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Coronavirus pandemic brings refugees’ skills to the foreground

Refugees in EU Member States and beyond are stepping up to support local communities in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, despite being one of the most vulnerable groups to the virus.

Although their labour market potential is normally underestimated and underused, the crisis has highlighted refugees’ potential as a remedy for the dramatic human resource shortages countries are currently facing. Refugees are being enlisted for jobs as diverse as doctors (in Ireland), healthcare workers and rubbish collectors (in Austria). When not officially called on to help, they often volunteer in their host communities to do social work, such as disinfecting shopping carts or sewing face masks.

Recognising refugees as an untapped source of human capital, Cedefop has been working since 2018 on a complementary pathway mechanism that would allow refugees to be admitted to an EU receiving country based on their vocational education and training skills and qualifications.

Taking the host countries’ labour market needs into account, such a pairing would directly help Member States address existing – and future – skill gaps in their labour markets, making for a win-win solution. As a bonus, countries making use of this mechanism would demonstrate a willingness to assume their share of responsibility in handling the refugee crisis in Europe.

Cedefop is currently in contact with authorities in Portugal and Finland to investigate the possibility of testing such a mechanism in the EU, hoping it may open the way for other Member States to follow.

You will find a detailed news article on refugees’ potential during the pandemic, with supporting links and references on Cedefop’s news page on adult legal mobility, where relevant news are regularly posted.