E.g., 06/16/2024
E.g., 06/16/2024
Aiming Higher: Policies to Get Immigrants into Middle-Skilled Work in Europe

Against a backdrop of aging populations and persistently low economic growth, few European governments are doing enough to help recent immigrants move from low-skilled precarious jobs and into decent work. While some countries have made sizeable investments in labor market integration policies over the past decade, they have focused primarily on getting immigrants into work. As a result, these policies have struggled to facilitate career progression over time.

Newly arrived immigrants in Europe often struggle to gain a secure foothold in the labor market, as a result of limited language proficiency, discrimination, and difficulties having their qualifications recognized and signaling how skills and experience meet employers' needs. Many experience protracted periods of inactivity, unemployment, or long tenures in low-skilled work.

This report is part of a research project funded by the European Union and conducted in collaboration with the International Labour Office. The case studies in the first phase of the project consider the influence of individual characteristics and broader economic conditions on the employment prospects of foreign-born workers. The reports in the second phase evaluate the effectiveness of integration and workforce development policies in helping foreign-born workers overcome these barriers and move up into middle-skilled positions that pay a family-sustaining wage. The six case study countries are the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.


This project is funded by the European Union

Employment gaps between native and foreign-born workers not only persist but have widened since the onset of the global economic crisis, with particularly significant effects on women, migrants who come on a visa other than a work visa, and immigrants from outside the European Union.

The report is the result of a research initiative that was carried out by MPI in collaboration with the ILO and with funding from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. It examines the labor market progression of recent immigrants in six EU countries and analyzes policies related to integration and workforce development, with a focus on public employment services and language and vocational training.

There is clearly no quick fix to the problem of immigrants stuck in low-skilled jobs or unemployment. A dearth of evaluations also has hindered progress, suggesting a need for sophisticated, long-term monitoring to better understand what makes programs successful.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Immigrants and the Labor Market: Barriers to Employment and Upward Mobility

III. Policies to Support Labor Market Integration

A. Integration Policies for New Arrivals

B. Employment Services

C. Building Skills: Vocational and Language Training

IV. Conclusions and Recommendations

A. The Early Provision of Relevant Career Advice

B. Improving Opportunities for Progression

C. Integrating Departments and Policy Areas

D. Final Thoughts