Eurofound News May 2007


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Migrants in Europe face severe challenges

Immigrants play an increasingly important role in the labour markets of EU Member States, according to the latest comparative overview from Eurofound. But the disadvantages experienced by immigrants represent a major challenge for social and labour market policies in Europe.

The extent of legal immigration of non-nationals into the EU has increased in the last decade by more than 26%, according to statistics presented in a recent comparative analytical report from Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO). The report also finds that migrants in Europe are segregated into low-paid jobs that offer limited opportunities for upward mobility, and that migrants take up the most hazardous unskilled jobs. 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 report aims to investigate 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.

Challenges for social and labour market policies in Europe

The recruitment of migrant workers plays an important role in the economic development of EU economies, and migrant workers play an increasingly important role in the labour markets of EU Member States. However, the problems experienced by immigrants represent a major challenge for social and labour market policies in Europe. In most countries, these workers tend to be segregated in unskilled occupations and are also more likely to perform undeclared work. Moreover, the sectors and occupations in which they are employed are characterised by poorer working conditions. Overall, women and younger people are particularly vulnerable. 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.

Addressing inequality and job insecurity

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.

Facilitating access to citizenship and labour markets

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. The report suggests that citizenship should become easier to acquire or that the connection between citizenship and entering into specific occupations should be eliminated.

Download the comparative report (forthcoming)

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