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Labour market integration of asylum seekers and refugees

Written by Anita Orav.

© Fotofreundin / Adobe Stock
© Fotofreundin / Adobe Stock

Migration to the European Union from third countries has been substantial over the past few decades, as Europe has historically been considered a continent of relative economic prosperity and political stability. While many foreign-born individuals arrive in the European Union (EU) to work, pursue studies or join family members, the EU also experienced a peak of irregular arrivals beginning in 2014 and only starting to subside in 2016. Those large migratory flows included a substantial number of asylum-seekers and refugees fleeing war and instability in their home countries. As host societies, EU Member States are required to facilitate their integration, i.e. their acceptance in society and ability to access different services and the labour market.

EU law envisages access to employment for refugees as soon as they are granted refugee status, or for asylum-seekers at the latest within nine months of lodging an asylum application. However, employment rates for migrants in general, and refugees and asylum-seekers in particular, are persistently lower than those of native-born populations. Moreover, they are more likely to be employed in low-skilled occupations that have high automation potential in the future. If this potential is exploited through the use of artificial intelligence and digitalisation, the European economy is expected to see a decline in low-skilled employment. To ensure that migrants’ skills will match the future EU labour market, focus should be turned to facilitating the proper recognition of their qualifications, as well as to upgrading their education and skills. The EU supports Member States’ integration efforts through its EU action plan on integration and inclusion.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Labour market integration of asylum seekers and refugees‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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