EU labour markets from boom to recession: are foreign workers more excluded or better adapted?

Fernando Gil-Alonso, Universitat de Barcelona
Elena Vidal-Coso, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

The paper’s aim is to use Eurostat’s European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) data to analyse, under an EU cross-country comparative perspective, foreigner’s labour market insertion in Europe during two contrasting and successive periods. On the one hand, the economic expansion period, focusing on foreigners’ insertion in their economic sectors and therefore comparing these patterns to those of local workers. On the other, the impact of 2008 recession on these previous patterns. Indeed, between 1995 and 2007, the European Union experienced positive migratory growth; however, inflow size was extremely diverse, the highest relative increases being at Southern EU countries and Ireland. There, this massive arrival of foreign immigrants seemed to complement educational, social and labour promotion of the autochthonous (especially female) workforce. This upwards mobility would, in turn, have attracted foreign workers who, in segmented or dual labour markets, fill the vacant jobs in low-paid, highly flexible sectors that national workers do not want, or are no longer able, to cover. According to this hypothesis, which we intend to verify in the paper’s first section, each of the host societies’ specific socio-demographic and labour market characteristics –and not “replacement migration” triggered by decreasing size of birth cohorts entering the labour market– would explain inflow differences among EU countries. From 2008 onwards, recession has however changed previous trends, weakening local workers’ promotion, decreasing foreigners’ job opportunities, and raising both populations’ unemployment. The second section focuses on this recent period, where, following the ‘segmented labour market’ logics, we do not only intend to assess the crisis impact on each of the Member States’ population by sex and nationality, but also to study how autochthonous people and foreigners have been affected –either by being expelled from the labour market, by weakening their working conditions, or by redirecting them to specific occupational sectors.

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Presented in Session 41: Immigrant labor market outcomes

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