Research project

The Labour Market Integration of New Immigrants in Europe: Analysis and Policy Evaluation

This research project undertaken between October 2012 and December 2014 by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and ILO-MIGRANT, thanks to funding from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, aimed at providing an integrated picture of the role of policies in facilitating newly-arrived immigrants’ access to the labour market and to middle-skilled jobs.

The project followed a three-phase analytical approach, combining quantitative and qualitative analysis with expert consultations. The core of the research comprised detailed case studies of both labour-market integration trajectories and labour-market integration policy systems in six EU countries: the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The case studies were selected to provide a spread of different demographic, economic and social contexts.

Main objectives

  • Produce new empirical evidence on the labour-market integration trajectories of recently arrived immigrants.
  • Provide an integrated picture of the role of policies in facilitating newly-arrived immigrants’ access to the labour market and to middle-skilled jobs.
  • Examine concrete steps that governments can take to ensure that immigrant-integration policies and the broader system of workforce-development, training, and employment programmes support new arrivals’ access to well-paying, stable jobs.

Policy themes

  • Labour market integration
  • Migration and efficient use of human resources
  • Geographical and occupational mobility
  • Workforce development (vocational training, language training)
  • Employment services
  • Policy coordination

Key messages

  • The employment gaps between native and foreign-born workers not only persist but have widened since the onset of the global economic crisis of 2008-09, 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 some EU countries have made sizeable investments in labour market integration policies over 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.
  • Europe’s demographic prospects make clear that countries can ill afford to squander the potential of their residents — wherever they come from.
  • There is clearly no quick fix to the problem of immigrants stuck in low-skilled work or unemployment but there are promising innovations in some countries (and the project documents these).


The project offers a series of recommendations for policy makers to consider, including:
  • Improving the incentives for public employment agencies to serve the needs of migrants and developing a better-trained and/or more specialized workforce of advisors to provide both short- and longer-term career advice — rather than focusing exclusively on getting people to work as quickly as possible in any job.
  • Funding partnerships between employers and training institutions to assist employers willing to facilitate language instruction or support apprenticeships and work experience programmes.
  • Breaking down siloes between ministries /agencies and policy areas and improving the coordination of policies enacted at federal, state and local levels, while promoting common goals, information sharing and mutual accountability for integration outcomes.
  • More effective evaluation of innovative labour market integration programmes and monitoring of their impacts over the long term

Project synthesis report:

Aiming Higher: Policies to Get Immigrants into Middle-Skilled Work in Europe
By Meghan Benton, Madeleine Sumption, Kristine Alsvik, Susan Fratzke, Christiane Kuptsch, and Demetrios G. Papademetriou
November 2014


The first, more data-oriented phase of the project included country case studies that consider the influence of individual characteristics and broader economic conditions on the employment prospects of foreign-born workers. The findings were summarized and compared in an analytical overview report.

Overview report:

Moving Up or Standing Still? Access to Middle-Skilled Work for Newly Arrived Migrants in the European Union
By Meghan Benton, Susan Fratzke, and Madeleine Sumption
July 2014

Country data studies:

A Work in Progress: Prospects for Upward Mobility Among New Immigrants in Germany
By Nadia Granato
June 2014

Moving Up the Ladder? Labor Market Outcomes in the United Kingdom amid Rising Immigration
By Tommaso Frattini
May 2014

Slow Motion: The Labor Market Integration of New Immigrants in France
By Patrick Simon and Elsa Steichen
May 2014

Catching Up: The Labor Market Outcomes of New Immigrants in Sweden
By Pieter Bevelander and Nahikari Irastorza
April 2014

A Tumultuous Decade: Employment Outcomes of Immigrants in the Czech Republic
By Daniel Münich
March 2014

A Precarious Position: The Labor Market Integration of New Immigrants in Spain
By Núria Rodríguez-Planas and Natalia Nollenberger
March 2014


The subsequent research looked at structural and institutional issues. It evaluated the effectiveness of integration and workforce development policies in helping immigrant workers overcome barriers and move up into middle-skilled positions. In particular, the research assesses three core policy categories that shape immigrants’ entry into the labour market and their ability to gain locally relevant skills and put their existing skills to good use: 1) employment services; 2) work-relevant language learning; and 3) vocational training.

Country policy reports:

Building an Integration System: Policies to Support Immigrants’ Progression in the Czech Labor Market
By Dušan Drbohlav and Ondřej Valenta
October 2014

Shifting Focus: Policies to Support the Labor Market Integration of New Immigrants in France
By Mirna Safi
October 2014

Investing in the Future: Labor Market Integration Policies for New Immigrants in Germany
By Carola Burkert and Anette Haas
October 2014

Turning a Corner? How Spain Can Help Immigrants Find Middle-Skilled Work
ByRaúl Ramos
October 2014

Benign Neglect? Policies to Support Upward Mobility for Immigrants in the United Kingdom
By Rachel Marangozov
October 2014

No Quick Fix: Policies to Support the Labor Market Integration of New Arrivals in Sweden
By Henrik Emilsson
September 2014

Conference in Brussels

The project results were also presented during a day-long conference in Brussels in November 2014, where panellists discussed among other things the dynamics by which migrants get stuck in low-skilled work and the role of training and employment services in helping them progress. This event was audio and video recorded and can be accessed at:

For additional information on this project and related issues, please also see:

About the Project

This research project conducted by the Migration Policy Institute and the International Labour Office was undertaken with the financial assistance of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion. It has received financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation "EaSI" (2014-2020). For further information please consult: The contents of this page and any views expressed in the research reports can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Commission.