Improving Migrants' Labour Market Integration in Europe from the Outset: A Cooperative Approach to Predeparture Measures
There is a growing consensus on the value of providing immigrants with integration support at the earliest possible moment in the migration process. Integration services provided prior to departure, such as language instruction, training, recognition of foreign credentials, and job skill-matching, can all have positive impacts on the labor market outcomes of immigrants once they reach their destination—and on their capacity to actively contribute to the development of their country of origin. While European policymakers as well as their counterparts in migrant-sending countries have contributed significant political capital and resources to predeparture integration measures over the past decade, these initiatives generally have yet to fully realize their potential as a tool able to durably improve migrants' labor market integration. This is largely due to the lack of cooperation between origin and destination countries in the design and implementation of such measures.
This report is part of the INTERACT research project, led by the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute. INTERACT is implemented by a consortium built by the the Centre for Ethnic and Migration Studies, the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and the Migration Policy Institute Europe.
More than 20 million people born outside of the European Union (third-country nationals) live in EU Member States and represent more than 4 percent of the total EU population. INTERACT promotes research on third-country nationals’ integration in EU countries as a three-way process that involves immigrants, countries of emigration, and countries of immigration. The research agenda focuses on the extent to which the immigrant integration policies of EU Member States and the expatriate-focused policies of origin countries complement or contradict each other; and how these policies collectively affect the integration of migrants to the European Union.
This policy brief reviews promising examples of predeparture measures for labor market integration that are jointly designed and/or run by origin- and destination-country actors, illustrating their potential to help effectively address some of the most stubborn obstacles to successful integration. A number of these examples involve destination-country employers, and key elements in their success include flexibility and responsiveness to employer demand. Equally important is the buy-in from origin-country actors, which can be supported through a development-sensitive approach in the design of the programs.
The brief also explores alternative project settings that could facilitate a broader reach in terms of numbers of migrants (and employers) enrolled in the programs, including the bilateral labor migration agreements that have traditionally been a preferred instrument for embedding predeparture integration measures. Thus far, most of these agreements have been largely ineffective in meeting job-matching and other labor market integration objectives due to implementation challenges. A more innovative long-term approach would consist of strengthening structural cooperation between origin and destination countries in broader policy areas, particularly in establishing skills partnerships in the areas of education and vocational training and on the mutual recognition of foreign qualifications. Such initiatives hold strong potential to improve the labor market integration outcomes of third-country nationals, both in their countries of origin and, for those who migrate, at destination.
II. Challenges to a Cooperative Holistic Approach to Predeparture Measures
A. Misaligned Interests
B. Institutional Coordination Challenges
III. Promising Practices
A. The German Case
B. Other Promising Cooperative Programs
C. Drawbacks to Bilateral Agreements
D. Through the Skill Development and Recognition, Not Migration Management, Lens