Fostering inclusive post-pandemic labor markets is central to reversing the heavy economic impact of COVID-19 on immigrants & refugees in Europe
BRUSSELS — The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to Europe’s largest one-year economic contraction since the Second World War. While historically large investments by EU governments in job retention measures have temporarily cushioned the blow, this also means the full labor market effects of the crisis remain to be seen. What is clear is that the pandemic has exacerbated the labor market challenges already facing some migrant groups, including recently arrived refugees, migrant women and those with limited digital literacy.
As Europe plans for the post-pandemic recovery, strategic efforts will be crucial to reverse disruptions to migrant integration and heightened labor market vulnerabilities, a new Migration Policy Institute Europe study finds. The report, Taking the Long View: Options for Inclusive Post-Pandemic Labor Markets, examines the factors that have contributed to the precarious situation of many migrants and refugees in Europe and offers recommendations for incorporating these groups into the post-pandemic workforce.
At the outset of the public health crisis, many European governments quickly took steps to protect migrants from the most immediate risks, including by introducing temporary regularization schemes, granting temporary labor migrants more leeway to switch jobs and sectors, giving asylum seekers faster access to work and easing third country nationals’ access to income support and health care. Yet, longer-term recovery planning must take into account how trends such as automation, digitalization and atypical work are transforming European economies—and how these trends may have been accelerated by the pandemic.
The report offers the following suggestions for policymakers to protect and advance migrants’ economic inclusion in a context of labor market transformation:
- Cultivate migrants’ skills to seize emerging business opportunities. Investing in immigrant entrepreneurship may advance migrants’ economic integration in times of high unemployment. This will require sustained investments in helping migrants build entrepreneurial skills, market knowledge and digital and technical skills that can facilitate access to the business opportunities that have emerged during the pandemic, including in the green economy, e-commerce and e-learning.
- Tap into volunteerism and the social economy. As COVID-19 has triggered an uptick in volunteering and community engagement across Europe, many observers have pointed to the social sector as an important partner for post-crisis recovery. Governments could provide additional funding to social-sector organizations in exchange for placements of vulnerable job seekers. Yet, for social engagement to be a genuine stepping stone to sustainable employment, fair remuneration and upskilling opportunities will be important.
- Reimagine the model of public employment services. While public employment support has long focused on getting unemployed people into work, the current crisis calls for a rethinking of this model to promote the upskilling and reskilling of the whole workforce in a way that ensures workers can weather profound economic changes. This could also generate opportunities to advance migrant integration, for example, through deeper partnerships with employers and the social sector, that could help public employment services account for both emerging economic opportunities and the needs of vulnerable groups.
"Without careful management, the crisis may turn back the clock on hard-fought progress in newcomer integration, erode talent pools that may take a long time to rebuild and fuel inequality and social tensions in diverse societies for decades to come," MPI Europe Policy Analyst Liam Patuzzi writes. "In this context of urgency, however, integration, employment and education policymakers must not fall prey to a tradeoff trap—jeopardizing long-term strategies for the benefit of short-term stopgaps."
The report is the latest from MPI Europe’s Integration Futures Working Group, which brings together policymakers and experts, civil-society officials and private-sector leaders to create a platform for long-term strategic and creative thinking. The Working Group is supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/inclusive-post-pandemic-labor-markets.
And earlier ones in the Integration Futures series can be found here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/integration-futures-working-group.