WP5 Report - Social Partners Enablers and Barriers
Simone Baglioni and Thomas Montgomery
This report details the findings of the role that social partners and social dialogue can play enabling or not the integration of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the European labour market. Social partners play a key role in labour market dynamics as they contribute towards determining the policy and legal frameworks that shape labour markets, but also the social, political and economic trends in which labour markets are embedded. Therefore, an examination of social partners’ understanding of the newcomers’ capacities and their appreciation of opportunities and challenges to be addressed is unavoidable in any research willing to understand how to facilitate unlocking the employment potential of migrants, refugees and asylum applicants. This study presents findings from a four-month long process of field work of interviews with social partners (gathering overall 123 interviews) complemented by an experts’ survey which managed to collect responses from 293 additional social partners’ representatives across our seven countries (Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Finland, Italy, Switzerland and the UK).
The experts’ responses reveal that some of the key issues that had been discussed by extant studies, and in particular the dilemmas faced by unions vis-a’-vis migrants (e.g. if they are to include them among their beneficiaries and members, how to mitigate the potential competitive spirals newcomers bring in the receiving society labour markets, how to avoid social/wage dumping, etc..) are still relevant. Our data also show the social partners’ awareness about the higher (than local workers) risks migrants incur for their health and safety due to the poor regulations of migration and asylum which often confine newcomers to employment in the irregular economy, or to jobs requiring lower skills, leading to wasted talent, demotivation, and potential social isolation. However, our study also reveals the appreciation that social partners have of newcomers’ skills, of their potential for the wellbeing of our societies and economies, a potential which very often remains unrealised. This is due to reasons that are at a time pertinent to our society’s regulation of migration (migration and asylum law, recognition of skills and educational attainment levels, services to improve newcomers’ capacities to adapt to our labour markets, etc..) and a time connected with the characteristics of the migrants themselves (language proficiency, social capital, personal well-being and health). Such results are fully consistent with the analyses we have carried out in previous work packages, providing us with robust (triangulated) evidence about the further efforts policy makers, but social partners too, should engage in.
What we can take from this analysis of social partners is the need for both policy makers at various levels of government and social partners to commit to create further social dialogue opportunities. Too few cases of social dialogue have occurred across our seven countries in the field of labour migration, but social dialogue seems to us a (if not the) fundamental tool to solve problems occurring in such a polarized domain of migration, and in what is even a more contentious one, that of labour migration. Rather than leaving space to single-actor claims and activities, even when these are very positive in problem solving –see our country reports in the following sections for examples about how unions and employers solve problems in labour migration—we should encourage a more coordinated multi-actor effort based on dialogue and mutual understanding, as represented by social dialogue.