Seasonal Worker Programs in Europe: Promising Practices and Ongoing Challenges
Seasonal worker programs represent one of the few ways in which low-skilled workers can migrate legally to the European Union, enabling them to work in sectors such as agriculture, hospitality, and tourism. Countries have taken different approaches to selecting seasonal workers, with some recruiting from within the European Union and others soliciting workers from third countries. But while some of these programs are long-established, they can struggle to meet labor demands swiftly while ensuring that workers are treated fairly and will return home when their permits expire.
The European Commission has aimed to create common standards for seasonal workers’ admission, residence, and rights across Europe and to address longstanding issues such as worker exploitation, visa overstays, and hiring through the informal economy. As European policymakers take stock of these Commission-driven harmonization efforts to date, this brief by MPI Europe and the Research Unit of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR) explores some of the challenges common to these programs, drawing on examples in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. It also highlights practices that can help maximize the benefits for migrants, employers, and countries of destination and origin alike.
The authors sketch a number of principles to guide future reforms. Among them: prioritizing more transparent and standardized recruitment procedures, greater monitoring and outreach to protect seasonal workers, and strategies to help deliver on the thus far limited investments to support economic and social development in sending countries.
2 Recruiting the Right Foreign Workers at the Right Time
3 Ensuring Workers Play by the Rules
4 Safeguarding the Rights of Seasonal Workers
5 Maximizing the Benefits for Seasonal Workers and Sending Countries