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In race to attract talent, Europe should prioritise mutually beneficial partnerships with third countries
Press Release
Wednesday, December 15, 2021

In race to attract talent, Europe should prioritise mutually beneficial partnerships with third countries

BRUSSELS — On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and growing labour demands in sectors from hospitality to logistics, Europe’s longstanding concerns over an ageing population and shrinking workforce are even more acute. Policymakers are increasingly acknowledging the role that EU and national policies to attract and retain skilled foreign workers can play in addressing this shortfall.

In early 2022, the European Commission will launch the first Talent Partnerships, which will combine mobility schemes for workers and students with related capacity-building support in migrant-origin countries in Africa, the Eastern Neighbourhood and the Western Balkans. While small in scale, these partnerships signal an important change in approach by pairing migration opportunities with much-needed long-term investments in areas such as labour market assessments, education, reintegration and diaspora engagement.

A new Migration Policy Institute Europe policy brief, How Can Europe Deliver on the Potential of Talent Partnerships?, explores how and under what conditions the Talent Partnerships could help meet Europe’s labour market needs and provide benefits for partner countries and migrants themselves. It draws on lessons from the European Union’s legal migration pilot projects and other past mobility schemes, offering timely recommendations ahead of a special session on legal migration for the Rabat Process, which will take place on 16 and 17 December.

Mobility schemes such as the Talent Partnerships can be an important source of innovation in labour migration, especially when combined with investments to address structural barriers to mobility, such as challenges in recognising foreign qualifications and weak migration governance. This policy brief offers several recommendations, including:

  • Exploring the potential of the Talent Partnerships to not only recruit but also develop skills in third countries. For example, the Talent Partnerships could continue to test the ‘global skills partnership’ model that proposes providing training to prospective migrants and workers or students who intend to find employment locally.
  • Building a broad coalition of stakeholders from the outset of the partnership. Destination countries often set the terms for mobility schemes, but the buy-in of countries of origin and the private sector is equally important for recruiting and selecting workers. Migrant-origin countries must be engaged early on to assess how and where workers are available to meet destination-country needs and where financial and technical assistance could support their participation in these schemes.
  • Looking beyond the usual suspects for cooperation. Morocco and Tunisia feature heavily in recent mobility schemes with European countries, reflecting both their standing as partners in tackling irregular migration to Europe and their capacity to manage migration and provide public employment services. But if European policymakers are genuinely committed to expanding opportunities for talented third-country nationals to migrate, they will need to cast the net wider.

‘Framing cooperation around talent and linking mobility schemes with investments in capacity-building offers a chance to build partnerships rooted in priorities shared by destination and origin countries, and to move away from the transactional politics that have characterised some recent partnerships’, MPI Policy Analyst Kate Hooper writes.

Read the policy brief here: www.migrationpolicy.org/news/europe-talent-partnerships.


MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of migrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.