The labour market integration of third-country nationals in Belgium and in the EU (EMN)

This EMN study examines the measures in place in the Member States and Norway to facilitate the integration of third-country nationals on the labour market. The study also identifies good practices from public and private actors.

Background information

The integration of migrants into the host societies is one of the key challenges and a condition of successful migration. The integration of third-country nationals may be a lengthy process, but it offers many advantages to both the third-country nationals as well as the host Member State and the EU in general. According to the “European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals”, integration policies can act as a driver for “economic development and social cohesion”. One of the key elements of migrant integration is labour market integration.

Integration is a common objective, but each Member State had adopted a different approach, as the field of integration policies falls under the competence of each Member State. In this framework, this EMN study examines the measures in place in the Member States and Norway to facilitate the integration of third-country nationals on the labour market.

The study focuses on labour market integration measures for regularly staying third-country nationals with the right to work, including third-country national family members of EU citizens and third-country nationals. Specific measures that are only designed for beneficiaries of international protection, applicants for international protection, or students, are excluded from this study.

EU Synthesis Report

The effective integration of migrants into the labour markets of EU countries is a key challenge. While unemployment rates have been decreasing steadily since 2014, the gap between unemployment rates of third-country nationals and that of native and EU-born remains. The study, “Labour Market Integration of Third-Country Nationals in EU Member States”, focuses on first generation migrants legally staying in EU countries, who have the right to work.

Key learning points of the study include:

  • integration programmes are more successful with long-term structural national funding
  • setting clear targets for the impact of integration measures rather than the effectiveness of implementation helps identify good practices and evaluate initiative
  • the private sector is a valuable complement to public sector integration measures; while the public-sector focuses on providing skills to find employment (such as how to search for a job), the private sector focuses on measures integrating migrant workers to workplaces, such as training and enhancing intercultural relations

Belgian report

The labour market integration of third-country nationals (and more generally speaking, of people of foreign origin) is poor in Belgium. There are important employment rate gaps between third-country nationals (and people of foreign origin) and people of Belgian origin. This employment rate gap is even more pronounced for women.

This situation is linked to a combination of factors. The Socio-Economic Monitoring Report 2017- which is prepared by the Federal Public Service Employment, Work and Social Dialogue and Unia - identified two sets of factors: the structural characteristics of the Belgian labour market (e.g. strong labour market segmentation); and the specific difficulties faced by foreign nationals and people of foreign origin (e.g. discrimination).

In this context, facilitating the (labour market) integration of foreign nationals and people of foreign origin is often presented as a priority in Belgium. Different approaches have been adopted as to how to address this issue: given that the different aspects related to (labour market) integration are largely a competence of the federated entities (i.e. the Regions and the Communities), policies, practices, actors involved, and budgets attributed to (labour market) integration differ from one entity to another.

General integration policies and measures specifically targeted at certain third-country nationals have recently been developed or reinforced (e.g. the mandatory integration programmes).

Regarding integration on the labour market more specifically, third-country nationals have access to a wide range of support measures, provided by different actors (most notably the Regional Public Employment Services and their partners). Most of these measures do not focus exclusively on the third-country nationals included in the scope of this study, but usually on all job seekers or on broader targets groups. However, more tailored approaches – which focus on guiding certain target groups towards the appropriate employment related services on the basis of their needs - have recently been adopted (e.g.  2016-2018 Action Plan “Integration through work” of the Flemish Public Employment Service VDAB targeting foreign language job seekers with a migration background ; or measures taken in 2016 by the Walloon Government to facilitate the labour market integration of certain newcomers).

The report also provides a few examples of interesting practices of the public and private sector.

Publication Date:
Wed 20 Feb 2019
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