France recently witnessed a political crisis following the passing of President Emmanuel Macron’s immigration bill, which aims to tighten regulations and limit the rights of migrants. The bill, supported by the far-right and conservatives, includes measures such as ending the principle of Jus soli, which grants French nationality to children born on French soil regardless of their parents’ origins. It also imposes stricter requirements for welfare benefits and removes certain privileges for undocumented migrants.
While France is moving to limit the rights of migrants, recent research reveals the country’s reliance on immigrant workers, particularly in critical sectors. A study by the CEPII, a research center focused on the world economy, highlights the significant presence of immigrant workers in sectors such as cleaning, home help, and even hospital doctors in France.
However, France is not unique in this regard. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign-born workers, especially non-EU immigrants, were disproportionately represented in critical sectors across most EU countries. The research compared the probability of native-born and immigrant workers being employed in essential sectors, considering various factors such as age, gender, professional experience, education levels, and marital status. The results showed that immigrants were more likely to work in essential sectors than native-born individuals in almost two-thirds of EU countries. This trend was particularly notable in Italy, the United Kingdom, and the Nordic countries.
When examining low-skilled jobs in key sectors, the disparity was even more prominent. Immigrants were over-represented in the cleaning sector in three-quarters of the surveyed countries. In sectors like transport and health, immigrants also remained over-represented in about half of the countries surveyed, including the UK, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Sweden.
The research suggests that individual characteristics alone cannot explain this over-representation. Structural barriers, such as institutional, linguistic, legal, or discriminatory obstacles, likely contribute to the disadvantage faced by immigrants in the labor market. The study also found that age at the time of emigration played a significant role in employment rates. Immigrants who emigrated at a younger age had a comparative advantage in language learning and possessed cultural and educational backgrounds more conducive to labor market integration.
Furthermore, education and professional experience acquired abroad were less valued than those obtained in the host country. Immigrants educated abroad were more likely to experience unemployment or work in positions for which they were overqualified compared to immigrants with qualifications obtained in the host country.
Additionally, the study revealed that immigrants from other EU member countries had similar job prospects to natives with the same profile. However, non-EU immigrants faced significantly lower employment prospects, largely due to racial and ethnic discrimination.
The over-representation of immigrants in key sectors seems to be influenced by the labor market’s dynamics, such as higher demand, a significant number of part-time employees, active job-seeking, a prevalence of over-qualification, and low professional status. This trend is more prevalent in countries where essential sectors are distinct from the rest of the national economy.
Despite France’s efforts to limit the rights of migrants, their significant contribution in critical sectors cannot be overlooked. In fact, depriving the country of their expertise and skills may have detrimental effects on both the host country and the immigrants themselves. As an alternative, suggestions have been made to improve the professional mobility and integration of non-EU workers into the labor market, such as considering the possibility of opening up civil servant positions to non-Europeans.
While France grapples with its political crisis, it is essential to recognize the vital role immigrants play in various sectors and explore avenues for their effective integration that benefit all parties involved.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it