Helping immigrants and their children find work should be a priority, says OECD


17/11/2008 - Immigrants in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Portugal are more likely to be unemployed or doing a job for which they are overqualified than people born in that country. Their children, even if born in the country and having left school with qualifications, also find it hard to find work, according to a new OECD report.

Jobs for Immigrants: Labour Market Integration in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Portugal says that, with more and more children of immigrants leaving school and trying to find a job, helping them should be a priority.

Looking ahead, the report warns that immigrants, especially new arrivals, are often among the hardest hit in economic downturns, as many have low-skilled jobs or work in cyclical sectors, such as construction. Given the likely rise in unemployment in many OECD countries, the report urges governments to continue investing in policies to boost the job prospects of immigrants to help their long-term integration.

Traineeships and mentoring programmes for immigrant jobseekers in Belgium and France have helped many find full-time work, the report notes. Belgium has also put in place proactive anti-discrimination and diversity policies, including increased funding for schools with more immigrants and cutting social security charges for firms that hire immigrants. These initiatives show promise, the report notes, but their long-term impact needs closer evaluation.

Better use should be made of the skills of highly-qualified immigrants. Countries should improve their assessment and recognition of qualifications and work-experience gained in non-OECD countries, and make the process more transparent.

Portugal is the only country of the four where the employment rate of immigrants is higher than that of the native-born, and for both men and women. This is largely because recent migration flows to Portugal have been to meet labour shortages. But it has also taken an innovative approach to welcoming immigrants, through a network of immigrant support centres.

The report highlights the positive impact of naturalisation on labour market outcomes for immigrants. The pro-active naturalisation policies in Belgium and France seem to have had a significant impact, it says.

It points to the potential role of the public sector, a major employer in OECD countries, in boosting immigrant employment rates. In the Netherlands, the longstanding, active role of the public sector as an employer has compensated for a worrying decline in private sector employment for the native-born children of immigrants. However in France the situation is reversed, with private-sector employment of immigrants proportionately higher than in the public sector. The government should prioritise addressing this imbalance.

See the country notes on BelgiumFrance, the Netherlands and Portugal for details about the OECD's analysis and policy recommendations. This is the 2nd volume in the Jobs for Immigrants: Labour Market Integration series. Volume 1, released in 2007, covered Australia, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

Journalists can obtain a copy of Jobs for Immigrants (Vol 2): Labour Market Integration in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Portugal by contacting OECD's Media Division (tel. +331 4524 9700). For further information, please contact Thomas Liebig (; Tel: 33 1 45 24 90 68) or  Georges Lemaître (, Tel: 33 1 45 24 91 63) in the OECD’s Non Member Economies and International Migration Division.

For additional information, please see


Related Documents