UNITED NATIONS - Against a backdrop of aging populations and persistently low economic growth, few European governments are doing enough to help recent immigrants move from low-skilled precarious jobs and into decent work, says a new report out today from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Migration Policy Institute.

According to the report, Policies to Get Immigrants into Middle-Skilled Work in Europe, while some countries have made sizeable investments in labour market integration policies throughout the past decade, they have focused primarily on getting immigrants into work. As a result, these policies have struggled to facilitate career progression over time.

‘As our findings demonstrate, despite some promising innovations in some countries there is clearly no quick fix to the problem of immigrants stuck in low-skilled work or unemployment,’ Christiane Kuptsch, Senior Specialist in Migration Policy with the ILO, said. ‘However, strengthening employment and migration policy coherence could yield significant benefits for migrant workers, employers and labour markets,’ she added.

The report examines the labour market progression of recent immigrants in six European Union (EU) countries – Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom – and analyzes policies related to integration and workforce development, with a focus on public employment services and language and vocational training. Specifically, the report outlines the difficulty foreign-born workers face in gaining a secure foothold in the labour market during their first decade after arrival, with many experiencing lengthy periods of unemployment, inactivity or stagnation in low-skilled work.

Indeed, the report found that the employment gaps between native and foreign-born workers not only persist but have widened since the onset of the global economic crisis, with particularly significant effects on women, migrants who come on a visa other than a work visa, and immigrants from outside the European Union.

While Europe has experienced considerable immigration throughout the past 25 years from within and beyond the continent, a majority of immigrants were not selected for their skills and instead arrived through humanitarian channels or as part of family reunification, according to the report. Many who came with sought-after skills found work with ease, particularly during the economic boom of the mid-2000s. Many newcomers, however, have struggled to progress out of the lowest-skilled jobs into stable, middle-skilled positions, in some cases despite having substantial qualifications and experience, the study found.

‘Europe’s demographic prospects make clear that countries can ill afford to squander the potential of their residents – wherever they come from,’ said Demetrios Papademetriou, President Emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute. The report is the result of a research initiative carried out by the Migration Policy Institute in collaboration with the ILO and with funding from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.