An opportunity for all: the potential for social dialogue in UK labour market integration

An opportunity for all: the potential for social dialogue in UK labour market integration

The findings elaborated in the UK report are underpinned by a mixed methods approach through the analysis of responses from the UK to our online survey and an analysis of interviews with key social partners from across the UK. Our findings explore the strategies and activities of social partners in the sphere of migration and asylum; they highlight both the barriers and the enablers to labour market integration for migrants and refugees through the prism of social partners and explore the existence as well as the potential for an effective social dialogue that can meet the needs of migrant and refugee workers in the UK.

Our findings present a perspective that highlights an opportunity for new forms of dialogue to emerge between organisations that are strategically well positioned in the UK economy. For example, contrary to the discourses and policies that have come to construct the hostile environment for migrants and refugees in the UK, social partners indicated to us that they perceive those arriving in the country to be assets rather than burdens and possessing skills that can contribute to the vibrancy of both the economy and society. What is striking however is that our findings from both survey respondents and interviewees indicate that despite migrants and refugees offering clear potential, the opportunities for them to do so are perceived as being limited, with most of the social partners who participated in our study pointing towards the failure of existing policies as one of the key factors inhibiting the realisation of this potential.

Moreover, we found that the social partners we interviewed were engaged in initiatives that can have clear benefits for those newly arriving in the country, with efforts from trade unions to combat xenophobia in the workplace and the community, dedicated initiatives from some employer representative organisations and social economy partners to help migrants and refugees either find employment or embark on entrepreneurship which was often accompanied by a recognition of the need for a holistic approach to integration, one which understood the importance of addressing issues that can be crucial determining factors for successful integration such as affordable housing, childcare and public transport. Despite some consensus evident around such issues among our participants, we identified some discord including around the impact of temporary employment, with some social partners indicating that non-standard forms of employment were creating potential issues for integration while others suggesting that such roles offered a pathway to more sustainable work.

The building of consensus of any kind does of course involve dialogue and there were indications from our findings that social partners in the UK do engage in dialogue with other organisations and with policymakers. However, these efforts often lack cross-sectoral initiatives that act in coordination to directly address the needs of migrant and refugee workers in the UK. This represents a gap in the architecture of labour market integration for migrants and asylum seekers in the UK and perhaps an opportunity for social partners to recognise that on the specific issue of labour market integration they are well positioned to build upon their existing knowledge to act in concert and engage policymakers at different levels of governance in the UK to help realise the potential that migrants and refugees can offer.     


Authors: Thomas Montgomery and Simone Baglioni

If you want to know more about the UK social partners role in the integration of migrants, refugees and asylum applicants into labour markets, please have a look here at our UK Chapter in our WP5 Report (157-175).