Employment and working conditions of migrant workers

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  • National Contribution:

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Date of Publication: 30 May 2007

Maurizio Ambrosini and Carlo Barone

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This report presents an overview of the employment and working conditions of migrant workers in the European Union. In most countries, migrant workers have higher unemployment rates and, when in employment, tend to be segregated in unskilled occupations and exposed to higher risks of over-qualification. Moreover, they experience considerable job insecurity, and the sectors and occupations where they are employed are characterised by less advantageous working conditions. Overall, women and young migrants are particularly vulnerable. Although there is increasing awareness of the crucial role played by migrant workers in the economic growth of countries, greater attention needs to be paid to their employment and working conditions.

The study was compiled on the basis of individual national reports submitted by the EWCO correspondents. The text of each of these national reports is available below. The reports have not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The national reports were drawn up in response to a questionnaire and should be read in conjunction with it.

Objectives and structure of report

This report aims to investigate the working and employment conditions of migrant workers, that is of persons who migrate from one country to another for any reason and work as employees or self-employed people in the country of destination. Clearly, migrant workers include both EU citizens and non-EU citizens moving from their country of origin to one of the countries covered by this study. In other words, the study considers both migration across the 27 EU Member States and Norway and also immigration from outside this area. The general objective of the report is to compare the employment and working conditions of non-nationals and nationals.

In the past decades, the proportion of migrant workers in the labour force has grown considerably in EU countries. Moreover, this trend is likely to continue in the future, as the structural causes affecting migration flow are not likely to disappear in the next few years. Such factors include income inequalities between countries, processes of economic integration and labour market shortages in host countries.

However, migration flow proceeds at a different pace in different EU countries and responds to different economic needs, as well as to different migration policies of host countries. This means that migration flow not only displays quantitative variations among EU countries, but also can represent a qualitatively different experience. The comparative statistics presented in this report are intended to describe these cross-country variations, as well as the similarities between countries, with specific references to the inequalities experienced by migrants in the labour market.

International data sources

The statistical data drawn from Eurostat and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) sources provide the best and most recent information on these quantitative and qualitative variations among European countries in terms of migration flow and population. Their usefulness for a comparative study is obvious. At the same time, certain cautionary notes are in order concerning their limitations.

First of all, harmonisation problems of national data still constitute a challenge even for the most experienced international statistical agencies. Providing standardised but meaningful data that capture real differences between countries is the core issue in all areas of comparative research, but it becomes a particularly critical task when analysing migration flow, partly because of the heterogeneous composition of the migrant population. However, advancements in this regard have been made in recent years, thanks to the substantial efforts of national and international statistical agencies. Nevertheless, much remains to be done towards achieving a full harmonisation of migration statistics and this comparative report will often have to emphasise this point.

Second, the aforementioned data sources reveal a general outlook of cross-country differences, but they do not focus on specific countries. Every single statistic of the many that will be presented in the following pages would probably require a context-specific comment, often accompanied by clarifications and qualifications related to comparability issues. Obviously, this is not possible due to space constraints. However, the study will use the information obtained from the contributing national reports to examine country differences in detail and to assess accurately contextual variations that are not easily captured in comparative tables.

It should also be noted that the information provided in these reports overlaps in some respects with the information that can be derived from international agencies; however, the national contributors were instructed not to employ these comparative sources, so that it would be possible to assess the robustness of estimates provided by independent sources. In some cases, this analysis explicitly discusses discrepancies between data sources, which are mainly due to differences in conceptual definitions, research methodologies and the original data used in various studies.

National data sources

However, the main reason for relying extensively on the national contributions from the network of the European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO) is that they make available in-depth information on the working conditions of migrant workers that is almost entirely lacking in international comparative data, for instance, about their trade union density or their accidents and health problems at the workplace. Thus, it is possible to gain a much richer picture of the working conditions of immigrants, which often amount to a situation of disadvantage compared with national workers.

Another relevant point is that international data sources are seriously lacking for many of the new Member States (NMS). This is problematic, not least as some of these countries – such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – have experienced considerable growth in migration flow in recent years, and further increases can be expected in the near future. However, the national reports for the NMS have provided particularly valuable information on the working conditions of migrant workers, although some limitations are apparent in the national sources as well (see below).

It is essential to bear in mind the heterogeneous composition of the immigrant population and, more specifically, of migrant workers. For instance, they are highly differentiated in terms of legal status, qualifications and skills, language abilities, labour market integration and work experience. While some of the international statistics presented give certain indications on these internal variations, more detailed analyses would be required to do full justice to them. The observations contained in the national reports have again proved valuable in order to gather more information in this context.

Notwithstanding, it should be recognised that the data derived from national sources are not exempt from problems either. In some countries, migration is a recent and currently not widespread occurrence. Hence, the availability of relevant information is limited. This applies particularly to several NMS, such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Romania, but also to Finland, Ireland and Malta. Countries with a longer tradition of immigration such as France and Germany have richer data, although their national experts also cite several deficiencies in the statistics on migration, particularly in the case of the working conditions of migrants. Annex 2 provides a detailed description of the original data sources employed in the national reports.

Illegal migration

Illegal migration is generally not taken into account in the statistics presented in this report. This problem is far from negligible in EU countries and varies between countries; nevertheless, estimates concerning undeclared migrant workers are highly uncertain. Hence, it should be noted that a major limitation of the statistical analyses that will be presented is that they refer almost exclusively to legal migration.

Report outline

In spite of the above-mentioned limitations, the data provided capture real and meaningful differences among the EU countries. Such information is an essential tool for migration and labour market policies: however imperfect, these data cannot be easily disregarded. This report is organised in six main sections. Following this introductory part, the second section presents a preliminary overall outlook of the main similarities and differences between countries in terms of migration flow. It refers to information obtained from the national contributions to trace a general picture of the characteristics of migrant workers in different countries. (Annex 1 also provides an overview of the most salient issues concerning the working conditions of migrants and migration policies promoted in this regard.) The third section is devoted to an empirical analysis of the whole migrant population, while the fourth part focuses specifically on migrant workers and deals with general statistics concerning their activity, employment and unemployment rates, as well as their prevailing forms of employment. The fifth section contains a more extensive discussion of the disadvantaged conditions of migrant workers: for instance, the existence of and possible causes for the systematic pay gaps in relation to migrant status are considered, as is the differential access to hazardous jobs or exposure to accidents at work. This section is based exclusively on information provided in the national contributions. The commentary presents concluding remarks, with specific reference to the main trends that emerge from the previous sections.

Inflow of foreign nationals

Different models of migration flow

European countries have attracted migrant workers at different times, to a varying extent and for various reasons. These variations are deeply embedded in the economic structures as well as in the labour market strategies and social policies of host countries, but they also depend on the motivations of the emigrating population.

On the basis of statistical data and the information presented in the national reports, it is possible to distinguish the following four different basic country group models of migration flow:

  • the NMS, in which the levels of immigration are still very low and non-national workers display low labour market participation rates, but they are generally employed in skilled jobs. In some of these countries, such as Poland and Romania, many national workers are attracted to move to the former 15 EU Member States (EU15) and tend to emigrate;
  • south European countries – also with the inclusion of Ireland – which, in the last two to three decades, have changed their status from ‘outward migration’ countries to ‘inward migration’ countries. Migrant workers who move to these countries usually show high employment rates but are frequently segregated in unskilled jobs. At the same time, illegal immigration is on the increase in these countries;
  • central European countries, where the presence of migrants has a long tradition, even though migration inflow has declined in more recent years. The migrant population is generally varied in terms of age, level of education and occupation. Usually, the unemployment rate of migrants is higher than that of national workers;
  • Scandinavian countries, in which immigration is limited. Migrant workers are often employed in skilled jobs.

The UK is a particular case, which lies between the second (important inflows in the last decade), the third (long tradition) and the fourth model (skilled migrants) as it shows some features of all .

Certain systematic differences also emerge across these groups, as far as migration is concerned, but there are notable similarities between these clusters of countries, as well as some internal differences within them. The above observations should be understood only as an overall framework that favours the substantive interpretation of data.

Rate of migration inflow

Analysing the immigration of non-nationals in EU countries, it is possible to detect a 20.2% overall increase of inflow in the last decade, based on the countries for which OECD data are available for both 1995 and 2004 (OECD, 2006). By comparing 2000 and 2004, an even sharper growth rate is found, at 26.1%. In short, the inflow of foreigners has been growing fast, and an increasing rate, in the EU. Moreover, it should be reiterated that these estimates only pertain to legal migration.

The overall increasing trend in immigration masks significant differences between countries. Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK have experienced a marked growth of inflow both in absolute and in relative terms. In other countries, the upward trend is less pronounced, and in the case of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands a declining trend can be detected, which is likely to be related to the restrictive migration policies of these countries in recent years. More generally, the following observations may be made:

  • all Mediterranean countries display increasing levels of immigration, albeit to a different extent;
  • in richer eastern European countries – namely, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – immigration has grown, yet still remains rather low in absolute terms;
  • Scandinavian countries host a limited number of foreign people, and in the case of Denmark this value is declining over time;
  • a mixed picture emerges for western continental Europe, with some cases of growth in immigration, such as Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg, and others of decline, such as Germany and the Netherlands.

Proportion of non-nationals

In examining the number of foreign-born persons relative to the overall population in each country, the results are more clear-cut: all of the countries for which OECD data are available have experienced a regular and systematic increase in the presence of foreigners. In most countries, their presence has grown about 1.5 to two percentage points in one decade, with a substantial increase in the case of Ireland ( 4.1 percentage points).

Recent Eurostat data outline the incidence of non-nationals within the total population (Table 1 and Figure 1). It is important first to point out that the following OECD and Eurostat data are not strictly comparable, even if they refer to the same general topic, since OECD presents data on the foreign-born population and those who are native to the country, whereas Eurostat collects data on nationals and non-nationals – the same definition adopted in this report. Due to this difference, which for instance concerns people who are naturalised, the two datasets do not allow direct comparison, although the relative levels and trends should be generally similar, regardless of which of the two definitions apply.

Eurostat data referring to the first quarter of 2006 (except for Luxembourg, whose data refer to the year 2005) highlight a significant presence of non-nationals in EU countries. In particular, Luxembourg shows the highest proportion of foreigners as part of the total population, at 39.4%, which is most likely due to the small size and the international character of its economy. In Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany and Spain, the percentage of foreigners within the total population is relatively high and ranges between 8.7% (Germany and Spain) and 16.2% (Estonia). Conversely, the countries which show the lowest percentages are eastern European countries: Slovakia (0.1%), Bulgaria (0.2%), Poland (0.3%), Lithuania, Hungary and Slovenia (each 0.5%), the Czech Republic (0.7%) and Latvia (0.9%). Thus, Estonia is an exception in eastern Europe in this respect, which is mainly due to the presence of a large migrant population who entered the country during the Soviet period; the influx comprised a significant proportion of Russian nationals and an even larger share of people with undetermined nationality.

In relation to migration within the EU25 (that is, all of the Member States except for Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU on 1 January 2007), Luxembourg again shows the highest proportion within the total population, at 36.3%. Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany and the UK report percentages of between 2% and 6%, while in the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia non-nationals who are citizens of other EU countries represent less than 1% of the total population.

Finally, Austria (7%), Cyprus (5.7%), Estonia (16.2%), Germany (5.9%) and Spain (7.4%) cite the highest incidence of citizens of countries outside the EU25 as part of the total population.

Table 1: Population profile, first quarter 2006 (%)
Population profile, first quarter 2006 (%)
  Proportion of non-EU25 citizens within total population Proportion of non-nationals from EU25 within total population Proportion of non-nationals within total population
EU27* 3 1.4 4.4
AT 7 2.8 9.8
BE 2.6 5.3 7.9
BG 0.2 n.a. 0.2
CY 5.7 5.9 11.6
CZ 0.4 0.3 0.7
DE 5.9 2.8 8.7
DK 2.6 1 3.6
EE 16.2 n.a. 16.2
EL 4.5 0.5 5
ES 7.4 1.3 8.7
FI 0.9 0.6 1.5
FR 3 1.8 4.8
HU 0.4 0.1 0.5
IE n.a. n.a. n.a.
IT n.a. n.a. n.a.
LT 0.5 n.a. 0.5
LU** 3.1 36.3 39.4
LV 0.9 n.a. 0.9
MT 1.5 1.1 2.6
NL 2.4 1.3 3.7
NO 2.1 1.8 3.9
PL 0.2 0.1 0.3
PT 2.4 0.3 2.7
RO n.a. n.a. n.a.
SE 2.1 1.7 3.8
SI 0.4 0.1 0.5
SK n.a. 0.1 0.1
UK 3.5 2.2 5.7

*EU27 totals are based on the available country data.

**For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005, since 2006 data are not yet available.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Figure 1: Proportion of non-nationals from EU25 and of non-EU25 citizens within total population (%)

Figure 1: Figure 1: Proportion of non-nationals from EU25 and of non-EU25 citizens within total population (%)

Note: No data for IE, IT and RO. EU27 totals are based on the available country data. For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Illegal immigration

As anticipated, illegal immigration is seldom taken into account in the statistics above, as it is very difficult to measure. Nevertheless, it has become an increasing source of concern in the EU, as reported for instance in the national contributions from Malta, Slovakia and Spain. A further complication is that some countries, such as Austria, Finland, Slovakia and Slovenia, are ‘used’ mainly as transit countries by illegal immigrants heading towards more westerly countries in Europe.

The situation of illegal immigration varies considerably from country to country. The estimates based on national data sources are not easily comparable. Yet it is interesting to note that, in the UK, illegal immigrants account for only 0.7% of the total population; in the Czech Republic, only 2,033 illegal foreigners were recorded in 2005 and, in Estonia, only 400 illegal foreigners were discovered in 2005 . In Finland, 1,400 people were reported to be living in the country illegally. By contrast, the problem is sizeable in Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, Malta and Spain, and also seems prevalent in Greece, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania.

In Spain, one of the most debated immigration issues pertains to the increase of illegal immigration and to its negative effects on delinquency and labour exploitation; the Spanish report contains an extensive analysis of the causes of this situation. The low union density of the Spanish workforce, especially among immigrants, and the economic benefit for employers to hire illegal immigrant workers, represent significant obstacles to legalising the workers’ position, and this situation is insufficiently controlled by existing labour inspections. In Malta, immigrants without a regular work permit face a particularly difficult situation, as they are segregated into low-paid, precarious and unhealthy jobs, for example, in the construction sector. In Cyprus, the number of illegal immigrants increased from 1,414 to 4,699 persons between 1995 and 2004; a significant proportion of these may officially have the status of foreign student. In the Netherlands, it is estimated that about 40% of illegal workers originate from the NMS, mainly the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia or Slovenia, with the vast majority coming from Poland. These workers are generally employed in the sectors of agriculture, construction, and hotels and restaurants.

Profile of migrant population in Europe

The national contributions provide some information on the socio-demographic characteristics of migrants, which points to an overall prevalence of men among the immigrant population. However, in some cases, a basic gender balance can be found, as in Austria, Finland, France, Italy and Poland, while in Bulgaria women account for 57.9% of the non-national population. Such gender balance is likely to reflect not only families who travel together or who follow on later, but also the increasing number of women who autonomously decide to emigrate and in many cases arrive alone in their host countries. Conversely, in the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Romania and Spain, more men are found among the immigrant population. Moreover, in all countries for which data are available, older people aged 60 years or more are under-represented and adults aged 30–59 years are over-represented among migrants. As a result, on average, foreigners are younger than nationals.

The migrant population today often comprises individuals with a relatively high level of education. This is a new situation that has started in the past 15 to 20 years. For instance, it appears that, in the NMS, the small migrant population is often composed of highly educated people, probably linked to foreign investment in companies.

In some former EU15 countries, migrants represent a relatively well-educated sub-population: for instance, this is the case in France and Spain, and also in Italy, where half of this group have at least an upper secondary education. It should be noted that in Italy – as in many other EU countries – migrants face a problem of recognition of their educational credentials when these have been acquired in their countries of origin. In other countries, however, the situation is different for immigrants with regard to education. In Finland, migrants are over-represented among those who have completed only a primary or lower secondary education. In Germany, nationals are more educated on average than foreigners: the former are found less often among people with no secondary school qualification and more often among those with an upper secondary qualification that gives access to university. Nationals are also more likely to hold a third-level degree in this country. Nevertheless, in Germany, significant variations arise among migrants depending on their nationality. Those from Turkey include a relatively high proportion of individuals who did not graduate from school, while migrants from the former Yugoslavia and ethnic German repatriates are more likely to have an academic degree, even compared with nationals. Generally speaking, the second generation of immigrants are better educated. Unfortunately, information in relation to the educational level of the migrant population is lacking in several national reports.

Labour market integration of migrants

Migrants in national labour markets

Non-nationals account for a statistically significant proportion of the total labour force in the EU, as indicated by Tables 2–3 and Figures 2–5 below. According to Eurostat data, non-nationals represented 5.2% of the total labour force in the EU25 in the first quarter of 2006.

Eastern European countries benefit from the contribution of migrant workers to a minor extent, while in certain western European countries – namely Austria, Belgium, Germany and Spain – migrant workers represent around 10% of the labour force (Table 2). Of the other Member States, only Cyprus shows a comparatively high percentage of non-nationals in the labour force, at 14%, which is the highest among the EU25, with the exception of the very specific case of Luxembourg, where non-nationals reach 45% of the total labour force. The remarkable proportion in Luxembourg is, as already noted, most likely due to its size and the particularly international character of its economy. OECD data on countries’ foreign-born population show comparatively high percentages for France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. Such differences between the two datasets, as mentioned above, can be ascribed to a higher proportion of foreign-born persons who acquired nationality. Thus, in general, OECD data are higher than Eurostat data in this respect.

Table 2: Economically active population, first quarter 2006 (000s)
Economically active population, first quarter 2006 (000s)
  Total Non-nationals from EU25 Non-EU25 citizens % of non-nationals in total labour force
EU27* 231,020.5 3,939.1 8,083.3 5.2
AT 4,041.8 137 280.1 10.3
BE 4,605.6 279.1 115.7 8.6
BG 3,255.7 n.a. 6 n.a.
CY 372.6 21.8 30.6 14.1
CZ 5,199.6 21.6 26.5 0.9
DE 41,222.7 1,407.6 2,343 9.1
DK 2,898.5 30.3 61.4 3.2
EE 678.4 n.a. 119.4 n.a.
EL 4,873.1 23.6 284.6 6.3
ES 21,335.9 300.9 2,321.8 12.3
FI 2,599.5 19.5 23.8 1.7
FR 27,138.9 560.4 822.9 5.1
HU 4,208.6 6.4 21.1 0.7
IE 2,085.9 n.a. n.a. n.a.
IT 24,621.9 n.a. n.a. n.a.
LV 1,145.8 n.a. 11.9 n.a.
LT 1,586 n.a. 9 n.a.
LU** 202.7 85.2 6.5 45.2
MT 164.3 2.2 2.8 3.0
NL 8,552.1 143.8 161 3.6
NO 2,407.1 50.3 43.3 3.9
PL 16,799.7 8.4 24.8 0.2
PT 5,556.6 21.1 173.7 3.5
RO 9,763.8 n.a. n.a. n.a.
SE 4,677.5 112.3 102.5 4.6
SI 1,015.8 n.a. 4.1 n.a.
SK 2,656.7 3 n.a. n.a.
UK 29,760.7 749.1 1,129 6.3

*EU27 totals are based on the available country data.

**For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005, since 2006 data are not yet available.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

In analysing the labour market participation rates of nationals and non-nationals, it is useful to distinguish between non-nationals from the EU25 and non-EU25 citizens. In fact, as Table 3 shows in the data average for the now EU27 countries, non-nationals from the EU25 record a higher economic activity rate than nationals do ( 2.7 percentage points), while non-EU25 citizens have a lower activity rate (-3.3 percentage points). Of the 19 countries for which complete data are available, in 12 cases nationals have a lower activity rate than non-nationals from the EU25, while non-EU25 citizens show higher activity rates than nationals in nine cases. Lower participation rates of non-EU25 citizens are particularly evident in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, where the gap is over 15 percentage points. Lower than average participation rates among non-EU25 immigrants are also found in Belgium, Finland, France and Germany, where the difference in favour of the national population is above 10 percentage points.

However, in Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal and Spain, the economic activity rates of non-EU25 immigrants are significantly higher than those of nationals (by between 8.3 and 12.5 percentage points), and reach a gap of 20.7 percentage points in Latvia. It is evident that Scandinavian countries are over-represented among countries where migrants display low participation rates, while Mediterranean countries almost monopolise the group of countries in the opposite situation. It is also worth mentioning that, in southern Europe, immigration is a relatively recent occurrence that more often involves adult individuals and relatively few children, adolescents and old people, while these latter categories display a higher incidence in countries with a longer tradition of immigration.

Table 3: Economic activity rates, 15–64 years (%)
Economic activity rates, 15–64 years (%)
  Total activity rate National economic activity rate within total national population Activity rate of non-nationals from EU25 within their total sub-group Activity rate of non-EU25 citizens within their total sub-group
EU27* 69.7 71.2 73.9 67.9
AT 72.2 72.7 76.5 64.8
BE 66.1 66.4 66.4 55.3
BG 61.5 61.5 n.a. 49.1
CY 72.6 71.9 68.9 84.4
CZ 70.5 70.4 80.6 78.7
DE 74.6 75.5 74.8 62.6
DK 80.2 80.7 74.4 63.5
EE 72.1 71.5 n.a. 75.5
EL 67 66.6 54.5 76.3
ES 70.4 69.3 69.8 80.6
FI 74 74.1 76.2 62.5
FR 69.4 69.8 72.3 57.9
HU 61.4 61.4 69.3 65.3
IE 71 n.a. n.a. n.a.
IT 62.7 n.a. n.a. n.a.
LT 67.3 67.3 n.a. 66
LU** 66.6 63 72.2 63.6
LV 69.8 69.7 n.a. 90.4
MT 59.1 59.1 68.3 52.1
NL 77 77.6 79.8 54.1
NO 77.6 77.9 84.3 61.1
PL 62.8 62.9 60.8 53.7
PT 73.6 73.4 71 82.5
RO 62.3 n.a. n.a. n.a.
SE 77.7 78.3 77.1 57.9
SI 70.9 70.9 n.a. 70
SK 68.6 68.6 85.4 n.a.
UK 75.3 75.6 77.7 68.4

*EU27 totals are based on the available country data.

**For Luxembourg, the Eurostat survey provides the data for the whole reference year only. Moreover, the data for Luxembourg refer to 2005. 2006 data are not available.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Figure 2: Economic activity rate of nationals, 15–64 years, by sex (%)

Figure 2: Figure 2: Economic activity rate of nationals, 15–64 years, by sex (%)

Note: No data for IE, IT and RO. EU27 totals are based on the available country data. For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Figure 3: Economic activity rate of non-nationals from EU25, 15–64 years, by sex (%)

Figure 3: Figure 3: Economic activity rate of non-nationals from EU25, 15–64 years, by sex (%)

Note: No data for BG, EE, IE, IT, LT, LV, RO, SI and SK. EU27 totals are based on the available country data. For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Figure 4: Economic activity rates of non-EU25 citizens, 15–64 years, by sex (%)

Figure 4: Figure 4: Economic activity rates of non-EU25 citizens, 15–64 years, by sex (%)

Note: No data for BG, IE, IT, LT, RO and SK. EU27 totals are based on the available country data. For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Figure 5: Employment rates, first quarter 2006 (%)

Figure 5: Figure 5: Employment rates, first quarter 2006 (%)

Note: No data for IE, IT and RO. EU27 totals are based on the available country data. For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Undeclared employment

In the above statistics, it is difficult to take into account the existence of undeclared work among migrants, although this is known to be relatively widespread in some EU countries. According to the national reports, the available estimate for Austria is that 109,000 migrant workers were employed full time in undeclared jobs in 2002, compared with 746,000 nationals in the same situation. Hence, a considerable number of migrants are in undeclared employment in this country, particularly in the areas of agriculture, construction, catering, tourism, household services and cleaning. In Belgium, public authority inspections have discovered a sizeable proportion of immigrants in undeclared work, particularly in the hotels and restaurants and construction sectors. In Italy (or more precisely in Lombardy, the northern region with the highest concentration of immigrants), within the active migrant population, 55.3% of men are estimated to work as employees in regular employment and 14.4% in undeclared employment. The corresponding values for women are 59.7% and 19.7%. In the Czech Republic, significant numbers of migrants are illegally employed as unskilled building workers, cleaners, dish washers, packers, sawmill workers, woodcutters or warehouse workers. In France, a correlation is found between recruitment difficulties in specific sectors – such as construction, hotels and restaurants, retail and agriculture – and the illegal employment of foreigners. Overall, it can be concluded that, in several countries, foreigners face exposure to undeclared employment, with negative implications for their working conditions.

Unemployment rates

In examining unemployment rates related to migrant status, the analysis will first refer to the general information provided in the national contributions and Eurostat, before turning to a comparative analysis of employment and unemployment rates by educational level on the basis of the OECD sources.

The national reports reveal an overall situation of disadvantage for immigrants. In Austria, their unemployment rate amounted to 10% in 2004, which was 3.3 percentage points higher than the corresponding value for Austrians, at 6.7%. The data indicate a widening unemployment gap between nationals and foreigners in recent years. A similar situation is found in Estonia, where nationals record a 5.5% unemployment rate, compared with 13.1% of (self-declared) non-Estonians; this gap has been increasing since 1997. Among non-Estonians, those born in the country are less exposed to the risk of unemployment.

In Finland, foreigners face unemployment more often, but the situation varies greatly depending on their country of origin. For instance, in 2004 the unemployment rate was between 55% and 66% among people from Iraq, Iran and Somalia, while it was around 45% among foreigners from Vietnam and 35% among those from Bosnia-Herzegovina; meanwhile, it fluctuated between 10% and 17% among citizens of western European countries. The reference value for the total population in Finland was 12% at the time.

In France, non-nationals also experience unemployment more often: in 2003, their unemployment rate was almost twice as high as that of individuals of French origin, at 19% compared with 10%, whereas the rate among second-generation migrants lay in between. Migrants who have acquired French nationality are less affected by unemployment, reporting a rate of 16% compared with 21% for those who have maintained their original nationality. North African nationals are the most heavily disadvantaged group in this context, as around three out of 10 people who are economically active in this category are found in unemployment. Moreover, with respect to advancing from unemployment and accessing legal employment, the French data for 2004 indicate that non-nationals are in a disadvantaged situation: only 12% progress from unemployment, compared with 25% of their French counterparts. Furthermore, second-generation immigrants from north Africa holding a third-level degree are at a disadvantage relative to their French counterparts in several respects. They require more time to obtain the first job, are more likely to be offered short-term employment contracts – with the corresponding risk of more unemployment spells – and overall spend more time unemployed.

In Sweden, non-nationals seem to be more exposed to the risk of losing a job during downward business cycles. Differences among non-nationals are also relevant in this case: for example, the longer they have lived in Sweden, the less job insecurity they face due to business cycles. Moreover, individuals from Africa and Asia are over-represented among unemployed persons, which is also the case for women in general. Differences between nationals and foreigners are related in part to recruitment channels, since nationals benefit much more from informal contacts, such as family and friends. However, discrimination is another factor which is difficult to ignore: several studies have shown that young second-generation immigrants from outside the EU are unemployed more often than others, even when they have the same level of education and average school grades as nationals.

Migrants are not disadvantaged everywhere, however, and some important gender differences should also be noted. In Germany, male migrants are more often unemployed than their national counterparts, while female migrants are unemployed less often, although in both cases the differences are not very pronounced. Conversely, in Greece average unemployment rates among male migrants are lower, but they are higher among female migrants. In Spain, foreigners’ exposure to unemployment is relatively similar to that of nationals; however, considerable gender differences emerge: foreign men display an unemployment rate 2.2 percentage points higher than that of Spanish people, while it is 3.5 percentage points lower in the case of foreign women. Among foreigners, those from non-EU European countries and from Latin America record the lowest unemployment rates, while the opposite is true for individuals coming from Africa. Unemployment rates are lower for foreigners who have been residing in Spain for several years. In Lombardy in Italy the total unemployment rate among migrants, at 7.4%, is relatively close to that of nationals, but the former rate varies significantly according to the country of origin: it is lower among immigrants from Asia (4.1%) and higher among those from western Africa (9.4%) and from Latin America (11.5%). In Portugal, in 2001, only 4% of migrants were unemployed, compared with 6.8% of the total population. The above observations may be summarised in the following way: in the vast majority of EU countries foreigners face a higher risk of unemployment, but considerable differences arise among them according to sex, country of origin and duration in the host country.

Eurostat data (Tables 4–5 and Figures 6–8) reveal that migrants usually have worse employment prospects than nationals have. This is particularly true for non-EU25 citizens: they almost always record a higher unemployment rate than nationals, with the only exceptions of the Czech Republic and Greece (Table 5). The gap to the detriment of non-EU25 nationals can be as high as 22 percentage points in Belgium and is around 15 percentage points in France, Finland, Norway and Germany. Non-nationals from the EU25 experience a similar disadvantaged situation in the labour market, although the difference compared with nationals is significantly lower than it was in the case of non-EU25 citizens. For instance, data for the now EU27 countries show a gap of 8.8 percentage points for non-EU25 citizens and of only 1.2 percentage points for non-nationals from the EU25.

Looking at the unemployment rates of young people aged 15–24 years provides further confirmation of the differences between EU countries in terms of labour market opportunities offered to migrants. According to the OECD data – which use the distinction of native or foreign-born persons – young foreign-born individuals tend to experience unemployment more often than natives do in all countries under examination, with some exceptions: the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy and Spain. In fact, significant unemployment differentials can be found among young people in all Scandinavian countries (less so in Norway) and in the Netherlands. Unemployment differentials also emerge in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, countries characterised by vocationally-oriented educational systems that favour the labour market integration of younger generations. However, this system adversely affects young migrants – especially if they have attended school outside the country of residence – as they face difficulty in having their qualifications recognised, together with language problems and weaker social networks in looking for a job. On the whole, the situation of young foreigners seems particularly critical, as it reflects two different sources of disadvantage: age and migrant status.

Migrant women represent another disadvantaged group as they experience relatively high unemployment rates in many European countries, particularly in Finland, France, Greece, Poland, Slovakia and Spain. In Italy too, their unemployment rates are moderately high, which makes it fairly clear that, in southern Europe, migrant women share with native-born women a high exposure to unemployment. Nevertheless, according to the OECD 2006 report, migrant women are systematically disadvantaged relative to their native counterparts. In other words, the former group reflect the difficulties associated with gender discrimination in addition to those pertaining to ethnic discrimination. Moreover, according to the OECD report, in all countries for which data are available, except for the Czech Republic, foreign-born women have lower employment rates than their native-born counterparts and this difference increases with level of education. Thus, highly qualified migrant women are particularly disadvantaged, partly because of language difficulties and problems of recognition of foreign qualifications, but also because of their segregation in unskilled and precarious jobs.

Eurostat data depict a similar picture in terms of female unemployment rates, with a systematically disadvantaged position for women in the labour market (Figures 7 and 8). However, some exceptions emerge: Austria, Germany, Sweden and the UK show a more balanced situation, with migrant women often having lower unemployment rates than migrant men have.

Table 4: Unemployed population, first quarter 2006 (000s)
Unemployed population, first quarter 2006 (000s)
  Total Nationals Non-nationals from EU25 Non-EU25 citizens % of non-nationals’ unemployment within total unemployment
EU27* 20,593.8 16,016.1 396.1 1,421.1 8.8
AT 223.7 167.7 11.6 44.3 25
BE 398.7 333.3 30.8 34.6 16.4
BG 315.2 313.2 n.a. n.a. n.a.
CY 22 18.2 1.6 2.1 16.8
CZ 414.4 411.6 1.4 1.4 0.7
DE 4,663.9 3,859.9 201.7 574.1 16.6
DK 130.2 120.3 n.a. 7.3 n.a.
EE 43.7 29.6 n.a. 14.1 n.a.
EL 473.1 445.3 n.a. 25.5 n.a.
ES 1,935.8 1,612.5 24.8 298.5 16.7
FI 218.6 210.6 2.3 5.6 3.6
FR 2,612.6 2,349 49 212.4 10
HU 323.5 320.8 n.a. n.a. n.a.
IE 87.8 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
IT 1,875 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
LT 101.7 101.1 n.a. n.a. n.a.
LU** 9.1 3.6 4.7 0.8 60.4
LV 89.2 87.7 n.a. n.a. n.a.
MT 12.9 12.8 n.a. n.a. n.a.
NL 387.4 351.7 7.9 23.9 8.2
NO 92.8 83.3 n.a. n.a. n.a.
PL 2,701.4 2,696.9 n.a. n.a. n.a.
PT 429.7 404.1 n.a. 24.5 n.a.
RO 762.5 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
SE 367.9 337 8.7 21.7 8.3
SI 69.8 68.9 n.a. n.a. n.a.
SK 397.8 397.7 n.a. n.a. n.a.
UK 1,526.2 1,362.8 43.8 119.6 10.7

*EU27 totals are based on the available country data.

**For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005, since 2006 data are not yet available.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Table 5: Unemployment rates (%)
Unemployment rates (%)
  Total unemployment rate Nationals’ unemployment rate within total national population Unemployment rate of non-nationals from EU25 within their total sub-group Unemployment rate of non-EU25 citizens within their total sub-group
EU27* 8.9 8.8 10 17.6
AT 5.5 4.6 8.5 15.8
BE 8.7 7.9 11 29.9
BG 9.7 9.6 n.a. n.a.
CY 5.9 5.7 7.5 7
CZ 8 8 6.5 5.2
DE 11.3 10.3 14.3 24.5
DK 4.5 4.3 n.a. 11.8
EE 6.4 5.3 n.a. 11.8
EL 9.7 9.8 n.a. 9
ES 9.1 8.6 8.2 12.9
FI 8.4 8.2 11.6 23.6
FR 9.6 9.1 8.7 25.7
HU 7.7 7.7 n.a. n.a.
IE 4.2 n.a. n.a. n.a.
IT 7.6 n.a. n.a. n.a.
LT 6.4 6.4 n.a. n.a.
LU** 4.5 3.3 5.5 12
LV 7.8 7.7 n.a. n.a.
MT 7.8 8 n.a. n.a.
NL 4.5 4.3 5.5 14.9
NO 3.9 3.6 n.a. 18.5
PL 16.1 16.1 n.a. n.a.
PT 7.7 7.5 n.a. 14.1
RO 7.8 n.a. n.a. n.a.
SE 7.9 7.6 7.7 21.2
SI 6.9 6.8 n.a. n.a.
SK 15 15 n.a. n.a.
UK 5.1 4.9 5.8 10.6

*EU27 totals are based on the available country data.

**For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005, since 2006 data are not yet available.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Figure 6: Unemployment rates, first quarter 2006 (%)

Figure 6: Figure 6: Unemployment rates, first quarter 2006 (%)

Note: No data for IE, IT and RO. EU27 totals are based on the available country data. For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Figure 7: Unemployment rate of non-nationals from EU25, by sex (%)

Figure 7: Figure 7: Unemployment rate of non-nationals from EU25, by sex (%)

Note: No data for BG, DK, EE, EL, FI, HU, IE, IT, LT, LV, MT, NO, PL, PT, RO, SI and SK. EU27 totals are based on the available country data. For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Figure 8: Unemployment rate of non-EU25 citizens, by sex (%)

Figure 8: Figure 8: Unemployment rate of non-EU25 citizens, by sex (%)

Note: No data for BG, HU, IE, IT, LT, LU, LV, MT, PL, RO, SI and SK. EU27 totals are based on the available country data. For Luxembourg, Eurostat provides data for the whole reference year only. Data refer to 2005.

Source: Eurostat, first quarter 2006

Education levels

Table 6 outlines the employment rates of the native-born population and of migrant workers by educational level. For simplicity, this analysis compares the two extremes of the educational hierarchy, namely people with primary or lower secondary schooling and people with a third-level qualification. These OECD data should be interpreted with caution because demographic factors are not taken into account. For example, if a country discriminates against younger workers in access to the labour market, and younger generations are more educated than older ones, it may appear that more educated people have limited occupational returns. However, it is not at all clear whether this disadvantage should be ascribed to their qualifications, or simply to their age. Another relevant issue is that countries do not record migrants’ levels of education in exactly the same way, and these may be underestimated in some cases.

With these considerations in mind, Table 6 shows that more educated immigrants record higher employment rates than immigrants with low educational levels do. The same observation also applies to natives, so it can be said that a higher level of education increases opportunities for labour market integration irrespective of nationality. The occupational differentials related to level of education are strong and systematic, and may be observed in all EU countries. Nonetheless, employed migrants are segregated much more often into unskilled and low paid jobs than natives are.

Table 6: Employment rates, by educational level, 2004 (%)
Employment rates, by educational level, 2004 (%)
  Native-born Foreign-born
  Low qualification High qualification Low qualification High qualification
AT 43.6 84.1 54.3 77.5
BE 41.9 84 33.9 73.7
CZ 22.9 85.6 36.9 86.4
DE 40.2 84.5 45.1 68.1
DK 61 87.9 44.3 64.2
EL 49.2 82.1 64.4 68.7
ES 53.4 79.5 61.2 73.2
FI 47.7 85 39.1 69.5
FR 47.1 78.7 47.8 70.8
HU 27.9 82.3 25.8 82.2
IE 48 86.5 44.4 76.5
IT 45.6 81.4 59.5 78.8
LU 33.7 82.8 63.9 78.4
NL 63.9 88.1 50.7 78.3
NO 52.6 87.5 43.9 79.8
PL 22.8 80.6 11 51.6
PT 66.5 87.6 67.5 83.6
SE 57.7 87.4 45.9 76
SK 14.3 84.3 31.1 85
UK 52.5 88.1 39.3 81.8

Note: No data for BG, CY, EE, LT, LV, MT, RO and SI.

Source: OECD, 2006

Notwithstanding the systematic effect of education, certain notable differences are apparent between countries in this regard. Education exerts its strongest influence among migrants in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the UK, where occupational differentials can reach up to 50 percentage points. Conversely, these differentials are relatively small in Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain. Thus, the relationship between education and employment status for migrants tends to be particularly strong in eastern Europe and relatively weak in southern Europe.

Table 6 also underlines that, in the majority of EU countries, skilled migrants are disadvantaged relative to skilled natives in terms of employment opportunities. At the same time, in many cases, unskilled migrants have similar, or even higher, employment rates than their native counterparts. In other words, it is fairly clear that migrants benefit from lower returns to education than nationals do because they are recruited preferentially into unskilled jobs. In fact, internal variations within the migrant population according to educational level are often more notable than are differences between foreigners and nationals. Thus, the labour market situation of highly educated migrants is more similar to that of highly educated natives than to the disadvantaged situation of unskilled workers.


In numerous national contributions, over-qualification of migrant workers is viewed as a significant issue: in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK, evidence based on national data sources suggests that migrant workers face this quandary more often than nationals do. Differing evaluations on this subject may be related to the above-mentioned problem of recognition of the educational credentials acquired by migrants in their countries of origin. For instance, whereas the percentage of Austrian workers who are over-qualified for their current job amounts to 17% of all employed Austrians, the corresponding proportion among migrant workers (either born abroad or without Austrian citizenship) is 38%. Those who are neither born in Austria nor possess Austrian citizenship display the highest incidence of over-qualification, at 44.1% (AT0608019I).

The situation is highly varied in Luxembourg: here, Portuguese migrant workers, for example – three quarters of whom have no education beyond primary school level – are low-skilled and get jobs which have been rejected by nationals. Around 20% of Italian migrant workers in Luxembourg are low-skilled. Conversely, some 60% of resident workers of Belgian origin have a secondary school diploma, and this proportion is also high among French and German migrant workers in Luxembourg, at around 50%.

In some countries, such as Cyprus, Italy and Spain, the national reports mention that migrants are often highly educated relative to natives, yet they are segregated into unskilled jobs. The Spanish correspondent notes that over-qualification entails further negative consequences for migrant workers in terms of less access to on-the-job training and fewer opportunities for career advancement. The Greek report writes that ‘immigrants are integrated in the Greek labour market under less favourable terms and conditions than the indigenous labour force, and they are therefore less selective when seeking jobs based on their qualifications and skills’. Once again, significant differences within the migrant population are often mentioned, both with respect to the educational level of specific groups and to their exposure to the risk of over-qualification in their work.

Table 7 outlines the OECD data and confirms that both natives and foreign-born workers are exposed to significant risks of over-qualification, measured by the proportion of workers who possess an educational degree of higher level than that required for the job they hold. In light of previous observations, it comes as no surprise that migrants face this risk more often than native workers do. This is particularly the case in Mediterranean countries, confirming their tendency to recruit migrants for unskilled jobs to a greater extent than other European countries do. Migrant workers are also heavily over-qualified in Norway and Sweden, Finally, it appears that, in Finland and in the UK, the exposure to the risk of over-qualification is independent from migrant status. It should be noted that the results obtained from the national data source for Austria differ from those reported in the table below. Obviously, this reflects different definitions of over-qualification. Nevertheless, the two sources depict a similar situation in relative terms: in both cases, migrant workers are estimated to face a risk twice as high as that of natives of being over-qualified.

Table 7: Over-qualification rates of native and foreign-born population, 2004 (%)
Over-qualification rates of native and foreign-born population, 2004 (%)
  Native-born Foreign-born
AT 10.3 21.1
BE 15.6 21.6
CZ 5.2 10
DE 11.4 20.3
DK 10.4 18.6
EL 9 39.3
ES 24.2 42.9
FI 14.3 19.2
FR 11.2 15.5
HU 6.3 9.7
IE 15.7 23.8
IT 6.4 23.5
LU 3.4 9.1
NO 8.4 20.3
PT 7.9 16.8
SE 6.5 16.1
UK 15.3 17.8

Note: No data for BG, CY, EE, LT, LV, MT, NL, PL, RO, SI and SK.

Source: OECD, 2006

Sectoral distribution

On the basis of the OECD data, it is possible to examine the distribution of foreign-born workers by sector of employment (Table 8). This breakdown depends both on the overall sectoral distribution of employment and on the allocation of migrants to specific segments of the labour market. Numbers in bold indicate sectors where immigrants are over-represented relative to the native population. It can be seen that agriculture attracts a higher proportion of migrants in two Mediterranean countries, namely Greece and Spain. Elsewhere, the small occupational share of the agricultural sector overall also implies a negligible presence of migrants.

However, it should be noted that the OECD statistics refer essentially to legal permanent migration; hence, temporary and undeclared migration flows are not taken into account although these may be particularly relevant in the case of the primary sector, mainly agriculture. Moreover, farming occupations often involve flexible contracts, high occupational insecurity and rather difficult working conditions; such jobs represent a more easily accessible option for migrant workers, given that natives are often unwilling to accept them. Therefore, there are strong reasons to believe that the actual contribution of migrant workers to the primary sector is higher than suggested by the numbers below.

Table 8: Employment of foreign-born workers, by sector, 2004 (%)
Employment of foreign-born workers, by sector, 2004 (%)
  (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) (h) (i) (j)
AT 1.2 22.3 8.8 14.4 12 4.2 8.8 n.a. 2.9 25
BE 1.2 17.3 6.9 13.6 7.4 6.2 10.7 0.6 9.1 27.1
CH 1.1 19.7 8.4 15.2 7.3 6.1 13.4 1.3 3.4 24.1
CZ 3.7 29.9 8.8 18.2 4.6 5.1 6.1 n.a. 4.5 18.9
DE 1.3 32 6.4 12.9 7.6 3.9 10.1 0.7 3.3 21.9
EL 6.1 16.3 27.3 11.4 9.2 2.7 2.4 13.4 1.4 9.7
ES 6 13.6 16.3 12.2 12 3.6 3.7 12 2 18.5
FI n.a. 20.1 5.1 14.5 8.9 6.8 13.6 n.a. n.a. 26.9
FR 1.9 14.6 10.3 11.9 5.9 6 9.7 5.8 6.8 27.2
IE 2.2 16.6 8.4 11.5 13.2 6.4 12.5 n.a. 2.9 25.4
LU 1 10.5 16 12.2 6 1.9 6.3 4.2 12.2 29.8
NL 1.5 20.4 4.5 15 8.2 5.4 12.2 n.a. 4.6 28.2
NO n.a. 13.7 4.5 12.6 8.6 8 20.7 n.a. 3.7 27
SE 0.6 17.2 2.7 12.1 6.6 10.8 18.6 n.a. 3.9 27.5
UK 0.4 11.8 4.3 13.6 9 8.4 14.5 1 5.2 31.9

Notes: (a) = agriculture, (b) = manufacturing, mining and energy (c) = construction, (d) = wholesale and retail trade, (e) = hotels and restaurants, (f) = education, (g) = health and social work, (h) = household services, (i) = administration, (j) = other services. CH = Switzerland. Numbers in bold indicate sectors where immigrants are over-represented relative to the native population. No data for BG, CY, DK, EE, HU, IT, LT, LV, MT, PL, PT, RO, SI and SK.

Source: OECD, 2006

Turning to the traditional industries of manufacturing, mining and energy, the second column of Table 8 shows that these sectors employ a large proportion of foreign-born workers in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In general, the secondary sector remains one of the main sources of employment for migrants, as also confirmed by data on occupations in construction. Nonetheless, the proportion of migrant workers in this latter sector is lower than that of manufacturing in most countries and there is less variability among EU countries.

The proportion of immigrants in the wholesale and retail trade is very similar among the EU Member States, varying at a level between 11% and 14% in most cases. Migrant workers are most systematically over-represented in the hotels and restaurants sector, with the only exception of Ireland. This is strong evidence of the tendency to recruit migrants for the most unskilled and flexible jobs in the services sector. Migrant workers are also over-represented in the sectors of health and social work, and household services – with a large proportion of women being employed in these areas – as well as in the category of other services.

Thus, unskilled occupations in the services sector currently represent the main source of employment for migrants. At the same time, foreign-born workers are never over-represented in the sectors of education and administration, which typically comprise occupations with more secure employment contracts and better working conditions. The incidence of these two sectors within total migrant employment is generally low, although in Norway, Sweden and the UK immigrants occupy almost 10% of jobs in education. This suggests that, in some countries, labour shortages are not concentrated exclusively in unskilled occupations and that migrant workers may gradually gain an increasing proportion of employment in more qualified jobs as well.

Nevertheless, the OECD data indicate that, so far, migrant work has been spreading predominantly in the unskilled jobs of the services sector. Agriculture has lost its key position almost everywhere except for seasonal work, as already mentioned, while industry remains an important source of employment for migrants in numerous countries with a strong secondary sector. As will be shown later in more detail, the segregation of migrants into unskilled jobs in the secondary and tertiary (services) sectors entails several negative consequences for them in terms of lower wages, higher occupational instability, more risks of accidents at work and more frequent access to unhealthy occupations.

The national reports highlight sectors where migrant workers are over-represented relative to natives, or at least where the former are most often employed. In several cases, some quantitative estimates are also made available, but they are not comparable either between the national reports or with OECD data, because different and partially overlapping classifications of economic sectors are used. Hence, this analysis will report only general qualitative indications about the most frequent sectors of employment for migrant workers. It should be noted that Table 9 employs a general classification that allows for some sort of comparison with the OECD quantitative data that will be reported later. Therefore, the sectoral categories cited in the national reports do not always perfectly match those reported in this table.

Table 9: Employment of non-nationals, by sector, 2004
Employment of non-nationals, by sector, 2004
  (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) (h) (i) (j) (k)
AT X X X   X     X      
BG   X                 X
BE X       X     X      
CY X X X X X     X      
CZ   X X X             X
DE X X     X            
EE   X                  
EL X X X X X     X      
ES X X X   X     X      
FI   X X   X X   X      
FR   X X         X     X
HU   X X X       X      
IE   X     X            
IT X X X   X     X      
LU     X   X           X
MT     X         X      
PL X X X X   X   X      
SE   X     X     X      
SI   X X                
UK X X           X      

Notes: (a) = agriculture, (b) = manufacturing, mining and energy (c) = construction, (d) = wholesale and retail trade, (e) = hotels and restaurants, (f) = education, (g) = health and social work, (h) = household services, (i) = administration, (j) = other services, (k) = business services. No data for DK, LT, LV, NL, NO, PT, RO and SK.

Source: National contributions of EWCO correspondents, 2006

In spite of these limitations, some clear and interesting indications emerge. First, in half of the national reports, agriculture is mentioned as a significant sector of employment for migrants. Second, manufacturing (most often in the textiles and heavy industries) and construction are confirmed as important sources of employment for immigrants in almost all countries under examination, while the position of the wholesale and retail trade sector is less often recognised. This latter category may partially overlap with the generic category of ‘business’, which in some cases is poorly defined in the national reports. Third, unskilled services jobs in tourism, hotels and restaurants, as well as in household services, are almost universally recognised as a major source of employment for migrants, while more skilled jobs in administration, education and healthcare are almost never mentioned. Overall, the national reports trace a general picture of migrant employment that resembles to a significant extent that which emerges from the OECD data.

The main reason behind the specific sectoral distribution of migrant employment, according to most of the national reports, is simply that most nationals would rarely accept the low-paid, unskilled, arduous and hazardous jobs left to immigrants. At the same time, it will be shown later that – in addition to labour shortages – other factors help to explain the segregation of migrants in less rewarding jobs and sectors, including language and legal barriers to skilled occupations, together with more or less subtle forms of discrimination.

A final interesting point on the sectoral distribution of migrant work refers to occupational segregation by sector on the basis of ethnic origin and sex. For example, in Italy migrants from eastern European countries are mainly concentrated in agriculture, hotels and restaurants, and household services, while Romanians and Albanians cluster in the construction sector, and African migrants are over-represented in manufacturing. In Finland, Russians usually find work in healthcare, transport or cleaning, while Estonians tend to work more often in sales, transport and construction, Vietnamese workers are mainly employed in manufacturing sectors such as metalwork, and Somalis work most often in teaching or in social services focused on the needs of migrants.

Access to self-employment

Table 10 shows that, in almost all countries under examination between 1999 and 2004, self-employment among migrants increased as a percentage of total self-employment. Moreover, its proportion within migrant employment has been growing. In some countries, the increase of foreign-born independent workers has been particularly pronounced and currently their self-employment rate within their category is higher than the overall rate of self-employment in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden and the UK.

Table 10: Foreign-born workers in self-employment, 1999–2004 (%)
Foreign-born workers in self-employment, 1999–2004 (%)
  Proportion of foreign- born workers within total self-employment Proportion of self-employment within total foreign-born employment Proportion of self-employment within total employment (*)
  1999 2004 2004 2004
AT 6 9.2 7.6 20.1
BE 10 12.4 15.2 16.1
CH n.a. 17.5 10.3 12.1
CZ n.a. 3.1 24.3 19.4
DE 9.2 10.3 9.2 10.9
DK 5.2 8.4 9.7 6.4
EL 1.9 2.6 9.7 36.3
ES 2.7 4.5 12.5 14.8
FR 10.4 11.2 10.4 8.8
IE 7.5 8 14.2 17.6
NL 7.2 8.7 9.8 13.9
NO 6.1 8 8.4 7.4
PT 2.8 3.8 13.8 26.2
SE 9.9 13.7 11.2 4.7
UK 10.2 10.9 15 12.8

Notes: CH = Switzerland. No data for BG, CY, EE, FI, HU, IT, LT, LU, LV, MT, PL, RO, SI and SK.

Source: OECD, 2006, except (*) OECD, OECD Statistics, Dataset: 3 – Population and employment by main activity, data extracted on 16 March 2007

This situation could be interpreted as evidence of improved work opportunities for immigrants. However, it is also possible that, due to difficulty in finding a job as employees, many of them make recourse to self-employment as a back-door that gives access to a ‘hostile’ labour market. Indeed, this observation may also apply to the national population – or at least to those most discriminated against, such as young people or women – although recent empirical analyses tend to weaken this interpretation (Arum and Mueller, 2004 (129Kb PDF)). In any case, at least for migrants, probably both interpretations are correct to the extent that they refer to different segments of self-employment. In this regard, it should be emphasised that the internal composition of the general category of self-employment can vary considerably between countries. Independent workers are a heterogeneous population in terms of skills, work autonomy and income levels, and it is likely that migrant workers tend to occupy the less advantageous segments of self-employment.

The above data can be compared to and integrated with the information provided in the national reports, which depict a varied situation across Europe concerning the relationship between migrant status and access to self-employment and entrepreneurship. In Cyprus, self-employed migrants are in very low numbers, so that they are not included in the official statistics. In Greece, according to national data, only 6.5% of the migrant population is self-employed, which indicates low access to this form of employment relative to nationals. This estimate is somewhat similar to that provided in Table 10. The British report notes that, in the UK, most migrants work as employees, with certain notable exceptions: for instance, in the construction sector many employers use sub-contractors recruited among migrants, and another exception is represented by the primary sector. However, these exceptions seemingly refer to weak forms of self-employment, or even to masked forms of dependent work. Hence, the over-representation of migrant workers in self-employment in the UK, as shown by the OECD source, may not indicate a better labour market situation for migrants in this country relative to other countries.

In Italy, around one migrant worker out of 10 is self-employed, which indicates a low access to self-employment relative to nationals. Nevertheless, migrant entrepreneurship has been increasing rapidly in recent years and this tendency is likely to continue in the near future. Indeed, considering that immigration is a recent experience in Italy, the above-mentioned self-employment rate among migrants is relatively impressive. In the Netherlands too, immigrants figure comparatively less often than nationals among independent workers.

However, in Denmark, migrants in general – and migrants from non-western countries in particular – are more inclined than nationals to become self-employed: around 11% of those from non-western countries are self-employed, whereas this applies to only 6% of Danes. Here, the national report provides similar findings to the OECD data sources, although the two estimates are not strictly comparable. In Sweden, higher self-employment rates can be found among foreign-born workers in recent years, in line with indications from the OECD source. In 2003, self-employment was slightly more common among migrants – at 12% and 5.4% for men and women, respectively – than among nationals, at 9.8% and 4.4% respectively. In Sweden most self-employed migrant workers come from Asia, which probably reflects the strong entrepreneurial tradition among Asian migrants. However, the high number of migrants among those who are self-employed could also depend on their difficulties in getting another type of job in Sweden. This would be confirmed by the fact that migrant self-employed workers have significantly lower incomes than their Swedish counterparts.

Atypical employment contracts

The national reports indicate that, in many countries, migrant workers are employed on temporary contracts more often than nationals are. This applies to Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK (though with high variations across sectors, in this latter case). However, in Estonia, France, and Malta, little difference emerges in this regard according to migrant status. In the case of Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Portugal, as well as for most eastern European countries – the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania – no information is available from the national reports.

The reasons for migrants’ higher exposure to atypical employment contracts include the following:

  • government policies that issue work permits of limited duration, as in Belgium, Cyprus, Hungary, Luxembourg and Slovenia, hence forcing a limited duration of contracts;
  • the high incidence of seasonal work among migrant workers, particularly in agriculture, as mentioned for example in the Austrian and Italian reports;
  • in Finland, migrant workers are employed in some areas of the public sector where recourse to temporary employment contracts is particularly widespread;
  • in Sweden and the UK, temporary work agencies play a particularly important role as recruiters of migrant workers.

Furthermore, significant differences are apparent between migrant groups. For instance, in Finland 16% of native wage earners have a fixed-term employment contract, compared with 13% of Vietnamese workers, 20% of Estonians, 31% of Russians and 54% of Somalis. In Sweden, it is particularly common among Africans and South Americans to work for temporary work agencies. In the Netherlands, migrants with a non-western background are less likely to have an open-ended contract and more likely to work for a temporary agency or as ‘on call’ workers; not surprisingly, they experience more occupational instability than Dutch natives do. Conversely, the work careers of western non-nationals more closely resemble those of nationals.

It is not clear to what extent these non-standard jobs represent ‘traps’ that entail an increasing precariousness of work, or ‘doors’ that give access to stable employment. Moreover, it is not clear whether opportunities for migrant workers differ from those of nationals in this respect. In Sweden, one study suggests that fixed-term employment contracts act as stepping stones towards stable jobs for national workers more often than for foreign workers.

According to the above-mentioned OECD 2006 report, in all countries for which data are available, except for Ireland, the risk of being in a temporary job is significantly higher for migrants than for natives. The more widespread temporary work is, the greater the differentials related to migrant status. One could say that the increase in flexible contracts is largely at the expense of migrants, since the higher the prevalence of flexible contracts the stronger the disadvantage for this group. However, as in the case of self-employment, it is important to emphasise the internal variation in the category of atypical work, which includes contracts ensuring very different levels of social protection and of occupational security. Moreover, the mix of forms of non-standard jobs is likely to vary between countries, but such variations cannot be detected by the available statistics. It is reasonably clear that temporary employment contracts ensure, almost by definition, lower levels of occupational security, but it is not necessarily the case that a temporary contract is imposed on a worker, either native or migrant.

Data on how long migrant employees stay with the same employer are generally lacking. However, in those few countries for which they are available, they point to more occupational instability. For instance, in Finland 40% of nationals have stayed 10 years or more with the same employer, but only 24% of Vietnamese employees, 9% of Estonians and 15% of Russians are in the same situation. Similar differentials can also be found when looking at shorter periods of tenure. Hence, once again the evidence suggests significant differences among migrant groups. In the UK, there are indications of lower rates of tenure among migrants, with certain variations related to the sector of employment. In Italy, among migrants who were in regular employment in 2004, 90% of them were in the same position one year later, while 5% were unemployed and 2.2% were in undeclared employment. Among those migrants who were in undeclared employment in 2004, one year later 16.4% of them were in regular employment, while 6.7% were unemployed and 72.8% were still in undeclared employment. These data do not refer to work with the same employer, however. At any rate, they suggest that one migrant out of 10 in regular employment loses his or her regular job each year and becomes unemployed or illegally employed. Moreover, these data indicate that, in Italy, less than one migrant out of six (16.4%) makes the transition from undeclared employment to legal employment. In Cyprus, the same rights and employment conditions are ensured in principle to migrants as to Cypriot workers; however, in the case of the former it is not uncommon that contracts are broken, usually at the workers’ expense. On the whole, it can be concluded that, in many countries, migrant workers, due to higher exposure to fixed-term employment contracts and to lower retention rates, face much greater occupational instability than do native workers.

It is well-known that women are over-represented in part-time work (TN0403TR01). This observation also applies to migrant women. According to the OECD data, this type of contract is widespread among the latter group, particularly in Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. Moreover, part-time jobs are more common among migrant women in countries where native-born women also work part time more often. It should be noted that the incidence of both fixed-term jobs and part-time work is influenced by national legislation, which can make such contracts a more or less convenient option for employers. However, it is also affected by the sectoral distribution of overall employment and, more specifically, of migrant employment, given that in some sectors the recourse to non-standard contracts tends to be higher. For instance, in many countries part-time occupations are more widespread in the public sector, which employs a higher proportion of women than men.

In several countries, such as Cyprus, migrant workers tend to work overtime; moreover, they are often employed during irregular hours, as documented for instance in the case of Austria (particularly for women in healthcare and retail occupations), the Czech Republic, Italy and the UK. The British contribution notes that ‘several employers mention that migrant workers did not mind working overtime – indeed, many actively seek it – and some employers report that migrants are more willing than national workers to change their hours at short notice’.

Working conditions of migrant workers


This section will focus more closely on the working conditions of migrants. A first point of note is that all of the national reports conclude that the average income of migrant workers is lower than that of nationals. However, it is not clear to what extent this reflects a compositional effect. For example, the Austrian report mentions that migrant workers are over-represented in sectors such as textiles and leather, agriculture, and hotels and restaurants, where wages are below the average national level for nationals too. The Belgian report writes that ‘in a multivariate analysis with controls for sector, age, sex, employment status, company size and region, Vertommen and Martens (2006) show that the origin or nationality effect is rather small’. Similar compositional effects are mentioned in the Czech and Spanish contributions, as well as in the case of Cyprus. In Italy, the average wage for non-EU workers amounts to little more than half of the average wage for the total population, but this pay gap is strictly related to the over-representation of migrants in unskilled occupations and in low-productivity sectors, such as agriculture or household services. In the case of Denmark, compositional effects also revolve around age: migrant workers are younger than nationals are and wages are lower for younger people. The same point could be made for most EU countries, as migrant workers are generally younger than national workers. In Greece, gender differences play a prominent role, as female migrants are much more segregated into low-paid jobs, such as in cleaning or household services.

Thus, it is clear that wage differences related to migrant status do not necessarily reflect direct wage discrimination against migrant workers. They may also depend on indirect forms of discrimination related to compositional effects revolving around sector, occupation, type of contract (for example, part-time), age and sex. At the same time, it should be noted that this line of reasoning may hide a subtle form of discrimination, as it is possible that the high presence of migrants in particular sectors or occupations is indeed a significant factor that contributes to depress average wages in these segments of the labour market.

Moreover, certain statistical analyses controlling for at least some of the above-mentioned socio-demographic factors point to a direct effect of migrant status, for instance in Ireland, Sweden and the UK. This may be interpreted as evidence of some form of discrimination against migrant workers.

Another important factor that sheds light on wage differentials is the importance of social networks for migrant employment. Personal contacts with other migrants, particularly with those from the same country of origin, play a crucial role in the work strategies and occupational outcomes of migrant workers. These social ties can have positive effects, to the extent that they often provide valuable opportunities to find employment, but at the same time they tend to channel migrants towards unskilled and low-paid jobs, which are often the only ones for which their compatriots have useful information and contacts.

Once again, significant differences emerge within the migrant population. For example, in France the pay gap related to migrant status amounts to 15%, but this proportion declines to 9% when only second-generation migrants are considered.

Interestingly, the Netherlands seems to be an unusual case, as migrants are found in low-paid jobs (23% of all migrant workers) only slightly more often than nationals are (21%). The presence of skilled workers from western countries may be a possible explanation for these weak wage differentials. Hence, this Dutch statistic may disguise the low salaries reserved for migrants from outside the EU. The situation of Luxembourg is also atypical, since foreigners have always occupied the highest and lowest ends of the salary scale overall. Non-nationals from southern European countries are most often found at the bottom of the scale, while foreigners from northern European countries occupy the top of the scale, and nationals are placed in the middle; around 40% of the latter group work in the public sector.

Training and career advancement

Migrant workers are not only segregated into low-paid jobs, but they also have little likelihood of progressing out of them. Unfortunately, data on training and career advancement opportunities open to foreigners are lacking in most countries. This deficiency seems particularly problematic considering that, in those few cases where information is available, it points to a situation of strong disadvantage for migrant workers (Table 11).

Table 11: Factors hindering labour market opportunities of migrant workers
Factors hindering labour market opportunities of migrant workers
  Factors mentioned in national reports
AT Fewer opportunities for training; language barriers
BE Limited access to the public sector; ethnic prejudices
CY Language and legal barriers
CZ Discrimination by colleagues
DE Educational qualifications
DK Educational qualifications
EE Limited access to the public sector and to managerial positions
ES Discrimination by employers; bureaucratic barriers to full labour market integration
FI Ethnic prejudices; educational qualifications; language barriers
FR Educational qualifications and discrimination related to ethnic prejudices
NL Ethnic prejudices
LT Language barriers
LU Ethnic prejudices
MT Language barriers, ethnic prejudices
SE Fewer opportunities for training; discrimination by employers
SI Educational qualifications

Source: National contributions of EWCO correspondents, 2006

For instance, in Austria migrant workers perceive that they have much fewer opportunities for further training; moreover, upward occupational mobility is heavily dependent upon variables such as ethnic origin and German language competence. Linguistic barriers are also cited as a significant limitation for migrant workers in Cyprus, Finland, Lithuania and Malta.

It is not clear, however, if and to what extent language requirements work as a useful excuse that hides prejudices against ethnic minorities. A similar observation may be made for Cyprus, where opportunities for training and further education for migrants are virtually non-existent, since educational programmes are offered only in Greek, without any translation.

In Sweden, migrants access on-the-job training less often and they suffer from various forms of discrimination by employers. In the Czech Republic, they perceive widespread discrimination from colleagues that may curtail their career opportunities.

In France, a survey concerning access to job interviews after sending a curriculum vitae (CV) confirms the existence of discrimination against foreigners. The reference applicants with French or European-sounding names were called for job interviews much more often than those applicants with an equivalent level of skills and qualifications, but with north African names. There are indications that point to discrimination against migrant workers in Malta, the Netherlands and Spain as well. In the latter country, a number of bureaucratic barriers also make it difficult for migrants to integrate easily in the legal economy.

Another form of indirect discrimination is related to access to employment in the public sector: for instance, until recently, the Belgian nationality was almost always a necessary requirement for recruitment as a civil servant in Belgium. Moreover, in Belgium migrants are often the target of ethnic prejudices, and a similar point is made for Somalis living in Malta or in Finland. In recent research on ethnic discrimination in the labour market in the Brussels region, jobseekers with different ethnic backgrounds were followed for three months: in 45% of the cases where nationals and migrants were matched in applying for the same job, the possibility of some hidden form of discrimination was recorded.

It should be noted, however, that several national reports refer to the possibility of compositional effects in order to explain the disadvantaged situation of migrant workers: as was the case for wage levels, the fact that these workers tend to benefit less often from training and career advancement opportunities is not in itself evidence of direct discrimination. It may simply be the case that they are more often employed in occupations and sectors where these opportunities are less common. For instance, in Belgium, Finland and Italy it is well-documented that migrants get jobs with much less employment stability, which obviously reduces their opportunities for career advancement. A lack of proper educational qualification is another factor to consider, as mentioned in the national reports for Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and Slovenia. Another important caveat is that significant differences between migrant groups are not unusual in these respects. For example, in France migrants have less access to training in general, but the situation of north Africans is particularly critical.

According to the Dutch national report, in the Netherlands nationals and migrants receive equal amounts of training, both at the workplace and outside. Furthermore, there seems to be little difference with respect to their career opportunities. There is not much information on career discrimination, however. The Dutch Equal Treatment Commission (Commissie Gelijke Behandeling, CGB) promotes and monitors compliance with the country’s equal treatment legislation. Employees and employers can ask this commission to declare whether a specific case violates the law. In 2004, this commission handled only 38 cases regarding race and work, and seven cases regarding nationality and work. On the other hand, the Society of Anti-Discrimination Offices and Registration Centres recently recorded 2,014 complaints regarding race or nationality, making it the most often-mentioned ground for discrimination, representing 52.8% of all complaints.

Exposure to risk in work environment

So far, the study has found that migrant workers are segregated into low-paid jobs that offer limited opportunities for upward mobility. A further source of inequality is that immigrants take up the most hazardous and unhealthy of these unskilled jobs. Data on exposure to risks and accidents at work in relation to migrants are of some concern. For instance, the Austrian report mentions that ‘37% of migrant workers feel affected by poor health conditions at work, compared with only 16% of Austrian workers. Some 30% of migrant workers felt particularly affected by accidents and injury risks in the workplace, compared with only 13% of Austrians’. Moreover, official information provided by the Spanish Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs (Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, MTAS) reveals that 8.4 out of every 100,000 migrant workers died in labour accidents in 2005, whereas this rate was only 6.3 for the overall Spanish labour force. In Italy, in the total active population there is one accident at work for every 23 people, but this proportion increases to one out of 16 for non-nationals.

In the Netherlands, migrants with a non-western background more often report having long working hours, working in the evenings or at night, doing shift work or work during weekends, and these workers are more often involved in work accidents. Immigrants, particularly those with a non-western background, are also more exposed to dangerous work and to physical risk factors. Furthermore, they are more frequently exposed to sexual harassment at the workplace, both by supervisors or colleagues and also by customers or patients (NL0609059I). They feel intimidated by their supervisors or colleagues more often than nationals do and also experience physical violence more often from these sources. In Cyprus, general indications suggest that migrants are more exposed to workplace accidents than nationals are. Luxembourg is a special case: here, 22% of work accidents take place on the way to or from work; therefore, cross-border workers constitute a high-risk category. These workers commute to Luxembourg for work from other countries and constitute a remarkable 39% of the labour market (LU0702029I).

As noted for several countries, hazardous jobs are often rejected by nationals, whereas migrant workers tend to concentrate in sectors – such as construction or mining – where risks are higher. At the same time, the Swedish report quotes the results of a study indicating that the amount of work-related accidents is about the same among foreigners and nationals. Another Swedish study, however, suggests that foreigners are more exposed to strenuous working postures than nationals are. Nonetheless, the former experience occupational stress and psychological pressure as less of a problem than the latter. Interestingly, Finland and the UK have recently promoted campaigns to disseminate information on safety issues specifically directed to migrant workers. In Ireland, the fatality rate per 100,000 workers is 5.6 among non-nationals, compared with 3.0 for Irish workers, with a particularly high risk in the construction sector. Unfortunately, the majority of countries lack reliable data on risks and accidents at work.


A final point to consider is that, although migrant workers are a particularly vulnerable segment of the labour force, they are often weakly represented by trade unions. Information on the unionisation of migrant workers is lacking for several countries. However, in a number of countries, there are indications which suggest that these workers’ unionisation is curtailed by sector effects. In Denmark, Hungary, Poland and the UK, migrant workers tend to concentrate in sectors with a less than average union density, for example in household services, or in the private sector rather than the public sector. As for the UK, however, many migrant workers are also employed in the public sector, and especially in the National Health Service, where union membership remains high among nurses, doctors and ancillary workers.

The situation is more varied in Cyprus and Italy, as certain sectors of economic activity where migrants are often employed have traditionally enjoyed high levels of union density and union membership. In these sectors, migrants often can avail of full trade union membership and representation. For instance, they maintain a significant presence in trade unions in some industrial sectors in Italy and in construction in Cyprus. In the latter country, however, there are other sectors such as agriculture where the labour force consists almost exclusively of migrant workers, but where unionisation is very limited. Similarly, in Italy women employed in household services have virtually no opportunity to join trade unions. Interestingly, national reports from Ireland, Luxembourg and Spain indicate that the trade unions or public authorities have promoted public campaigns to encourage migrant workers’ access to unionisation and to improve their knowledge of their rights at the workplace.


This report has shown that immigrants play an increasingly important role in the labour markets of EU Member States. The inflow of foreigners has been growing in recent years. Moreover, even in the few countries where this is not the case – Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands – demographic factors have increased the proportion of migrants within the total population.

The foreign-born population currently constitutes a significant proportion of the total labour force in European countries. The expanding services sector generates – together with highly qualified jobs – a considerable number of unskilled jobs that nationals are often unwilling to accept and that represent a key source of employment for migrants. Their contribution to the manufacturing sector is also substantial in several countries.

In some of the currently rapidly developing economies, such as Ireland and Spain, the extensive recruitment of migrant workers has played an important role in their economic development. Immigration has increased sharply in Ireland, southern Europe and in some eastern European countries. These were countries with a traditionally low presence of immigrants. At the same time, two of the three countries where immigration has declined, namely Germany and the Netherlands, had been characterised by a relatively high incidence of migrants. Hence, it can be suggested that economic processes as well as migration policies are producing a gradual convergence of the migrant population in European countries.

The disadvantages experienced by migrant workers represent a major challenge for social and labour market policies in Europe. In most countries, these people face higher unemployment rates and, when in employment, migrants tend to be segregated in unskilled occupations and exposed to higher risks of over-qualification. As immigrants today are often educated, this represents a significant waste of human capital, and a strong form of inequality. Moreover, they are exposed to considerable job insecurity, and the sectors and occupations where they are employed are characterised by less advantageous working conditions.

However, the data also give some positive signals of an improving labour market integration of migrants. First, self-employment among migrants has increased as a percentage of overall self-employment, although this cannot always be equated with an increase of autonomy at work for migrants. Second, some countries have begun to attract migrants for more skilled jobs. For instance, Norway, Sweden and the UK employ increasing numbers of foreigners in the educational, public and research sectors. Third, although occupational returns to education are lower for migrants, those with a high level of education face much better career prospects and their occupational opportunities are more similar to those of skilled nationals than to those of unskilled migrants. Finally, after initial difficulties, the working conditions of migrants tend to improve the longer they stay in the host country.

The above comments summarise the general findings of this comparative report. In conclusion, the following observations may be made.

  • The disadvantaged working conditions of migrant workers seem to be linked to their difficulties in obtaining a work permit, even in countries where there are labour supply shortages. In fact, the most disadvantaged migrants are those who work without a permit to do so. Many EU countries today are reluctant to receive migrant workers. As a first measure, therefore, it could be important to adjust the rules on entry and work permits to the actual conditions of labour demand.
  • A second important issue for migrant workers is related to their chances of acquiring the citizenship of host countries. Citizenship determines more favourable conditions in access to several skilled occupations, such as public sector employment, the professions and business activity. In this respect, the European situation is fragmented and it could be useful to harmonise the different rules which govern the granting of citizenship. Alternatively, the connection between citizenship and the possibility to enter into specific occupations, such as those mentioned above, could be eliminated.
  • The third issue concerns the recognition of educational credentials acquired by migrants in their country of origin, especially if they achieved them outside the EU. The mechanisms which govern the recognition of educational credentials in EU countries frequently penalise migrants and this is even more crucial considering that, in recent years, immigration includes increasing proportions of highly qualified workers.
  • As just mentioned, in recent years several EU countries have managed to attract more highly qualified migrant workers, following the example of the US, Canada and Australia, with better prospects of full integration in the labour market. This trend should be fostered, because it favours the decline of stereotypes that usually associate migrant workers with unskilled jobs and low qualification – the so-called ‘3D’ jobs: dirty, dangerous and demanding.
  • Some segments of the migrant labour force can face particularly disadvantaged conditions: for instance, this is the case of women, who suffer double or even triple discrimination (due to sex, origin and class). Although they increasingly play a leading role in migration flow and integrate into the occupational system – often more so than their male counterparts – female migrants are mainly predominant in the sectors of healthcare and social work and household services, with few chances of exit or promotion. Another disadvantaged group of particular importance consists of migrants from predominantly Islamic countries. In broad sectors of European societies, these migrants encounter suspicion and prejudice which impact on their employment prospects, and for which the term ‘islamophobia’ has been coined. Moreover, a disadvantaged migrant category – often overlooked but of increasing importance since the most recent enlargement of the EU – consists of Roma ethnic groups, estimated to number anywhere between 2.5 and nine million in Europe.
  • Discrimination today tends to be indirect and covert in the advanced democratic systems, given that it cannot be practised openly. Discrimination is sometimes unintentional and may be due to the application of apparently objective criteria – possession of specific qualifications or a certain type of professional experience – or it may be due to the use of assessment guidelines which reflect the cultural assumptions of the majority population. It can arise from the freedom of employers in a market economy to decide whom they want to hire, whom they want to promote, and how they want to organise the work. Affirmation of the non-discrimination principle therefore conflicts with freedom of enterprise. As a consequence, severe difficulties arise in implementing the rules enacted by an increasing body of legislation. It could be useful to encourage the collection of information on best (or good) practices and their diffusion, including measures to foster equal opportunity, especially in the public sector. In the private sector, it could be helpful to provide incentives to companies which not only hire migrant workers, but also promote their career advancement, for example, by including this dimension in the award criteria for public procurement. At the same time, it could be useful to require companies which show significant differences between the quotas of non-national workers employed in low-qualified jobs and in high-qualified jobs to report on and explain this situation. Moreover, where they exist, the social balance sheets of companies should include indications on the career advancement of migrant workers – as already appeared in some cases on a voluntary basis.

In a majority of EU countries, there is increasing awareness of the crucial role played by migrant workers for economic growth. Unfortunately, there seems to be much less interest within the public debate in the disadvantaged working conditions of these workers, as outlined in this report.

Maurizio Ambrosini, University of Milan and Carlo Barone, Centre for European Social Research, Mannheim University (MZES)

References and further information

Arum, R. and Mueller, W., The return of self-employment: A cross-national study of self-employment and social inequality, Princeton University Press, 2004, available at: http://web.iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp/~rc28/se-introchapter.PDF

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), International migration outlook, Paris, OECD, 2006.

Vertommen, S. and Martens, A., Ethnic minorities rewarded: Ethno-stratification in the wage market in Belgium, FEEM Working Paper No. 61, 2006, available at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=897866

Several publications on the subject of migration are available at Eurofound:

Borkert, M. et al, Local integration policies for migrants in Europe, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Luxembourg, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2006, available at: /ef/publications/report/2014/undefined/local-integration-policies-for-migrants-in-europe

Bosswick, W. and Heckmann, F., Integration of migrants: Contribution of local and regional authorities, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Dublin, available at: /ef/publications/report/2006/undefined/integration-of-migrants-contribution-of-local-and-regional-authorities

Bukodi, E. and Róbert, P., Occupational career mobility in Europe, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Dublin, available at: /ef/publications/report/2007/undefined/occupational-mobility-in-europe (forthcoming).

European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, European network of cities for local integration policies for migrants, a two-page infosheet available in 23 languages at: /ef/publications/information-sheet/2007/undefined/european-network-of-cities-for-local-integration-policies-for-migrants-infosheet

Fouarge, D. and Ester, P. Migration intentions across Europe, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Dublin, available at: /ef/publications/report/2007/undefined/international-and-regional-migration-intentions-in-europe (forthcoming).

Fasang, A., Geerdes, S., Schömann, K., and Siarov, L., Job satisfaction and labour market mobility, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Dublin, available at: /ef/publications/report/2007/undefined/job-satisfaction-and-labour-market-mobility (forthcoming).

Vandenbrande, T., Coppin, L. and van der Hallen, P., Mobility in Europe, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Luxembourg, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2006, available at: /ef/publications/report/2014/undefined/mobility-in-europe

Annex 1 Summary of labour market and policy issues related to immigration

This annex summarises the key labour market and policy issues concerning immigration that have emerged out of the national reports. The national contributors were asked to provide some general comments on the employment and working conditions of migrants workers in their countries: this annex draws largely, although not exclusively, from these comments. It offers an overall, synthetic picture of most of the issues discussed in greater detail in this report.

Country Labour market issues Policy issues
Austria The majority of migrant workers are concentrated in sectors with low wages and substantial work pressures, such as agriculture, cleaning, textiles and tourism. This concentration in unskilled jobs means that opportunities at the workplace for career and self-development are limited; this is exacerbated by the fact that skills and qualifications from the home countries are not as valued on the Austrian labour market. The poor working conditions of immigrants have not been a major issue for Austrian trade unions so far. Even though they are opposed to legal discrimination against migrants (for instance, supporting passive election rights for works councils), they do not encourage the participation and integration of migrant workers in their ongoing activities.
Belgium Studies show that migrant workers experience much greater job instability than native workers; this is, in part, because migrants are more likely to hold temporary contracts. Immigrants are segregated into unskilled and low-paid jobs. Research has illustrated that non-native Belgians are confronted with ethnic prejudices resulting in discriminatory practices in the labour market.
Bulgaria Migrant status can result in substantial differences with respect to employment and working conditions. Three groups can be distinguished:
  • immigrants with a permanent residence permit (around 50% of all immigrants), who are fully integrated into the labour market and have the same employment conditions as Bulgarian nationals. They are not discriminated against, either in law or in practice;
  • long-established immigrants who are employers with their own business or who are highly paid professionals or freelancers. The working conditions of this group are more favourable than even those of Bulgarian nationals;
  • refugees face the challenges of adaptation due to language barriers, religious and cultural differences that make their integration to the labour market difficult. Labour offices have carried out active policy with a view to integration this group.
Due to the recent accession of the country to the EU, increasing flows of migrants could be expected, mainly from the countries of the former Soviet Union, the western Balkans and the Near East. Intakes of labour, officially organised by the government and employers as compensation for emigration to the rest of the EU, can also be expected.
Cyprus Immigrants are concentrated in those occupations that have the lowest average wages (for both migrant and native workers). They suffer from greater occupational instability and are often segregated into unskilled jobs. The disadvantaged position of migrant workers makes it imperative that immigrant employment policy be reformed. The implementation of a strong collective bargaining framework is particularly important for protecting the employment and social rights of migrant workers. The number of migrant workers, both legal and illegal, is set to increase in the coming years; this makes the formulation of a new strategy for coping with illegal immigration, and the regulation of working conditions of legal immigrants, very important.
Czech Republic There are two main groups with different legal conditions:
  • EU/EEA/EFTA citizens (who profit from free movement); these workers are in a relatively benign situation, both legally and in practice;
  • the so-called ‘third-country nationals’ need work permits, which are issued according to the labour market situation. As a proportion of the foreign labour force, they are shrinking: they now make up only a quarter of the total foreign labour force. They are concentrated in unskilled and low-paid jobs.
The proportion of migrant workers within the economically active population has been growing continuously since 1990. The labour market situation of some immigrant groups is very poor. Third-country nationals often need the help of both formal and informal labour agencies to find a job: this introduces some elements that are difficult to control, such as corruption and illegal employment.
Denmark There are considerable disparities in wage levels between immigrants and ethnic Danes, immigrant workers being highly exposed to illegal employment. As a result of a rapidly ageing population, Denmark will face labour shortages in the near future. As a consequence, it is important to ensure that immigrants are educated to the same level as ethnic Danes. Moreover, it is imperative that migrant workers consider Denmark an attractive place to work. In this regard, it is essential that policies promote better working conditions for migrant workers and restrict illegal work.
Estonia There are substantial differences between the working conditions of Estonians and non-Estonians, who experience higher rates of unemployment and are more often allocated to low-paid jobs that do not match their skills. However, as the migrant worker population is highly differentiated, it would be incurred to generalise: those who migrated to Estonia recently differ from those who migrated the Soviet era; the reasons for migrating and the occupations chosen differ; and attitudes towards Russian-speaking immigrants and immigrants from western Europe differ. Moreover, migrant workers from the EU, and most immigrants arriving in recent years, come to work as specialists, rather than as unskilled workers. The political transformations that occurred in the 1990s have rapidly changed the situation of non-Estonians. Many non-Estonians from former Soviet countries were sent to Estonia by the authorities to work in large industries that supplied the Soviet Union. Now, after regaining independence, many of these workers have stayed in Estonia and continue to work in unskilled occupations (partly because they have not learnt Estonian). These groups have come to hold the status of ethnic minorities and feel discriminated against in terms of job opportunities.
Finland The number of immigrants is still quite low in Finland. Most have a marginal market status – more so for refugees with an African background, for men and for recent immigrants with a low level of education. Recent immigration policies are actively promoting work-related immigration in Finland, where labour shortages are expected to become a problem sooner than in many other European countries. An effort is being made to improve inter-ethnic relations, in order to promote the development of a pluralistic, multicultural and non-discriminatory society. For now, the government wants to retain control of labour availability in those sectors with a high number of jobseekers. However, this will not apply to migrant workers in a company’s upper or middle management, nor to some short-term or seasonal jobs.
Germany A large number of immigrants entered Germany in the 1960s, when the country was looking to increase the size of its workforce (especially in the industrial sector). Since the relative importance of this sector has decreased, and because many of these immigrants had no educational or vocational degree to fall back on, they mostly remained in the country in low-skilled jobs, while some of them became unemployed. For most immigrants, it is difficult to obtain work and residency permits. Citizens of the new EU Member States are permitted to work under certain circumstances, and they have priority over citizens of non-EU countries. Highly skilled workers are exempt from these restrictions and are even eligible for a permanent residency permit upon entering Germany.
Greece The issue of migrant workers’ employment and working conditions cannot be detached from the general problem of low levels of job satisfaction and job quality experienced by most workers in Greece. Nevertheless, immigrants are in many respects a particularly weak segment of the workforce. In the context of high rates of undeclared work among both the native and foreign workforces, studies suggest that migrants suffer extensive occupational segregation into less-protected jobs. Serious steps still need to be taken in order to eliminate existing labour market discrimination and occupational segregation. To this end, more appropriate policy measures and reforms that enhance the ‘voice’ of immigrants at work should be implemented; such measures include stricter controls on undeclared work, improving access to social services, and more thorough analyses and research into the experiences of immigrants in the Greek labour market.
Hungary Foreigners are underpaid in Hungary relative to nationals, and in some cases they are also badly treated. Not all groups of foreign workers share the same experience: citizens of other Member States are highly qualified, while non-EU citizens are mostly employed in construction or agriculture, often without a work contract or work permit. Poor working conditions among immigrants is a recognised phenomenon, but little or no research has been carried out on it. The working conditions of foreign workers are considered a marginal issue, even if evidence of such conditions are more generally are visible.
Ireland Migrant workers now play a significant role in the Irish economy, as they comprise nearly 10% of the workforce. Most have only recently arrived in Ireland. However, as inward migration is such a recent phenomenon, it will be some years yet before the full impact of this influx of new workers and their families on Irish society can be fully assessed. Some politicians and campaigners have suggested that migrant workers are discriminated against in terms of wages and working conditions. Trade unions have highlighted a number of specific cases of discrimination.
Latvia For historical reasons, the concept of ‘migrant worker’ is barely used in Latvia. Immigration legislation refers to the term ‘foreigner’, a person who is not part of the resident population of Latvia (whether they are a Latvian citizen or not). ‘Foreigners’ should be distinguished from ‘non-natives’ who, regardless of their citizenship, have permanently resided in Latvia since before 1990; although most have arrived from other countries, they are not defined as immigrants. Migrant workers are invited to work in Latvia through a rather complex procedure; their position is appropriate to their level of education (at least it is in legal employment) and they must be paid a salary which is not less than average salary in the national economy. Currently, Latvia does not have a large number of immigrants, and migrant workers and their working conditions are not discussed. However, Latvia is experiencing a fall in the population of both Latvians and non-Latvians. Immigration is seen as a solution to address the labour market problems caused by depopulation. The Latvian Employers’ Confederation insists on the necessity of liberalising some immigration rules and procedures in order to reduce the costs of employing immigrants. Some international organisations have also advised Latvia to liberalise its immigration policy. At the same time, newspapers report increasing numbers of immigrants working in illegal employment. The government has prepared amendments to the immigration law that will simplify administrative procedures. This means that, in the near future, the working conditions of immigrants may appear on the political agenda in Latvia.
Lithuania Despite limited empirical evidence, it can be presumed that the working conditions of non-nationals and nationals in Lithuania differ – in the first place, because of immigrants’ insufficient knowledge of Lithuanian. In the Soviet era, it was possible to obtain a good-quality job without knowing Lithuanian, so many non-nationals made no effort to learn the language. At the beginning of the 1990s, when independence was regained, and the Lithuanian language was made the official language, some Lithuanian citizens with poor knowledge of Lithuanian (national minorities in most cases) found they were often only able to apply for low-quality jobs. The problem of national minorities and of working conditions of immigrants is not very high on the agenda in Lithuania. The Russian minority feels that its economic and social situation has worsened since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Luxembourg The mobility of workers in Luxembourg is a historical reality, characterised by impressive cross-border flows unmatched anywhere else in Europe. The recent, massive increase in the number of cross-border commuters has helped overcome the growing labour needs in the context of a booming economy, without the Luxembourg state having to deal with the reproductive needs of these people. Migrant workers in this country include not only unskilled people working mainly in construction or in craft businesses, mainly of Portuguese origin, but also many managers and executives, especially in the banking sector. The authorities have considered the possibilities of regulating the influx of migrant workers, according to the needs of the economy. Furthermore, the authorities are anxious to preserve the social cohesion of the country, which derived its legitimacy from its small size; the relevant presence of immigrants in Luxembourg may be problematic in this regard. Authorities are giving preference to immigration from regions that are considered culturally close, and restricting immigration from more distant regions.
Malta Elements of racism have started to be felt among the Maltese population. The negative perceptions of the Maltese towards illegal immigrants are also probably affecting this group’s working conditions. Legal migrants (including those from other EU countries) tend to face fewer problems in their working conditions. The ongoing debate about migrant workers in Malta tends to focus on illegal immigrants. Their influx from African countries has increased in recent years and there seems to be a pervasive fear that this may adversely effect the working conditions of Maltese workers. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that the construction industry and the hospitality sector would not thrive without migrant labour.
Netherlands Working conditions in the Netherlands are different for western and non-western immigrants. The working conditions of western immigrants more closely resemble those of Dutch nationals; non-western immigrants (including the more ‘traditional’ immigrants from Turkey, Morocco, Suriname and the Antilles), seem to have poorer contracts and working conditions, and they also experience more accidents and health-related problems. Second-generation immigrants do not differ from natives in terms of working conditions or health-related problems. In the Netherlands the position of illegal workers is a controversial topic. This group largely consists of western immigrants, mainly from central or eastern Europe. As of 1 January 2007, workers from the majority of these countries (Bulgaria and Romania excluded) will be allowed to work in the Netherlands without a work permit. Theoretically, this should lessen the problem of illegal workers, who tend to work for a short period of time in the Netherlands, go home, and then return.
Poland The migrant labour market has become more and more segmented, split between a minority of legally employed foreigners and a majority of illegal foreign workers. As agriculture and construction are the main sectors attracting unregistered foreign workers, the question of safety arises. These two sectors traditionally rank among the least safe in the whole economy, with high rates of work-related accidents. Presumably, most of the accidents involving illegal workers are not reported. Unregistered employment of foreigners often results in non-payment of wages and other abusive practices. Until recently, Poland was not a country that attracted immigrants. With EU enlargement, the substantial number of Poles emigrating to the EU15, and accelerating economic growth, labour shortages in some sectors have become apparent; as a result, hence there is growing interest in the country in sourcing external sources of labour.
Portugal The need for immigrant labour emerged when Portuguese economic development, after its accession to the then EEC in 1986. That need was further stimulated by the problem of compensating the labour force lost through emigration, mainly after 1968. The Portuguese labour market is still highly segmented: on one side, there are secure jobs, better paid and with better working conditions; on the other, an informal sector, where many employed people are de facto working poor, and in which migrant workers are over-represented. The National Action Plan for Growth and Employment 2005–2008 foresees a set of measures and actions in order to promote the full inclusion of immigrants into Portuguese society. According to the Plan, ‘it should be developed an integrated immigration policy based on the regulation, inspection and social and professional integration of (the immigrants)’. The Plan foresees the creation of a specific Intervention Programme with two main goals: reducing the differences between nationals and non-nationals in their labour market integration, and investing in the creation of a harmonised system for recognising immigrants’ qualifications and assisting them into suitable jobs.
Romania Romania is a country of emigration. The relatively high proportion of the workforce that has emigrated to other European labour markets has resulted in a domestic shortage of workers in several occupations, such as construction, health and education. Romania’s recent accession to the EU might step up immigration pressure from its non-EU neighbours, who wish to access EU labour markets; efforts are being made, however with the support of EU countries, to tighten border security.
Slovakia Immigration is a relatively new phenomenon for Slovakia, as it was traditionally a country of emigration. Over the last five years, migration through Slovakia and into Slovakia has been gradually intensifying. Immigrants do not have many problems finding a job in the capital, Bratislava, or in its surroundings, where unemployment is minimal. The situation is more complicated in other regions of Slovakia, where there is a shortage of jobs, even for Slovaks. Immigrants in Slovakia work right across the employment spectrum, from the highest professional positions to unskilled labour. Recently, Slovakia has harmonised its migration legislation with that of the EU, to prohibit discrimination and encourage equal opportunities for all foreigners who are legal residents in Slovakia.
Slovenia Migrant workers represent around 5% of the active population. They come from the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Most are poorly educated and have demanding, low-paid jobs in labour-intensive heavy industry. Since 2004, the numbers of migrant workers arriving from the new Member States has increased somewhat. The situation of so-called ‘erased people’ is controversial and unresolved (primarily because of conflicting political interests around it). After Slovenia gained its independence in 1991, immigrants from the former Yugoslavia living and working in Slovenia were given a six-month period to apply for Slovenian citizenship. Some did not apply for citizenship, mainly because they were unaware of this option, and so, in 1992, were erased from the register of permanent residents. Since then, they have been treated, in legal terms, as foreign citizens: their civil documents have been taken away, many have lost their jobs and/or their social benefits and some are having problems with housing.
Spain The Spanish labour market has experienced a dramatic change in the last 15 years, due to a considerable inflow of immigrants – mainly from Latin America, northern Africa and eastern Europe. This inflow of people has several profound consequences for Spanish society and its economy, including population growth, an increase in GDP and positive effects on the tax balance. Serious problems regarding the labour and social integration of immigrants persist. Foreign workers are very often subject to unfavourable working conditions (low wages, longer working hours, work accidents, unskilled jobs for which they are overqualified, etc.).
Sweden Migrant workers in Sweden have greater difficulties than do Swedes in entering the labour market and thus becoming fully integrated in Swedish society. They are more likely to hold temporary jobs than are natives and some are forced to become self-employed, a situation that may put them in a very vulnerable situation, since they are still exposed to many risks related to economic challenges. Another issue is that of posted workers – those who work in Sweden on a temporary basis. Their working conditions in the construction sector have received a lot of attention in Sweden.
United Kingdom Over the last decade, there has been a very rapid increase in the inflow of migrant workers to the UK; some government measures have broadened the range of legal routes by which immigrants can enter the country and access a wide range of occupations. Immigrants work in a complex mix of high- and low-skilled occupations; however, it seems clear that their skills and qualifications are higher than those required for the job for which they were employed. The dramatic increase in migration, and the recent increase in unemployment in the UK, have focused attention on government reforms in ‘managed migration’ policy, rather than the working conditions of migrants already in the UK.

Annex 2 Sources used in EWCO national reports

This annex lists the main sources of information on migrant workers that were used in the national reports. In some cases (mainly when data sources are seriously lacking or to some extent problematic), it was deemed more useful to report a general comment on these issues by the authors of the national reports.

The experts who prepared the national contributions were asked to report any analysis that they were aware of that dealt with the employment and working conditions of migrant workers. These national reviews of the available literature may not be exhaustive, because the national reports had to restrict their listing of references to the most authoritative, comprehensive and relevant sources. However, they offer an overall picture of the availability of reliable information on the issue of immigrants’ working conditions. Both quantitative and qualitative studies are included in these reviews.

The types of sources include in most cases:

  • studies or reports: mainly empirical analyses carried out by academic or independent researchers on immigrants’ working conditions;
  • statistical data: publications (often prepared by national or governmental institutions) with statistical tables where substantive comments are usually of limited scope;
  • surveys used for primary or secondary analyses in the national reports.


Title and description Year of survey or publication Type of source
SOPEMI report on labour migration Austria 2004–05 (PDF 715 kb), by Gudrun Biffl 2005 Study
Zur Niederlassung von Ausländerinnen und Ausländern in Österreich (in German, PDF 728 kb), by Gudrun Biffl 2005 Study
Biffl G., Arbeitsmarktrelevante Effekte der Ausländerintegration in Österreich, WIFO, Wien. This study discusses immigration and labour-market integration, looking at educational levels, employment, sector distribution, unemployment rates, undocumented work, income etc. The main source is social security data, but others are used. 2002 Study
Bilger V., Gendera S., Hollomey C., Jandl M., Stepien A., Migration und Irreguläre Beschäftigung in Österreich: Ergebnisse einer Delphi-Studie, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), Vienna. The study deals with irregular employment of migrant workers, based on a Delphi expert panel. Two rounds of a Delphi questionnaire were used, involving 37 experts in the first round and 22 of the same experts in the second. 2006 Study
Illegal Immigration in Austria (PDF 1,446 kb), by Sophie Hofbauer et al: a survey of recent Austrian migration research 2005 Study
Schneider F., Der Umfang der Schattenwirtschaft des Jahres 2003 in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz - Weiteres Anwachsen der Schattenwirtschaft Dealing with the shadow economy, the study provides economic calculations and estimates for the amount of illegal work based on the amount of cash in circulation (Bargeldansatz). 2003 Study
Gleiche Chancen im Betrieb? Diskriminerung von MigrantInnen am Wiener Arbeitsmarkt (in German, PDF 820 kb) by Theodora Manolakos and Karin Sohler: an overview of the results of quantitative surveys and qualitative group discussions with migrant workers (37 in total) on their subjective experience of discrimination at work. 2005 Study
Zucha V., Rapa S., Dsikriminierung und Benachteiligung von MigrantInnen am Arbeitsplatz. Formen und Faktoren der Benachteiligung. This quantitative survey of migrant workers in Vienna (a sample of 803 respondents, including naturalised and second-generation migrants) deals with subjective experiences of discrimination at work. This regional study is particularly important because a third of all migrant workers in Austria live in Vienna. 2003 Study


In the past decade, policy and research attention to the issue of migrant workers and ethnic discrimination has grown considerably on. However, most studies focus on the labour market issue and less on the issue of working conditions. Recent quantitative employment studies very often use a mix of migrant definitions: both the nationality definition and a new category for those obtained Belgian nationality through naturalisation – ‘new Belgians’.

The sources used were labour force survey data (that was aggregated to create sufficiently large samples) and a specially constructed large dataset, based on the data warehouse system of social security administrative data that is linked with the National State Register. This linkage with the State Register enables the origin of individuals to be determined. As data come from official agencies, the information concerns only the regular labour force. Undocumented individuals, those whose work is undeclared or who are on welfare are not included in the database. In their 2006 study, Topography of the Belgian labour market (PDF 1054 kb), Vertommen, Martens and Ouali use data from 2001. In his 2005 study, Eens allochtoon, altijd allochtoon? De socio-economische etnostratificatie in Vlaanderen (in Flemish, 312 kb), Tielens uses data from 1998 to 2001. In the 2001 data, 421,325 people are represented; this population can be divided into three groups:

  • native Belgians, who have always held Belgian citizenship;
  • ‘new Belgians’ who originally held another citizenship but have been naturalised;
  • foreigners, who hold another citizenship.


In discussing migrant workers in Bulgaria, it is important to distinguish between the following three groups:

  • migrants with ‘long term residence statute’, (up to one year term with a possibility of extension): this group comprises foreigners seeking employment in Bulgaria under labour contracts or as freelancers, as well as foreign specialists employed under international agreements;
  • migrants with ‘permanent residence statute’: these are people who hold residence permit for an indeterminate period, who work under labour contracts or who are self-employed. Included in this group are those without Bulgarian citizenship, but of Bulgarian origin, individuals married to Bulgarian citizens or to persons with permanent residence in the country, and people who are not of Bulgarian origin but were born in Bulgaria.
  • workers with refugee status, or with a statute of humanitarian protection (given in Bulgaria to people forced to migrate for human rights’ reasons) or with a right of residence given by the President for an indefinite period.

The term ‘migrant workers’ also includes migrant workers with dual citizenship, where Bulgarian is the secondary citizenship, and illegal migrants; it does not include migrant workers who have acquired Bulgarian citizenship or ‘second generation’ immigrants.

Title and description Year Type of source
‘Migrant policy of Bulgaria in the European integration perspective’: The survey is funded by the 2000 PHARE Access Programme. Three chapters of the survey are of special interest: ‘Social integration of the migrant community in Bulgaria’, ‘Specific situation of the migrant communities’, and ‘Legal analysis of the normative regulation concerning migrants in Bulgaria’. The authors of this survey are the Manfred Veorner Foundation, Greek Council of Refugees, and the Right to Protection Foundation. This study is carried out at national level and it is based on a statistical sample including 767 persons from the migrant communities and 1,032 Bulgarian citizens. 2003 Study
The study ‘Obstacles to the immigrant’s access to the Bulgarian labour market’ was carried out on the basis of a ‘Questionnaire of the Committee of Experts on immigrants’ access to employment at the Council of Europe in 2006’. The author of the study is Bozhidar Arsov, researcher in the Institute for Social and Trade Union Research. The study was carried out at national level and deals with immigrants with a long-term residence statute with a work permit, with foreigners with a permanent residence statute, with refugees and persons with a humanitarian protection statute, who are registered as unemployed’. 2006 Study


Title and description Year Type of source
Michael, M., Hadjiyiannis, C., Stefanides, M., Christofides, L. and Clerides, S., The effect of immigration on the wages of Cypriot workers. This study, from the University of Cyprus Economics Research Centre which expresses the views of its authors,, makes reference to the percentage of foreign workers employed legally in Cyprus, without specifying whether this percentage includes asylum applicants. The basic purpose of the study is to investigate, based on econometric and statistical tools, whether and to what extent the presence of foreign workers in Cyprus affects the wages of Cypriot workers, using data from the Family Budget Surveys of the Statistical Service of Cyprus. 2005 Study
Michael, M., Hadjiyiannis, C., Stefanides, M., Christofides, L. and Clerides, S., Economic Implications of Foreign Workers in Cyprus. This study is, in effect, a continuation of the previously mentioned study. Its findings refer to foreign workers legally residing in Cyprus, foreign students and applicants for political asylum. Its purpose was to make a parametric assessment, using the latest available data, of the impact of the employment of foreign workers on the total gross domestic output of the Cyprus economy, as well as on the output of each individual sector of economic activity. 2006 Study
The study ‘Employment conditions of migrant workers, the role of the trade unions in the protection of labour rights and their integration in the cyprus labour movement’ (available as a PowerPoint presentation, 79 kb), uses the term ‘migrant worker’ to refer to the category of employed earners with specific features related to their migration (including those who have obtained Cypriot citizenship). Employees in administrative or highly paid positions are excluded from this framework. This national-level study examines the framework for employment of migrant workers with a view to investigating the possibility of their gaining union membership and their participation and acceptance in the Cyprus labour movement, as a basic element of their integration and acceptance in society. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are used, such as a comparative analysis of statistical data, focused questionnaires, focus groups, participant observation and content analysis of press and media. 2005 Study
The study, Forecasts of Employment Needs for Foreign Workers in Cyprus 2004-2007 (in Greek, 3,394 kb), covers all workers legally present in Cyprus, whether they come from member states of the EU25, Bulgaria and Romania or from third countries. It analyses, on the basis of the general characteristics of the foreign labour force, the longitudinal trends in employment of foreign workers during the period 2000–2002 and assesses the needs of the Cypriot economy for foreign labour over the period 2004–2007. 2007 Study
In their report Mapping discriminatory landscapes in Cyprus: Ethnic discrimination in the labour market (PDF 396 kb), authors Nikos Trimikliniotis and Panayiotis Pantelides refer to six categories of migrants: holders of work permits, migrants of Greek origin from the Black Sea area, Greek citizens, migrants employed by offshore companies, refugees and applicants for asylum, and migrants without residence or work permits. The content and findings of this study were published in the quarterly scientific journal The Cyprus Review. 2003 Report

Czech Republic

Title and description Year Type of source
The Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs (Výzkumný ústav práce a sociálních věcí, VÚPS V) publishes the Bulletin of International Labour migration every six months; it also publishes an annual report on international labour migration development in the Czech Republic. 2006 Report
Vupsv also authored a study, Undeclared Labour in the construction industry (PDF 137 kb), for the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers and the European Institute for Construction Labour Research 2006 Study
A report The illegal employment of foreigners on the Czech labour market (PDF 342 kb) deals with the working conditions of labour migrants. 1997 Study
Case studies about certain ethnic or national group were carried out by the Institute of Ethnology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (Etnologického ústavu Akademie věd České republiky, EÚ AV ČR) and concerned the integration of migrants from such regions as Africa, Albania, Bulgaria, China, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, USA, Vietnam and the former Yugoslavia. Topics of integration studies include economic activities of ethnic minorities living in the Czech Republic. 2007 Case study
A regular monitoring of temporary labour migrant position in the Czech labour market is carried out by the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs, Employment Service Administration (Ministerstva práce a sociálních věcí, MPSV), for both sectors and occupations. Regular statistical updates are available.   Statistical data

There is no general definition of a migrant worker in the Czech Republic. The Czech Statistical Office defines an immigrant as ‘a person who stays in the Czech Republic territory over one year’. Migrant workers who have acquired citizenship, who hold permanent residence permits, or are second-generation immigrants are not surveyed separately by the Czech Statistical Office in the Labour Force Survey. Those immigrants holding citizenship and second-generation immigrants are generally handled as ethnic minorities by Institute of Ethnology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

The above-mentioned studies are carried out mostly on national or regional level; sectoral analyses are rarely carried out. Their methodology includes statistical analysis, sociological surveys using standardised questionnaires, expert interviews, focus groups, ‘snowball’ method, comparative analysis and document analysis.

Reports from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Interior, Czech Statistical Office are regularly produced. The Czech Statistical Office has an annual online publication, Foreigners in the Czech Republic, based on the results of investigations by ministries and research institutes. It covers such areas as demographic aspects, asylum and asylum facilities, economic activities, education, crime, health care and illegal immigration.


Title and description Year Type of source
The Danish Police publishes statistics on the prevalence of illegal labour in Denmark; no analysis of the statistics is provided. (Migrant workers are defined as non-EU nationals working in Denmark without the requisite work permit.) 2006 Statistical data
The Ministry for Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs (Ministeriet for Flygtninge, Indvandrere og Integration) publishes Årbog om udlændinge I Danmark 2005 (PDF 2,978 kb, in Danish), an annual statistical account, using national-level data, of the progress made in integrating immigrants into Danish society. Migrant workers are defined as immigrants and descendants of immigrants from western and non-western countries (defined by ethnic origin and regardless of present citizenship). 2005 Statistical data
The Ministry of Finance (Finansministeriet) has published Fordeling og incitamenter 2004 (PDF 10,270 kb) which estimates the national distribution of income. It is a statistical analysis of multiple datasets, where immigrants are defined by ethnic origin regardless of present citizenship. 2004 Statistical data
The National Board of Industrial Injuries (Arbejdsskadestyrelsen) publishes Arbejdsskadestatistik 2005 (PDF 1,220 kb), an analysis of registry information on reported injuries at work. Here, migrant workers are defined as immigrants and descendants of immigrants from non-western countries, as defined by ethnic origin and regardless of present citizenship. 2005 Statistical data
The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) has published LO-dokumentation 2002 (PDF 2,055 kb), which is an analysis of Statistics Denmark registers. Migrant workers are defined as immigrants and descendants of immigrants (defined by ethnic origin and regardless of present citizenship). 2002 Report


Title and description Year Type of source
The only publicly available source for migrant workers is the Citizenship and Migration Board (Kodakondsus Ja Migratsiooniamet) and its yearbook (PDF 845 kb). It contains administrative statistics of the Board including the number of residence and work permits issued for that respective year. The statistics are based on the actions of the Citizenship and Migration Board (applications of residence permits, decisions of granting residence permits etc). The statistics do not include any information on the sociodemographic characteristics of the migrants. 2002–2006 Statistical data
Monitoring Integration (PDF 687 kb, in Estonian) is a cross-sectional survey of the conditions of non-nationals in Estonia carried out in 2005; it outlines the achievements in terms of strategic goals set up in the national integration program. It also reviews the process of integration of migrants into Estonian society. The study concentrates mostly on attitudes and does not include many questions on real working conditions. It is not possible to distinguish first- or second-generation migrant workers in this data. The survey’s findings are also discussed, in English, in the Foundation report ‘Trends in labour market participation, income and job satisfaction among non-nationals’ (EE0607019I).   Survey
The Estonian Labour Force Survey (LFS) covers the working conditions of those aged 15 to 74 years. It deals with nationality, the citizenship, country of birth and year of moving to Estonia; however, no analysis is performed upon the data. Migration is touched on, in that nationals and non-nationals are distinguished according to their self-reported nationality; thus, it includes data on second-generation migrants. Statistics Estonia has conducted the LFS every year since 1995; since 2000, it has been quarterly study, covering about 15,000 individuals. The results of the survey are representative of the Estonian labour force and the concepts used are developed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This is one of the main data sources of Statistics Estonia. 2004 Survey
The Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs (Sotsiaalministeerium) publishes the Working Life Barometer, dealing with aspects of the working Estonian population aged between 16 and 64 years. A distinction between Estonians and non-nationals is made, but because of the small sample size (about 1,000 individuals out of which about 30% are non-nationals), much of the relevant questions on working life cannot broken down by nationality. The survey’s findings are discussed in the Foundation report Working conditions in Estonia (EE0603SR01). 2005 Survey
Report on the Migration of Non-Estonians (Microsoft Word document 1,850 kb, in Estonian) is a survey on the current situation of non-Estonians and their possible emigration to other countries. This survey of public opinion was conducted by the social and market research company Saar Poll in March 2006: 980 non-Estonians (selected using proportional random sampling) aged between 18 and 74 years were interviewed. This national-level study uses a wider definition of migrants. 2006 Survey


Title and description Year Type of source
Living Conditions Survey 2002 – a Survey on the Living Conditions of Russians, Estonians, Somalis and Vietnamese. This study examines the living conditions of Russian, Estonian, Somali and Vietnamese migrants in Finland. Russians and Estonians are Finland’s major immigrant groups, while Vietnamese and Somalis represent the old and new refugee population. In addition to other topics, the survey contains a set of questions about migrants’ working conditions. Those migrants from Russia, Estonia, Vietnam or Somalia aged between 20 and 65 years who were born abroad and had information about their municipality of residence in the population register were included in the sample. The sample size was 2,250 (1,361 respondents); the prerequisite for inclusion was that the respondent had lived in Finland for two years prior the sampling. The sample was restricted to major cities (the Helsinki region, Turku and Tampere). The following publications looking working conditions and labour market status derived this study: Joronen T., Työ on kahden kauppa - maahanmuuttajien työmarkkina-aseman ongelmia, in Paananen S. (eds.), Maahanmuuttajien elämää Suomessa, Statistics Finland, 2005 (Work is two of a kind – immigrants’ problems on labour market, in Finnish only). Sutela H., Maahanmuuttujat palkkatyössä, in Paananen, S. (eds.), Maahanmuuttajien elämää Suomessa, Statistics Finland, 2005 (Immigrants in paid work, in Finnish only). 2002 Survey
Survey into immigration: racism and discrimination in Finland. The focus in this study is on immigration, marginalisation and assimilation. The nationwide sample was composed of 7,000 immigrants aged between 18 and 64 years, from seven immigrant groups (Russians, Estonians, Somalis, Kosovan Albanians, Vietnamese, Arabs and ethnic Finns from Russia). The response rate was 52%. In order to qualify for the sample each respondent must have lived for at least one year in Finland before the sampling. The questionnaire also included a number of questions about working conditions. The results have been published in two major publications: Jasinskaja-Lahti I., Liebkind K., Vesala T., Rasismi ja syrjintä Suomessa – Maahanmuuttajien kokemuksia, Gaudeamus, 2002 (Racism and discrimination in Finland – immigrants’ experiences, in Finnish only). Liebkind K., Mannila S., Jasinska-Lahti I., Jaakkola M., Kyntäjä E., Reuter A., Venäläinen, virolainen, suomalainen – Kolmen maahanmuuttajaryhmän kotouttaminen Suomeen, Gaudeamus, 2004 (Russian, Estonian, Finnish – assimilation of three immigrant groups in Finland, in Finnish only). 2001 Survey
Forsander A., Luottamuksen ehdot. Maahanmuuttujat 1990-luvun suomalaisilla työmarkkinoilla, Väestöliitto, Väestöntutkimuslaitos, 2002. (Conditions of trust. Immigrants in the Finnish labour market in the 1990s, in Finnish only) The empirical data used in this national-level study are based on register material from the labour administration and Statistics Finland. It covers 33% of those aged between 15 and 64 years, who moved to Finland over the period 1989–1993 (a total of 10,485 people). Finnish and Swedish citizens were excluded. The statistical data are supplemented with interview data that describe immigrants’ labour market careers. 2002 Study
The study by Härkäpää K., Peltola U., Maahanmuuttajien työllistymisen tukeminen ja kuntoutusluotsaus (PDF 1,363 kb, in Finnish) (Supporting immigrants’ employment opportunities and rehabilitation piloting), by the Rehabilitation Foundation. 2005 Study
Maahanmuuttajat Turussa yrittäjinä ja palkansaajina (Immigrants as entrepreneurs and as wage and salary earners in Turku) (PDF 708 kb, in Finnish), by Sjöblom-Immala H., Ministry of Labour Finland 2006 Study


Title and description Year Type of source
Enquêtes annuelles de recensement 2004 et 2005 (PDF 106 kb, in French) by Borrel, C. 2006 Study
Data from the Labour Force Survey 2005, from the National Institute for Statistics and Economics Studies. 2005  
Les quatrièmes Entretiens de l’emploi – migrations internationales et gestion de l’emploi, (by Agence nationale pour l’emploi). Priestley T., ‘L’impact des migrations sur les normes d’emploi’, Report: workshop n. 4, in Illegal Immigrant Labour. 2005 Study
Immigration et présence étrangère en France en 2004. Rapport annuel de la direction de la population et des migrations (PDF 169 kb, in French) from the Ministère de l’emploi, de la cohesion sociale et du logement , by Regnard C. 2006 Study
Les demandeurs d’emploi étrangers (PDF 381 kb); , by Chazalle, J.National study on workers of foreign nationality by Agence nationale pour l’emploi. 2005 Study
Gélot D., Minni C., ‘Les immigrés accèdent moins à la formation professionnelle continue’, in Formation et emploi, No. 94, September. Survey Formation Qualification Professionnelle 2003. 2003 Study
Quand l’école est finie…Premiers pas dans la vie active de la génération 98, Cereq, March. National study on second–generation immigrants by the Centre d'études et de recherches sur les qualifications (CEREQ) 2001 Study
Amadieu J.F., Enquête testing sur CV, in Observatoire des discriminations, Cergors, May. 2004 Study
Quand l’école est finie… Premiers pas dans la vie active de la génération 2001 (PDF 4,595 kb), from CEREQ. 2005 Study
Les jeunes issus de l’immigration. De l’enseignement supérieur au marché du travail (PDF 157 kb), a , by Frickey, A., Murdoch, J. and Primon, J.national survey analysis on second-generation migrants by CEREQ. 2004 Study
Borgogno V., Frickey A., Primon J., ‘Identification des discriminations dans l’accès à l’emploi des diplômés du supérieur issus de l’immigration’, in Migrations etudes, No. 124, July, 2004. 2004 Study
Les immigrés en France, édition 2005, Editions Institut National de la Statistique et des etudes economiques, 2005. Review of results of national surveys. 2005 Study
Tavan C., Les immigrés en France: une situation qui évolue (PDF 96 kb) Analysis relating to immigrants in France, national statistical study. 2005 Study
Laine, F., Okba, M., ‘Jeunes de parents immigrés: de l'école au métier’, in Travail et Emploi, No. 103, September, 2005. Study based on the Génération 98 study by CEREQ. 2005 Study
Dupray A., Moullet S., L’insertion des jeunes d’origine maghrébine en France. Des différences plus marquées dans l’accès à l’emploi qu’en matière salariale (PDF 248 kb) Study published by CEREQ, based on the Génération 98 survey. 2004 Study


Title and description Year Type of source
The Federal Statistical Office edited the Data Report 2006. Facts and Figures about the Federal Republic of Germany. This publication is compiled in cooperation with the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, Wzb) and the Center for Survey Research and Methodology (Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen, Zuma). The report is published every two years and is carried out at the national level. Among other things, it describes the living conditions of foreign workers, asylum seekers, migrants and second-generation migrants; these data are compared to those for the national population as a whole. Migrants and foreigners are classified by their original nationality. The working conditions of migrants are not covered in a systematic manner. 2006 Report
Data on educational attainment of immigrants are drawn from the dataset of the Socio-Economic Panel (Soep) conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research (Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Diw).   Survey
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF) has published the Migration Report 2005 on behalf of the Federal Government. It has also released a study Migration, Asylum and Integration in Figures (Migration, Asyl und Integration in Zahlen). Both reports describe immigration flows and include an analysis of the most important migrant groups in Germany. BAMF defines migrants as persons who change their place of living; and international migration as changing residence across national borders. Both reports are conducted at a national level. The first report, after providing a general picture of immigration, distinguishes between 10 different migrant groups, which are described in single subsections. It then highlights the topic of illegal immigration. This is followed by a comparison of migration at the European level. Finally, the picture is completed by an analysis of the overall number of foreigners living in Germany. The report presents some information on employment, unemployment and working conditions for each main migrant group. It also provides information on the legal requirements for foreigners to gain access to the German labour market. The second report is a methodical comparison with the first one; it does, however, leave more space to deal with the question of how migrants are integrated into German society. 2005 Report
Sinn, Kreienbrink and von Loeffelholz provide, in their study, Illegal aufhältige Drittstaatsangehörige in Deutschland. Staatliche Ansätze, Profil und soziale Situation (PDF 888 kb, in German), information on Third-country nationals residing illegally in Germany. After describing the background to illegal immigration, the study evaluates the available statistical data on illegal immigration. This is done in order to estimate the number of illegal migrants. The authors, furthermore, illustrate government measurements that aim to control or even eradicate illegal immigration. The fourth chapter describes the living conditions of illegal immigrants in Germany. Illegal immigrants are defined as foreigners who are not entitled to stay in Germany, who are not registered with the Auslaenderzentralregister (AZR), the central register of foreigners, or who are not reported upon in any other official dataset. The study was conducted on behalf of the European Migration Network (EMN). 2005 Study
The Institute for Employment Research (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung, IAB) recently published a study, Schwieriger Start für junge Türken (PDF 928 kb), that compared the situation of German and migrant apprentices and their chances of finding a stable job after finishing their training. The study was carried out at the national level. Immigrants are classified by their legal citizenship.   Study


Title and description Year Type of source
2001 Census of Population. 2001 Survey
Labour Force Survey.   Survey
Register of People Insured by the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA).   Statistical data
Public services involved in legalisation procedures for immigrants (granting white and green cards).   Statistical data
Statistical data on immigrants in Greece: An analytical study of available data and recommendations for conformity with European Union Standards (PDF 2,021 kb), by Baldin-Edwards, M., the Mediterranean Migration Observatory 2005 Study
Kavounidi T., Survey on the Economy and Social Integration of Immigrants, Paep Studies, Athens. 2004 Study
Dimoulas K., Papadopoulou D., Forms of Social Integration of Economic Migrants in the Attica Region, Athens: Ine/Gsee-Adedy, Attica Region. 2004 Study


Statistics on foreign employment based on work permits are quite detailed and cover foreign citizens employed in Hungary. However, this data source shares the usual limitations of administrative data. Most of those included in the register are registered for less than one year, so are therefore mostly complementary to those included in the statistics on immigrants based on the foreign register.

Detailed Census data exist regarding the labour market activity of foreign citizens, but they refer to February 2001, and the population covered by the census excludes a considerable proportion of migrant labour.

Data or qualitative information on migrants are not collected in any particular survey on working conditions. anecdotal case studies exists on the poor working conditions of particular groups of (mostly illegal) foreign workers, as do news reports on foreigners who have accidents at work.

Labour inspectorates have some information on those illegal workers. Poor labour conditions and safety measures are reported, but no systematic data collection exists.

The definition of migrants in Hungary is based on citizenship. No data on second-generation migrants is available. People born abroad, who come to Hungary to work and who then acquire citizenship are usually not registered as immigrants.


Title and description Year Type of source
Barrett A., McCarthy Y., Immigrants in a booming economy: Analysing their earnings and welfare dependence, Bonn: Institute for Labour Research. This study provides a valuable insight into a number of past studies (see list below). It looks at migrants’ earnings, education, employment participation, age and gender and is coordinated by the Institute of Labour Research.   Study
McGinnity F., O’Connell P., Quinn E., Williams J., Migrants’ experience of racism and discrimination in Ireland, The Economic and Social Research Institute. This study examines migrants’ experiences of racism and discrimination.   Study
Barrett A., Bergin A., Duffy D., ‘The labour market characteristics and labour market forces of Immigrants in Ireland’, in Economic and Social Review, Vol. 37, No. 1.   Study
Barrett A., Duffy D., ‘A note on the educational profile and occupational attainment of immigrants in Ireland’, in ESRI Quarterly Economic Commentary, Autumn. 2006 Study
Barrett A., Fitzgerald J., Nolan B., ‘Earnings, inequality, returns to education and immigration into Ireland’, in Labour Economics, Vol. 9, No. 5. 2002 Study
Fanning B., Loyal S., Staunton C., Asylum Seekers and the Right to Work in Ireland, Irish Refuge Council.   Study
Information on the employment status of migrant workers is provided by the Central Statistics Office’s National Quarterly Household Surveys and the FAS Quarterly Labour Market Commentary. 2006 Statistical data


Title and description Year Type of source
Dossier statistico Immigrazione This is an annual report on immigrants’ living conditions, including several chapters on their working conditions. The report is edited by the research center Idos that belongs to Caritas. Different definitions of immigrants are employed across the report, with reference to either non-EU citizens or non-Italian citizens. The statistics reported are at a national level, with some disaggregated analyses at the regional level. The report includes data from several data sources, mainly administrative ones, and presents information on regular and undeclared immigrants, on their sociodemographic characteristics, on their opportunities at school, on their religious affiliations, as well as on their employment conditions. 2006 Study
Blangiardo G. (ed.), L’immigrazione straniera in Lombardia-rapporto, Milano, Ismu Foundation. This an annual report on immigrants’ living conditions, including several chapters on their working conditions. The report is published by Ismu, an independent research center, and focuses on Lombardy, the Italian region attracting the highest number of immigrants. It reports the results of a survey that selects immigrants from countries with a high incidence of migration (including countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe). The statistics reported refer exclusively to Lombardy. The sampling is based on a two-stage random procedure, where communes are the first-level units and immigrants (with or without Italian citizenship) are the second-level units. The questionnaire examines mainly their family and working conditions, as well as their legal status. 2006 Study


There are no studies or analyses in Latvia that cover specifically the employment and working conditions of migrant workers. Due to historical reasons, the notion ‘immigrant worker’ is very sensitive and is rarely used. Immigration legislation uses the term ‘foreigner’ – someone who is not part of the resident population, neither a Latvian citizen nor a non-citizen. Non-citizens who have not received Latvian citizenship have full rights as residents (except voting right).

Title and description Year Type of source
Occupational representation and ethnic discrimination in Latvia (PDF 219 kb), by Pabriks, A., the Soros Foundation Latvia. 2002 Study
Impact of immigration on the ethnic relations in Latvia in the context of EU Enlargement (in Latvian), by Indans, I. the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. 2004 Study
Active civic participation of immigrants in Latvia (PDF 497 kb), by Supule, I., the Baltic Institute of Social Sciences, Interdisciplinary Centre for Education and Communication in Migration Processes, Carl von Ossietzky Universitet Oldenburg. 2005 Study
The attitude of society to labour force immigration (in Latvian), from the Market and Public Opinion Research Centre 2005 Study
Topical aspects of societal integration (in Latvian), Market and Public Opinion Research Centre. 2006 Study
Immigration policy in Latvia: Problems and future perspectives (in Latvian), by Indans I. and Kruma, K., the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. 2006 Study


In Lithuania, ‘non-nationals’ are divided into two groups.

  • The first includes national minorities who have been living in Lithuania for many years and (in most cases) enjoying Lithuanian citizenship. According to the census of 2001, 6.7% of the population are Poles, 6.3% are Russian and 3.5% are from all the other minorities in Lithuania (Byelorussians, Ukrainians, Jewish, Latvians, Tartars and Romany).
  • The second represents ‘true’ migrants: ‘persons, arriving from another country with the intention to take up the usual residence in Republic of Lithuania perpetually or for more than six-month period, including foreigners who have got temporary residence permits for one year and longer’. In addition to non-national Lithuanian citizens and migrants who intend to live in Lithuania permanently, this group includes aliens who have been granted asylum, including workers holding permits from the Lithuanian Labour Exchange to work in Lithuania. According to the Lithuanian Statistics Office, apart from persons who have acquired citizenship, about 2,000 such immigrants on average arrive in Lithuania every year (amounting to around 0.06% of the total population in the country).

No surveys of working conditions have been carried out in Lithuania to determine the working conditions of either group. Apart from official statistics, only two information sources permit any evaluation of working conditions: these are the surveys carried out by the Centre of Ethnic Studies (Etninių studijų centras, ETC) and information from the Lithuanian Labour Exchange (Lietuvos darbo birža , LDB) on work permits issued to aliens.

Title and description Year Type of source
Surveys on adaptation of ethnic groups. The issue of working conditions of ethnic groups is to a certain extent covered in these surveys, carried out by the ETC. However, they cannot be considered as ‘working conditions surveys’. One survey includes national minorities who have been living in Lithuania for many years and (in most cases) enjoying Lithuanian citizenship. In 2001–2002, the ETC carried out a survey on social adaptation of the three biggest ethnic groups in Lithuania: Lithuanians, Russians and Poles, plus the historical diasporas of Lithuania, Tatars and Jews. The analysis involved comparison of responses of different ethnic groups to certain groups of questions focusing on whether or not the answers depended on the same social parameters. Key topics included identity issues, circle of social relations and assessment of own situation. 2002 Survey
LDB information of work permits issued to aliens: the LDB has been collecting information about work permits issued to aliens since 1995. Information is available on the gender of employees, type and economic activities of enterprises in which migrants find work, distribution of migrants by country of origin and on occupation. In 2005, 1,565 work permits were issued to migrants in Lithuania. Workers on business trips accounted for 42%. In 2006, the percentage of workers on business trips dropped down to 28% of the rapidly growing total number of workers who were issued work permits in Lithuania. 2005 Survey


Title and description Year Type of source
Migration Policies in Luxembourg (PDF 171 kb). by Waringo, K. This is a report about the history of immigration in Luxembourg. The author has used various documents (studies, government reports, etc.) to describe changes in immigration policy to reflect changing migrant flows. The report is divided into a number of phases, corresponding to chronological markers such as the arrival of Portuguese immigrants, or the phenomenon of cross-border working. The report gives no definition of a migrant worker, but mentions national or regional origins as a function of immigration conditions and success or lack of success in obtaining a work permit.   Report
Youth policy in Luxembourg. Report by an international panel of experts appointed by the Council of Europe (PDF 244 kb), by Demanuele, J., Jones, G., Mitev, P., Melendres, P.S. and Simon, R. 2002 Report
Association de Soutien aux Travailleurs immigrés (ASTI) This site aims to serve as a support tool for immigrants and for anyone concerned with the problems of immigration. The association offers information services (work permits, travel permits, etc.) and also has articles, publications and studies on immigration-related subjects (eg discrimination in the employment market). ASTI also seeks to operate as a centre for the promotion of equal opportunities, and is an archive of relevant legislation. 2007 Website
Interrelations entre immigration et marché de l’emploi au Luxembourg (PDF 1,106 kb, in French) by Glesener, M.M. This study is based on existing analyses and studies, and on published data and statistics. Its objective is to create and develop a global and coherent view of the prospects and potential of the employment market in its links with immigration. In this sense, it aims to go beyond a segmented treatment of specific populations or issues. The study does not give a single definition of a migrant worker, but devotes part of its investigations to Portuguese and cross-border immigration, without focusing on any nationality in particular. 2004 Report


Due to lack of employment opportunities, up to a few years ago Malta was a country from which people used to emigrate. Only recently did this picture change: hence, studies, data and information about migrant workers are very limited and derive mostly from the National Statistics Office (NSO). Indeed, all major organisations in the field reported that there are no studies or analyses covering the employment and working conditions of migrant workers. Thus, most of the answers provided for this national report derive from interviews, carried out by the author, with key persons working in the field.

The Netherlands

Title and description Year Type of source
Dutch Equal Treatment Commission, annual report 2004 (PDF 4,507 kb, in Dutch) 2004 Report
Dutch Labour Inspectorate 2005 reports These concern the inspections regarding illegal work in the following sectors: cleaning; manufacture of meat and fish; hotels and restaurants; construction; agriculture. 2005 Report
Netherlands Working Conditions Survey Carried out since 2003, it is a large scale investigation into the working conditions of Dutch employees. A wide range of issues are addressed, such as psychosocial workload, physical workload, safety, intimidation and bullying, occupational accidents, stress, repetitive strain injury, absenteeism, etc. A person is classified as having a foreign background in this survey if at least one of their parents was born abroad. Three categories are distinguished: a Dutch background, a western background (including persons from Indonesia, Japan, North America, Oceania and Europe, with the exception of Turkey ) and non-western migrants (including persons from Turkey, Africa, South America and Asia, with the exception of Indonesia and Japan). 2005 Survey
TNO Work Situation Survey This survey has been carried out in 2000, 2002 and 2004. It contains questions regarding quality of work and employment and labour-market related topics. The survey is administered to people who are part of the Dutch workforce, both employees and self-employed. One of the questions asked is whether a participant or there parents were born abroad. If so, the person is classified as having a foreign background. 2000–2004 Survey
Naleving van de wet arbeid vreemdelingen, een eerste onderzoek onder werkgevers (PDF 345 kb) 2005 Report
Houtman, I., Smulders, P., Bossche, S., Osh Balance 2005: Risks, effects and measures in the Netherlands 2006 Report
Over de grens. Een onderzoek naar illegale activiteiten op het gebied van uitzendarbeid (PDF 228 kb) by Zuidam M. and Grijpsta, D.H. 2005 Report
Annual report of Society of anti-discrimination offices and registration centres 2004 Report


There are only a few empirical studies available that deal specifically the issue of working conditions of migrant workers; most of the sources cited deal generally with employment issues. The below-mentioned studies are usually carried either at the national or regional level. These studies employ both secondary sources (national statistics, information on work-permits, residence and asylum issues) and primary sources (such as case studies carried out at the local level):


Title and description Year Type of source
Occupational Mobility of the Immigrant Worker in Portugal. In 2004 the General Directorate of Studies, Statistics and Planning (Direcção-Geral de Estudos, Estatística e Planeamento, Dgeep) initiated a study to assess the labour market entry and occupational pathways of the immigrant working population, through an analysis of the different parameters of their mobility. The study made use of the most recent official statistical data, as well as international and national research published on the subject. The study also included a survey of immigrant workers in Portugal and interviews with a panel of human resource (HR) managers. The survey was carried out between December 2004 and January 2005 in 55 sampling areas corresponding to parishes (the smallest administrative unit in Portugal). Some 1,588 valid questionnaires were collected. The data gathering was also complemented by a questionnaire addressed to a panel of 117 HR managers from companies employing immigrant workers, in order to learn about their strategies and management practices. Random telephone interviews were carried out, covering the hotel and restaurants, construction and cleaning services sectors throughout Portugal. The survey was conducted by the Centre for Opinion Studies and Surveys (Centro de Estudos e Sondagens de Opinião, CESOP) of the Catholic University (Universidade Católica) and the Centre of Geographical Studies (Centro de Estudos Geográficos, CEG) of Lisbon University (Universidade de Lisboa). No specific definition of migrant worker is given in this study. 2004 Study
The impact of immigrant labour in the Portuguese companies: A qualitative vision This study aims to identify and characterise the relevant phenomena emerging from the relations between companies and the immigrant workers. It focuses on both direct and indirect factors with higher impacts in terms of productivity, competitiveness and the capacity for expansion of Portuguese companies. This study used a mainly qualitative approach, on which the analysis of companies’ daily activities was based. Some 10 case studies were created, based on 22 individual in-depth interviews (with 15 administrators, HR and personnel directors, and seven immigrant workers) . The case studies covered companies from hotels and restaurants/tourism, retail, agriculture/viticulture, cleaning services and construction sectors, all located on the Portuguese mainland.   Study


There are no specific studies dealing the working conditions of migrant workers. However, authorised institutions, such as the Labour Inspection Office (Inspecţia Muncii, IM), the Department for Labour Abroad (Departamentul pentru Munca în Străinătate, DMS) and the National Authority for Aliens (Autoritatea pentru Străini, AS) periodically provide certain data and information related to foreign citizens in Romania. Among other things, IM controls compliance with the legislation in force on work permits granted to foreign workers in Romania. DMS draws up regular reports on the work permit situation, providing information on the country of origin, job and wage of foreign workers in Romania. In March 2006, AS published a report on migration and asylum in Romania (Migraţia şi azilul în România), presenting the number of work visa applications, data related to foreign workers in Romania classified by citizenship and permanent/temporary residence, the number of permits granted by the Office for Labour Force Migration (Oficiul pentru Migraţia Forţei de Muncă, OMFM) and the number of individual employment contracts. The report included evaluations of illegal migration in Romania.

The population and housing census (Recensământul populaţiei şi al locuinţelor), conducted once every 10 years, contains data on foreign citizens by professional categories and age brackets, by level of education, region and country of origin.

Finally, in 2004, a study was conducted on ‘Migration phenomenon from the perspective of European Union accession’ under the aegis of the European Institute of Romania (Institutul European din România, IER). The study examined the profile of migrants, public opinions on migration and processed data provided by the Institute of National Statistics (Institutul Naţional de Statistică, INS) and other national institutions with responsibilities related to migration.

As a rule, the category of migrant workers in these studies refers to foreign citizens in Romania.


Title and description Year Type of source
Popper M., Bianchi G., Lukšíka I., Szeghy P., Migrant needs in Slovakia (International Organisation for Migration, Slovakia) The study contains results of research was implemented in the framework of a project entitled ‘Migrants’ information centre to help integration of migrants and victims of trading with people into the labour market and society’. The authors define migrant using the United Nations definition: ‘Person that due to any reason has changed the country of his/her permanent or usual residence, has moved from her/his home country to another country (in this case to the Slovak Republic)’. This research was implemented at the national level. The research sample was composed of 43 migrants (25 migrants participated in individual interviews and 18 in four focus group discussions), 13 representatives of institutions and eight employers. Migrants were selected by the ‘snowball’ method. The sample contained 16 women and 27 men. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies was used. The questions referred mainly to the reason for migration, knowledge of languages, contacts with institutions, knowledge and know-how, issues of labour and job seeking, self-realisation, social networks, participation in civil life, services and their usage, quality of life, cultural differences, vision of the future, and the need to establish information centre for migrants. 2006 Study
Divinský B., Foreign migration in the Slovak Republic: Status, trends, social context The publication was prepared with the support of the Friedrich Eber Stiftung and the Research Institute of the Slovak Society for Foreign Policy. The author presents a complex analysis of the issue of the foreign migration in Slovakia and its various contexts – legal, institutional, economic, safety, demographic, social and cultural, foreign policy. He deals with the current migration trends, asylum policy, illegal migration, the attitudes of citizens towards foreigners, the impact of the foreign migrations upon the Slovak society, activities of national and international organisations dealing with migration. Research was implemented on the national level. The author also used a survey of migration in the Slovak Republic that he had implemented over 2004–2005. 2005 Study


Title and description Year Type of source
The main provider of information on migrant workers is the Employment Service of Slovenia (ESS), which provides information on the numbers of migrant workers from other EU countries and from third countries (only those who have work permits and can legally work); it also provides information on unemployed immigrants, the numbers of which are greatly underestimated. ESS provides information on the age and gender structure of migrant workers, their education and sector of employment and partial data on their occupation. In the Slovenian national report, data from the annual ESS reports for 2004 and 2005 are presented. 2005–2006 Reports
Malačič J., Domadenik P., Pahor M., Trends in employment and economic migration on Slovenian labour market, Ljubljana, University of Ljubljana. The Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs (MLFSA ) provides information on the annual quota of work permits and an overview of the numbers and types of work permits that are issued. The Labour Inspectorate, an agency of MLFSA, publishes annual reports that include information on inspections of the employment of foreign citizens and information on undeclared work. In this report, data from the Labour Inspectorate’s annual report for 2004 and 2005 is presented. In 2006, MLFSA financed a study on employment trends and economic migration on Slovenian labour market. The authors used data from ESS and focused on the trends in the numbers and structure of migrant workers in Slovenia from the beginning of the 1990s until 2006. 2005–2006 Report
Statistical data on the numbers of foreign citizens in Slovenia and the annual migration inflows and outflows are provided by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (SORS). Data on illegal immigration, numbers of refugees and asylum seekers are provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs annual report for 2004 (PDF 3,141 kb, in Slovenian). 2004 Report
There have been several qualitative research studies performed at the Peace Institute, focused on the situation of refugees, illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, Romany people without citizenship and/or personal documents, as well as so-called ‘erased persons’. These studies are not specifically focused on the work/employment situation of migrants, although they do mention the problems that persons without Slovenian citizenship face when looking for a job. Pajnik M., Lesjak-Tušek P., Gregorčič M., Prebežniki, kdo ste?, Ljubljana. Mirovni inštitut, 2001. Milohnić A. (ed.), Evropski vratarji, Ljubljana, Mirovni inštitut, 2001. Dedić J., Jalušič V., Zorn J., Izbrisani, Ljubljana, Mirovni inštitut, 2003. 2001–2004 Case studies


Title and description Year Type of source
The Survey on Quality of Life in the Workplace (Encuesta de Calidad de Vida en el Trabajo, in Spanish) is conducted by the Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Data can be sorted by place of birth.   Statistical data
The Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs also publishes the online Labour Statistics Yearbook (in Spanish); this collects official information on accidents, contracts, etc.   Statistical data

A number of ad hoc studies on specific issues of the working conditions of immigrants are also available for Spain.


Title and description Year Type of source
Statistic Sweden, Labour Force Survey: a survey of working conditions at the national level, including quantitative comparisons of foreign-born and native employees. 2006 Survey
The Swedish Integration Board, Statistikrapport 2004 (Statistical Report 2004, in Swedish) about integration in Sweden: it presents statistics on the integration of migrants. It refers both to foreign-born people and those with a foreign background (but who were born in Sweden). 2004 Report
Statistics on integration (PDF 518 kb), from the Swedish Integration Board, is a general report about integration in Sweden. It makes national-level quantitative comparisons of foreign-born and native employees. The report provides an overview of the integration of immigrants in Sweden, one section being dedicated to the labour market. It refers to both foreign-born and people of foreign background (but who were born in Sweden). 2006 Report
Rapport integration, is a general report about integration in Sweden, based on statistics collected by the Swedish Integration Board. It contains research and evaluations by independent researchers. It refers to both foreign-born people and those of foreign background (but who were born in Sweden). 2006 Report
Det blågula glashuset – strukturell diskriminering i Sverige (in Swedish), an official government report about structural discrimination in Sweden. National-level information compares results from different studies about migrant workers on the labour market, mainly statistical studies. It also contains a review of the different research that has been conducted regarding ethnic segregation in the Swedish labour market. Studies of foreign-born as well as second-generation immigrants are presented. 2005 Report
Andersson, P. and Wadensjö, E., En arbetslöshetsförsäkring för alla sysselsatta?, Issue 9, No. 3–4, Autumn/winter 2003, from the National Institute for Working Life. This is an ad hoc survey on migrants’ working conditions. National level data from Statistics Sweden and register-based labour market Statistics are analysed and additional data have been collected by the authors. The focus is on self-employed and workers employed by interim agencies. It refers to foreign-born and second-generation immigrants. 2003 Survey
National Institute for Working Life, Vem passar in på vårt jobb? Rekrytering och kompetens för ett mångfaldigt arbetsliv. An ad hoc survey of migrants’ working conditions, using mainly qualitative data collected through interviews, supplemented with some statistics. One focus of the report is on foreign-born people, and whether they get jobs that match their skills. It refers to foreign-born workers. 2006 Survey
Bevelander P., Lundh C., , Flyktingars jobbchanser Vad betyder erfarenheter av tidigare arbetskraftsinvandring?, from the National Institute for Working Life. An ad hoc survey on migrants’ working conditions. The study is based on individual data from Statistics Sweden. It refers to all immigrants from refugee countries. 2003 Survey
Abbasian, S., Deltidsarbete och deltidsarbetslöshet bland städare i Stockholms län, , from the National Institute for Working Life. An ad hoc survey of migrants’ working conditions at the regional level. The study uses both quantitative and qualitative data. It brings the over-representation of immigrants among cleaners in Stockholm into the discussion of part-time work and unemployment. It refers to foreign-born workers. 2006 Survey

United Kingdom

Title and description Year Type of source
Foreign labour in the United Kingdom: Current patterns and trends (PDF 213 kb), by Salt, J. and Millar, J., from the Office for National Statistics, is an analysis of quantitative data on the stocks and flows of foreign labour in the United Kingdom (over 2000–2004): its deals with region of origin and nationality, broad occupational status, UK regional residence, and routes of entry, such as work permits, or worker registration schemes. 2002–2004 Study
Dench J., Hurstfiled D. Akroyd K., Employers’ use of migrant labour (PDF 609 kb), is a report conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies, commissioned by the Home Office, that looked into the recruitment and employment of migrant workers in the UK. A qualitative methodology was used: in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 124 employers in three regions (London, East Anglia and north-east England), covering five employment sectors. In addition, 20 interviews were conducted with labour providers, and representatives of unions and employer organisations. It outlines a detailed profile of the migrant workforce, and employers’ reasons for recruiting (or not recruiting) migrants. 2004 Survey
Anderson B, Ruhs M., Rogaly B., Spencer S., Fair enough? Central and east European migrants in low-wage employment in the UK (PDF 1,243 kb), from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The research included two phases of quantitative and qualitative methods (surveys, and in-depth interviews and diaries). The first phase was conducted between March and May 2004 and the second phase between November 2004 and February 2005. The research covered four sectors (agriculture, construction, hospitality, and au pairs (although relations between au pairs and host families are not governed by employment contracts). The research was limited mainly to four of the A8 nationality groups (Czech, Slovak, Lithuanian and Polish migrants); 550 respondents were surveyed and 62 in-depth interviews conducted. 2006 Survey
Accession Monitoring Report: May 2004–September 2006 (PDF 292 kb) This is a joint online report by the Home Office and three other government departments. It is the latest in a series of nine reports that have analysed data derived from the government’s Worker Registration Scheme, the transitional measure designed to monitor and regulate access to the UK labour market of A8 nationals, and to restrict their access to benefits. It outlines quarterly and cumulative data on the profile of registered workers, including age and gender, occupations in which registered workers are employed, hours of work and wages, temporary and permanent employment status, intended length of stay, geographical distribution (by occupational group), and nationality (by occupational group). 2006 Report


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