Determining labour shortages and the need for labour migration from third countries in Belgium and in the EU (EMN)

This study examines the interconnection between labour shortages in the Member States and labour migration policies from third countries to Member States.

Background information

The EU labour market is expected to face important future challenges of a quantitative and qualitative nature: the ageing population will affect the quantity of the labour supply and rapid technological changes and the increasing demand for certain skills will affect the categories of professions and occupations required on the labour market. To promptly respond to such challenges, it is particularly important to anticipate needs by carrying out labour market analyses. On the basis of such analyses, managing labour migration, according to the economic needs, is a way to respond to such challenges.

The aim of the study is to analyze (i) the role of labour migration as a channel to overcome labour shortages; (ii) the variety of instruments used to identify and monitor labour shortages at EU and national level (such as employer surveys, forecasts and qualitative studies); and (iii) the extent to which these instruments are used in designing labour migration policy at national level.

Belgian study

The Belgian report was executed by researchers from the Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy (University of Antwerp), commissioned by the Belgian EMN contact point. This study provides information on:

  • The Belgian national labour migration policy and recent public and policy debates on labour migration in Belgium
  • The instruments used to identify current and future labour and skills shortages and for anticipating the need for labour migration
  • The outcomes of labour migration policies in relation to shortage occupations monitored in Belgium

The study shows that Belgium, through its regions, has extensive experience in detecting labour market shortages (e.g. through shortage occupation lists, employer surveys, prospective studies, etc.). However, the link with labour migration is not fully developed. Belgium’s labour migration system is largely based on the individual labour market needs of employers, and it only accommodates labour shortages directly and indirectly to a certain degree.

The Belgian study is available in English and in French.

EU Synthesis

The Synthesis report is based on contributions from EMN National Contact Points in 25 Member States. The EMN Inform summarizes the findings from the study.

Among other key points, the synthesis report highlights:

  • Most Member States view migration as part of a wider strategy to address labour shortages, but they differ in the relative importance that they give to labour migration in comparison to other measures.
  • Two main approaches have been identified: a supply-centred ‘human capital’ approach, where admission frameworks are adjusted in order to attract migrants with characteristics that will place them in a favourable position for labour market insertion; and a demand-centred approach, that involves granting accelerated or simplified admission to migrants seeking employment in previously identified shortage occupations. In practice, the two models often interact.
  • In countries where the human capital model has been adopted, facilitating highly-skilled labour migration is not seen as a tool for addressing labour shortages but rather as an instrument for encouraging innovation and the move toward a ‘knowledge economy’.
  • In line with the demand driven model, Member States have adopted a variety of policy measures to adjust/modify their labour migration policies in light of labour market shortages, including exemptions from labour market tests or reduced minimum income threshold requirements.
  • Identifying labour market shortages is a practice that is common to the vast majority of Member States and a wide range of methodologies are used, including taking stock of the number of unfilled vacancies, surveys, sector analysis and qualitative studies.
  • Twenty-one Member States produce shortage occupation lists. They make different uses of these shortage lists (e.g. explicit instrument for determining the admission of third countries workers; used for some specific aspects of the migration policy…).
  • Most Member States monitor labour migration in general; however, only a few monitor the impact of migration on shortage occupations, and some do so only to a limited extent or on an ad-hoc basis.

For additional information, please read the full synthesis report in attachment (available in English, Dutch and French). You can also read the European Commission’s press release.

Publication Date:
Tue 30 Jun 2015
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