Labour Market Mobility

Labour market integration happens over time and depends on the general policies, context, immigrants' skills and reason for migration. Certain effective employment policies may be too new and small to reach the many non-EU citizen men and women in need, who rarely access any training or benefits.


Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?

Labour market mobility policies qualify as only halfway favourable for promoting equal quality employment over the long-term (49/100). In most countries, family members and permanent residents can access the labour market and job training, as well as social security and assistance. However, full equality of rights and opportunity in the labour market is still far from being achieved, especially in the public sector. Immigrants looking for work can have their academic qualifications recognised and count on public employment services to almost the same extent as national citizens, but cannot rely on strong targeted programmes. This lack of support makes the process particularly complicated for vulnerable groups, such as women and youth.
Immigrants have better access to employment and targeted support in Western Europe – especially in the EU15 – and Canada. The weakest support is provided by India, Indonesia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Slovenia. Employment access, assistance and rights differ significantly across countries, even between the traditional countries of immigration. Immigrant workers enjoy greater targeted support in Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland) and New Zealand. Formal access to the labour market is also fast and facilitated in Argentina and Brazil. Portugal is the only recent destination country with a favourable approach to the labour market, both for immigrant and emigrant workers.

As with the majority of areas of integration, no significant reforms have been observed in the labour market over the last five years in 33 of the 56 MIPEX countries. The MIPEX 56 average score did not change between 2014 and 2019. 16 countries invested in reforms which facilitate labour market integration . Major improvements emerged in Central and Eastern Europe. Some of these reforms are linked to EU law (e.g. Greece, Hungary and Latvia) as they catch up on providing basic support and access to information for immigrant workers and entrepreneurs. Only Argentina, Australia, Denmark and Saudi Arabia have undermined their support for immigrant workers.

Key Findings

Access to labour market

  • Not all foreign residents with the right to work have full, equal access to the labour market. Only 8 of 56 MIPEX countries grant immediate labour market access to all categories of legal residents, while 33 countries delay full access for labour or family migrants. 15 countries deny immediate labour market access for newcomers on temporary permits.
  • Public sector jobs are often only open to national (or EU) citizens.  Equal access to public sector jobs is guaranteed in only 16 countries.
  • Labour market access is most favourable in the US, Canada and Latin America. In contrast, the obstacles are greatest  in Asian countries where - with the exception of China, Israel and Japan - newcomers cannot access work as easily or as quickly as national citizens.
  • Access to self-employment is equal for newcomers in most MIPEX countries (32), with limiting conditions imposed in 15 other countries. In nine countries (France, Latvia, Jordan, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Turkey and the UAE), certain (or most of) sectors and activities are reserved solely for national citizens .

Access to general support

  • Most newcomers can access public employment offices, higher education and vocational training, often thanks to EU law (e.g. in Greece and Latvia). Many temporary residents and workers do not enjoy equal access to the study grants and scholarships they need.
  • Recognition procedures for skills and foreign qualifications differ significantly around the world, with equal access granted in 34 MIPEX countries. 13 countries have different procedures for migrants and nationals, with greater fees and requirements for documents. 9 countries have ad hoc or no procedures for the recognition of titles for certain nationalities or fields of study (Argentina, Greece, France, Hungary, Poland, Ireland, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland).

Targeted support

  • Targeted support is a major area of weakness in most countries. Rarely are general services able to address the specific needs of the foreign-trained or very low-educated, or of migrant women and youth.
  • Targeted language and professional trainings, mentoring and employer incentives are available in only 7 countries (Nordic countries, Germany, Canada and New Zealand).
  • Specific targeted measures for migrant youth and migrant women are available in 10 European countries plus South Korea.

Workers’ rights

  • Permanent residents generally enjoy the same access to social security and assistance as nationals.
  • Access to social security and assistance for temporary residents differs significantly from country to country.
  • Temporary workers and family members enjoy full and equal access in 21 countries (Brazil, Canada, Israel, South Africa and several European countries), but are excluded from parts of the social security system in the majority (35) of countries.


Policies and integration outcomes: What do we learn from robust studies?

Whether immigrants or non-immigrants find a job depends mostly on their skills and the economic and social situation at the time. The emerging labour market mobility policies across MIPEX countries seem to respond to longer-term challenges. These policies can make the labour market fairer for working immigrants by helping them to secure the same types of stable quality jobs that non-immigrants enjoy.

These findings on the links between labour market mobility policies and outcomes emerge from two dozen independent scientific studies using MIPEX. Labour market mobility policies are effective to help working immigrant men and women to gain greater skills and education, careers and public acceptance. Under well-developed policies, immigrant men and women are more likely to improve their language and professional skills in the country and use them effectively to secure better jobs available on labour markets. Labour market mobility policies also help shape public opinion. Under inclusive policies, the public sees immigrants more as an economic opportunity than as a competition or threat.

Better research is needed on whether labour market mobility policies influence other integration outcomes.


New results of MIPEX

We are pleased to announce that the new results of MIPEX (2014-2020) will be published by the end of 2020. MIPEX 2020 will include 52 European and non-European countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, EU28, India, Japan, Mexico, US and much more. Stay tuned!