Occupational mobility of migrants
A study by the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies into the situation of migrant workers in the labour market reveals that migrants are more often unemployed in comparison to non-migrants. Moreover, they also have fewer chances to benefit from promotion than non-migrant workers, in addition to facing more often the risk of downward occupational mobility.
About the study
In its 2006 data series on the French society (Données sociales – La société française), the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (Institut national de la Statistique et des Études Économiques, INSEE) has published an analysis of the occupational mobility of migrant workers (La mobilité professionnelle des ouvriers et employés immigrés). The study compares the position of migrants and non-migrants in the French labour market over the period 1990–1999. It is based on permanent demographic panel data (Échantillon démographique permanent) which represents 1% of the population living in France. The information for this panel is collected during each population census, thereby providing data to allow for a comparison of how the situation of workers changes in the labour market over time.
Fewer chances for promotion
In 1999, among workers in employment, 40% of migrants were working in industrial unskilled occupations, compared with 25% of non-migrants. However, despite the concentration of migrants in non-qualified jobs, from which the upward occupational mobility rates are generally higher than from other jobs, longitudinal studies show that migrants have fewer chances of promotion than non-migrants. Between 1990 and 1999, among qualified industrial workers, 12% of migrants and 18% of non-migrants have benefited from an occupational promotion. This gap increases significantly in the group of non-qualified clerks, where only 19% of migrant workers benefit from promotion compared with 27% of non-migrant workers.
These differences partially result from the type of occupation held by such workers, as migrants are more often concentrated in jobs which offer fewer possibilities of promotion; for example, 30% of migrants work as domestic employees or helpers and caretakers compared with 7% of non-migrants. Conversely, fewer migrants have occupations that offer higher rates of promotion; for instance, 5% of migrants work as mechanics or electromechanical technicians compared with 10% of non-migrants. The gap is especially significant for women: as migrant women are more concentrated than non-migrant women in occupations with low rates of promotion such as domestic services, caretaking and dressmaking, their chances of promotion are 23% lower than those of non-migrant female workers.
Age of arrival impacts more than level of qualification
The level of qualification increases the chances of promotion for both migrant and non-migrant workers, but its impact is lower for migrants than for non-migrants. Having a post-secondary qualification increases the chances of promotion by 100% for native French people, but only by 50% for migrants. This is partially due to the fact that many migrants come to France after obtaining diplomas in their home country and thus face difficulties in having their qualifications officially recognised in France to secure employment within the French labour market.
The age of arrival in France also significantly impacts on migrants’ chances of promotion. For migrants who arrived in France before the age of 10, the promotion rate is much higher and very similar to that of native people, while it is lower than the average rate of promotion for migrants who arrived in the country after the age of 19 .
Downward occupational mobility
A worker’s career path can also take the form of regression when the worker shifts from a qualified job to an unqualified one. Migrants are particularly affected by this type of situation. Between 1990 and 1999, 22% of migrant workers have experienced downward occupational mobility, while only 13% of non-migrant workers faced this situation. At the same time, a post-secondary or tertiary qualification noticeably reduces the risk of career regression for non-migrants, whereas the level of qualification has no impact in relation to this risk for migrants. Moreover, the rate of unemployment is significantly higher among migrants than native French people: for example, in 1999, 12.2% of migrants were unemployed compared with 7.3% of native French people.
More male migrant workers become self-employed
Overall, migrant workers leave the status of employee more frequently than native workers: between 1990 and 1999, some 4.6% of migrant workers have moved to self-employment, with only 3.6% of non-migrants choosing this option. This preference for self-employment may result from the difficulties faced by migrants as employees. In terms of the gender distribution, mainly men became self-employed compared with only 2.4% of women.
The level of self-employment among migrant workers differs noticeably according to their country of origin: some 12% of workers coming from Turkey and Asia have become self-employed between 1990 and 1999, while only 7% of migrants from Tunisia did. Migrants most frequently set up businesses in sectors such as construction (31%) and hotels and restaurants (13%). In many cases, migrants have worked in the construction industry as employees before starting out in their own businesses – this is the case for 28% of migrant workers compared with 18% of non-migrant workers. Furthermore, setting up a business in the construction sector requires neither a very high level of education among workers, nor a significant amount of capital.
Anne-Marie Nicot, ANACT