The set of contributions in this section of the volume, together with the entire research of the STYLE project around migration and mobility, converge on a set of policy themes that we identify below in greater detail.
Anti-discriminatory practices and integration tools for intra-EU and third-country mobility
Intra-EU and third-country migrants have poorer labour market outcomes compared to nationals. However, these differences varied for youth migrants in terms of the quality of employment and wages, which were found to be stratified depending on the migrants’ region of origin. Youth migrants from CEE (EU8), Bulgaria and Romania (EU2) proved to be doing worst; youth migrants from EU-South had a middle position; and youth from the remaining EU countries were doing better than their native peers. This might reflect the fact that policies continue to be designed in such a way that migrant workers have suboptimal social conditions and limited civil rights (transitional arrangements, temporary working schemes for third-country nationals).
We find that labour market intermediaries are not necessarily neutral and often serve the interests of employers first, rather than those of migrants. While they help facilitate access to foreign labour markets, they can in some cases also contribute to leaving young migrants in jobs with poor working conditions: low pay for long working hours and short-term contracts, rather than counterbalancing these phenomena.
Among policy tools to address the existing labour market segmentation of CEE migrants, in particular, we suggest:
- strengthening the role of public labour market intermediaries
- increasing monitoring and regulation of private intermediaries to secure good working conditions for young migrants
- improving career and training opportunities to help young migrants to develop their skills at work and to participate in training programmes that support them in gaining access to jobs that fit their skills and interests
- considering providing financial support to young migrants (see Jobbresan as an example of best practice).
Example of best practices: Jobbresan (job travel)
In response to soaring youth unemployment in some Swedish municipalities, an innovative project was launched in collaboration between the municipality, the public employment service and the social security administration. The project was coordinated by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Focusing on the needs of the young unemployed, a model called Söderhamnsmodellen was developed, consisting of three steps aimed at removing the main obstacles faced by young labour migrants from Sweden to Norway:
- a lack of capital and work experience,
- a lack of networks in the country of destination
- advice on how to find work and a place to live in Norway.
The project recruited long-term unemployed living off unemployment benefits or social assistance in Sweden. The young unemployed were offered some initial courses in writing CVs, applying for jobs, how to perform in a job interview and general training in Norwegian language and culture.
After a short period of training, they were sent by bus to the Norwegian capital Oslo. In Oslo, they were offered shared housing with expenses paid for a month. During the first few days, they were instructed on practicalities related to bank accounts, work permits and jobsearch, and invited to an introductory meeting with local representatives from the labour union providing information on rights and obligations in the Norwegian labour market.
The participants reported positive experiences: they enjoyed being together as a group sharing information and experiences, and they had readily available assistance to assess job offers and contracts. As a result, a large share of these young people found jobs within a short period of time.
Gender is a salient factor in migration and return
Youth labour mobility and return migration are gendered phenomena. For example, Hyggen et al. (2016) found that young men are somewhat more mobile than young women. Furthermore, we found the typical gender segregation between different industries, with a larger number of women working in caring professions – as 24-hour caregivers in Austria or as nurses in Norway – and a large share of men working in technical fields. In the 24-hour care sector in Austria, there is also an obvious vertical gender segregation: most of the caregivers from EU8 countries are women while many of the intermediating persons are men.
The analysis of return migration finds that foreign work experience and returns might contribute to reducing the gender pay gap in the home labour market, as evidenced by the Estonian case. The benefit of return migration for the Estonian labour market materialises through a decrease in the gender wage disparity, particularly among youth. Also, gender intersects with other dimensions, such as the migratory experience, in predicting labour market outcomes in the destination country.
Policy-makers should have these gender issues in mind and adjust policies so as to acknowledge that gender might be a further intervening factor in migration processes and in returning to the home country. It significantly affects choices and alternatives in destination countries as well as in the country of origin when returning.
Public institutions can better facilitate the labour market integration of migrants and returnees
We find that the role of public institutions in improving the labour market integration of migrants and returnees could be enhanced. First, labour market intermediaries, like the local public employment services or educational institutions, could play a more salient role as information providers for youth who are interested in moving abroad to get a job. We suggest fostering further international collaboration of the public employment services, for instance in the form of the EURES network established for this purpose. Furthermore, social media should be considered as an important communication tool to reach young people. Second, there is scope for public institutions to provide better assistance upon return and to facilitate integration. For example, return migrants can become a target category in labour offices. Importantly, inequalities exist among returnees and not all returnees are on an equal footing in terms of their abilities. While many returnees circumvent formal institutions, there are still many who approach them and can be reached by effective policy. In particular, returnees disadvantaged in terms of gender, age or ethnicity might be of more need of assistance from public intermediaries in their re-integration process.
Skill matching continues to be a challenge
Overqualification of intra-EU migrants and poor matching continue to be a challenge. We find that the implications of skill mismatch are important. For returnees, it matters what type of experience migrants gain abroad, whether it is relevant to their field and whether it results in a demonstrable set of hard and soft skills. From this perspective, tools facilitating the matching of migrants to jobs, such as EURES, employment agencies or well-designed job portals, can be very useful. Matching should be encouraged by decreasing information asymmetries in intra-EU mobility.
A further focus to enhance matching should be given to improving the language skills of migrants. Insufficient languages skills make it difficult to get in contact with people in the country of destination so as to have better access to housing. Programmes that help to improve language skills and to foster transnational networks are helpful in overcoming obstacles at this stage of the process. An increased focus on intra-EU exchange during education may be one way, while subsidised language courses or increased opportunities for financial support for participating in language training are further forms of facilitating language skill development.
The non-recognition of foreign qualifications and experience and the above-mentioned insufficient language skills may force young migrants to take up jobs below their skill levels. This may negatively affect matching quality as well as work contracts and working conditions for the young migrants. Here again, public (or private) labour market intermediaries or labour unions could be mediators that stand between employers and employees in negotiating working contracts and working conditions. These services could be set up as a web-based service or as an actual contact point for migrants. Continued efforts to standardise educational criteria and to develop a European dictionary of education and grades may be another strategy to help migrants to achieve adequate positions, and to help employers find employees and workers with the right qualifications and motivation.
At the same time, the research findings indicate that intra-EU wage differentials may present an obstacle for young people from Eastern Europe in developing professional careers. For instance, young women from Slovakia working as 24-hour caregivers in private households in Austria receive comparatively high wages, but these jobs do not offer long-term career development opportunities. Thus, it might be important for young people to have opportunities to put less emphasis on current income and to also invest in professional training that will open up long-term career prospects.
Our research has several methodological implications. First, across research tasks we faced difficulties with the suitability and quality of representative data sets for migration research: the samples are often small and representative data sets and databases might not capture the large variety of existing migration patterns: e.g., commuting, seasonal working, student working, short-term employment, posting, etc. For example, 24-hour care workers usually work in two-week cycles with the primary residence in their home country. Thus, they might not appear in the official statistics of the receiving country, even if their number is considerably high. Furthermore, the analysis of integration patterns of young migrants most likely included a ‘better integrated’ group of recent migrants and those with sufficiently good language skills to participate in the survey. There is therefore a great need for better data about migration.
Second, given the limitations of representative data sets (LFS, ESS), we showed that new sources of data, such as online data (online CVs, web surveys) can be used to analyse labour mobility from perspectives that representative data sets do not allow. Third, our research has shown that comparative frameworks − both from the sending and the receiving country perspectives − can help us understand the role of institutional or macroeconomic factors, or find important differences across countries and over time that help us to better understand underlying causes and consequences of intra-EU mobility. Fourth, because of the diversity of migration patterns, the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods is very useful and it enables us to capture a more holistic picture of youth migration in Europe.