How can we develop guidance policy, practice and research to help migrants throughout Europe enter the labour market? To find answers to this question, Cedefop organised a peer learning event on Labour market integration of immigrants in Europe – Implications for guidance policy, practice and research in Thessaloniki, Greece, on 29-30 September 2011.

Migrants: a resource for the ageing European labour market?

The Europe 2020 strategy – the foundation for tackling the employment and skills challenges of the next decade – takes a positive stand on labour migration as a key to increasing growth and competitiveness in the European Union. Removing obstacles to increased labour market participation of migrant and ethnic minorities is important for improving the overall employment level in the Member States as these groups tend to have lower employment rates than host country nationals.

Cedefop reports reveal that migrant and ethnic minorities in Europe are more likely than the indigenous people to experience skill mismatch, unemployment, inactivity and adverse working and living conditions. Their competences are in many cases undervalued and their skills may remain under-utilised in the national labour markets. Therefore, Europe – if it is to remain successful in the global economy – should actively work towards facilitating access to learning and working for its migrant and ethnic minorities.

All this calls for good policy-strategy level cooperation and well-targeted measures from EU institutions and the Member States in the areas of lifelong learning, employment and guidance in the coming years. Moreover, employers’ active involvement in creating culturally diverse work places is vital. They are in a key position to decide whether to open – or to close – the door to the labour market for migrants.


Guidance support for migrants’ labour market integration

The Cedefop event identified several areas where concrete action should be stimulated to improve migrants’ access to employment in Europe. One of the conclusions was that more effective integration strategies should be put in place on the local, regional, national and European levels, and interaction and cooperation between all these levels and among all key stakeholders should be further facilitated in the Member States. Also the voice of the migrant and ethnic communities should be taken more systematically into consideration in the design, development, delivery, management and evaluation of integration measures and related services.

Furthermore, when guidance practitioners support migrants’ access to employment, they should not only give them labour market and/or employer-related information, but be knowledgeable and resourceful enough to provide support for their personal, social, cultural, educational and vocational adjustment and growth at the same time. Ideally information about learning, job and career opportunities should be available to migrant/ethnic groups in their native languages.

The event also concluded that sufficient professional counselling competences form the basis for developing an effective counsellor-counselee relationship, for providing ethically correct services and for implementing guidance interventions that will be useful to the culturally diverse service users. Consequently, improved opportunities for continuing professional development for guidance practitioners should be made available so as to equip them with proper multicultural competences as well as raise their awareness of topics closely linked to social inclusion of migrants, such as human rights issues.

Finally, guidance service delivery is rarely evaluated in a formal way, and specifically this concerns the information, advice and guidance services available to migrant and ethnic people. Therefore, more research attention should be given to the evaluation of guidance services targeting the given clientele. Currently the evidence base is often far too limited for the national/regional/local policy- and decision-makers to understand which guidance measures are effective and why.


Cedefop’s future action

These event-based findings will be taken onboard in the study that Cedefop aims at carrying out in 2012 to map out how the national policies and strategies of the Member States address the information and guidance needs of adult migrants (25-64 years) as well as how they support the labour market integration of migrant workers. This EU-wide study will also identify good guidance practices that contribute to raising qualification levels and improving the employability of adult migrants in order to facilitate their (re)entry to the labour market.

All event materials are available at the event website.