Labour Market Integration of Eastern and Central European Migrants

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW2.3.01 (Tower Two)
Jonas Felbo-Kolding, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
It has now been more than 10 years since the first enlargement of the European Union to the East. Coinciding with the economic boom in most of Western Europe and the consequently massive demand for labour from around 2005 and until the economic downturn in 2008, the enlargement led to a considerable increase in the level of labour migration within the EU in general and particularly from Eastern and Central Europe to Western Europe. The enlargement thus brought with it the first large wave of labour migration to Western Europe since the guest worker schemes of the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

During the years of massive demand, the Eastern and Central European labour migrants had no trouble finding work in Western Europe. Contrary to what many people in Western Europe apparently expected large numbers of labour migrants chose to stay during the crisis. Contrary to previous and current groups of temporary migrants, these labour migrants are expected to have a longer-term relationship with labour markets in the receiving countries in Western Europe.

This prompts the question of how this ‘new’ wave of labour migrants will fare on the labour market over time. Will they end up replicating the occupational mobility path of the guest workers and thereby end up replicating the labour market segmentation of the last large wave of labour migrants? Alternatively, will they succeed in moving up and out of the so-called ‘entry-industries’ either horizontally to other industries with more stable employment opportunities or vertically to better positions in the same workplace, industry or in other industries?

These questions are explored within a theoretical framework informed by theories of the importance of social networks and skills. The paper studies the importance of different social networks for the migrants' immediate and further integration into the labour market while controlling for the effect of human capital. Specifically the paper first maps the social networks of Polish and Romanian labour migrants living in Denmark. Building on the hypothesis that a network which initially helped secure a migrant worker obtain employment in Denmark, may not be the same, which secures the migrant better employment further on, the paper focuses on the importance of these social networks in relation to migrants’ obtaining their first job in Denmark and subsequently in relation to their further labour market integration.

The paper builds on an extensive survey targeted to two representative groups of 500 labour migrants living in Denmark from Poland and Romania respectively and the fact that extensive information since 2008 has been gathered on all workers with any form of labour market income, native or foreign. While the survey gathers information on social networks, previous employment and education in home country and skills obtained before arrival, register data provides information on everything from individual monthly wages, working hours, job transitions, formal education in Denmark, to information on colleagues and employers based on employer filings to the Danish authorities.