An important aspect of migratory flows is the role of labour market intermediaries for youth mobility in Europe. Positioned between employers and jobseekers, labour market intermediaries are often involved in transnational recruiting processes. We analysed recruiting strategies of employers and jobsearch strategies of young migrants, thereby also considering the working conditions of the latter.
The research uses a comparative design, focusing on the situation of young EU8 migrants in Austria and of young Swedes in Norway. Austria and Norway provide particularly attractive job prospects to migrants. Here, in comparison with other countries, youth unemployment rates are low, wage levels are high and working conditions are good. Furthermore, in both countries, several industries are suffering labour shortages.
The research concentrates on three industries with a high demand for labour: tourism, care/health and high-tech. It draws on 116 interviews conducted with young migrants, employers, labour market intermediaries and other experts.
Employers need flexible workers
The results indicate that employers in Austria and Norway are interested in recruiting young migrants from neighbouring EU countries because they need large numbers of flexible workers.
Young migrants are attracted by good job opportunities – in particular, by comparatively high salaries, attractive career prospects and good working conditions. Further important drivers for young people to apply for jobs in Austria or Norway are geographical proximity, good language skills and a certain spirit of adventure. On the other hand, major obstacles to job matching are information deficits, a lack of social networks and insufficient foreign language skills.
Labour market intermediaries
Labour market intermediaries can help to overcome these barriers within the transnational recruiting/jobsearch process. Intermediaries provide information and/or serve as matchmakers who manage the entire recruiting process. Some labour market intermediaries do the complete administrative work for both employers and young migrants.
According to our research findings, mainly private companies are involved in transnational recruiting/jobsearch processes. In contrast, public labour market intermediaries (i.e., employment service agencies) only play a minor role. The importance of intermediaries varies across industries and between the two countries. For instance, in the 24-hour care sector in Austria, they are key players who recruit women from EU8 countries to work in private households. Many of them receive support from other intermediary agencies located in EU8 countries in order to reach young people who are willing to work in Austria. In Norway, the role of labour market intermediaries is connected to the skill level. They are more important for high-skilled migrants than for the lower skilled.
In both countries, labour market intermediaries have powerful positions in the triangular relationship between themselves, employers and young migrants. Their impact on working conditions is strong, but ambivalent. On the one hand, they have the power to secure good working conditions for young migrants by counselling and controlling the employer. On the other hand, because usually they consider the employers to be their main clients, they feel more committed to employers than to migrants. As a consequence, the position of young migrants is weaker, bearing the risk of exploitation.
This research underlines the importance of labour market intermediaries for youth migration in Europe. However, we advocate for drawing more attention to the needs of young migrants. As one strategy to achieve this objective, we suggest that public labour market intermediaries should take a more active role in the transnational recruiting/jobsearch and matching processes of young migrants in Europe.