face higher unemployment rates and, when employed, are more likely to be overqualified for the job they do, representing a significant waste of human capital and considerable inequality. Moreover, they are exposed to considerable job insecurity.

Migrant workers’ poor working conditions can be linked to difficulties in obtaining a work permit, even in countries where there are labour supply shortages. They also face obstacles in acquiring citizenship and can thereby be excluded from access to such skilled occupations as public sector employment, the professions and business activity.

Download the report

For further information, contact Måns Mårtensson, Press Officer, on email or telephone +353-1-204 3124 or mobile +353-876-593 507

Note to the editor
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound, is a tripartite EU body, whose role is to provide key actors in social policy making with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. The Foundation was established by Council Regulation EEC No 1365/75 of 26 May 1975.

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