Today, the European Commission and the EU Social and Economic partners will sign a 'European Partnership for Integration', laying down key principles and commitments to support and strengthen opportunities for refugees and migrants legally residing in the EU to integrate into the European labour market.
Ahead of the signing ceremony, Commissioner Avramopoulos said: "Early participation in the labour market is crucial for the successful integration of newcomers, and in particular refugees. All actors – public and private - need to do their part to successfully integrate refugees and this is why we want to join forces. Today we are committing ourselves to work together with the Social and Economic Partners to make this a model not just at European but also at national level. This is the only way to make migration a real opportunity for all, both refugees and our societies."
Commissioner Thyssen added: "The best path to social integration is through the labour market. This is why it should also be the safest and the shortest. Today we are taking one more step in this direction as we unite forces with the Social and Economic Partners to tackle the challenges and to seize the opportunities of integrating refugees into the labour market. This will contribute to creating more inclusive labour markets and societies and achieving better and more sustainable outcomes for all, in line with the principles enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights."
Luca Visentini, Secretary-General of ETUC, said: “The ETUC is very pleased to join the partnership to promote labour market integration for asylum seekers and refugees. This is an important achievement. In our view it should be seen as the continuation of social partners' and public authorities' commitment to enhance migrants' employment opportunities and equal treatment everywhere in Europe. We hope that the partnership will boost effective actions and unlock practical support. A change in the EU asylum policy is also needed, shifting from security and border control only to more solidarity and respect of human rights.”
Markus J. Beyrer, Director-General of Business Europe, said: “Many refugees have been granted the right to stay in Europe in the last years. They should be supported in their efforts to be active in labour markets as quickly as possible. Obtaining results is the best way for Europe and its Member States to deliver on our social values. Pragmatism should prevail when adapting legal frameworks to encourage employers to hire refugees.”
Veronique Willems, Secretary-General of UEAPME, said: “Migration in Europe is a fact. Integration is a necessity for society and the economy. It is a shared responsibility of multiple actors. SMEs and their organisations already do a lot for integrating refugees into the labour market but they need stronger support. Working more closely together at all levels is the right way forward”.
Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary of CEEP (European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services and Services of general interest), said: “Employers and providers of public services have a key role to play in supporting the integration of migrants and refugees in Europe. They act both as first responders providing essential services and, later in the process, as employers. Being part of the European Partnership for Integration will help our members to fulfill this two-fold mission, by better supporting and recognising our shared responsibility.”
René Branders, President of the Belgian Federation of Chambers of Commerce and representing Eurochambres, said:“History shows that civilisations which open their doors to immigration have grown and flourished as a consequence. If Europe is to benefit similarly, we need to integrate migrants socially and economically. It is not only a matter of solidarity or morality: it is a matter of evolution in a changing world. This requires a coordinated approach among relevant stakeholders, which is why this Partnership has a valuable role to play.”
Integration can only be effective if all relevant actors play their role: EU Institutions, national and local authorities, Social and Economic partners and civil society organisations. The Partnership for Integration lays down key principles for the integration of refugees into the labour market, including providing support as early as possible, ensuring that integration benefits refugees as well as the economy and society at large and ensuring a multi-stakeholder approach.
Among the commitments the Social and Economic partners have undertaken is the sharing of best practices for labour market integration of refugees, for instance the organisation of mentoring programmes to integrate them into the workplace or facilitating the identification, assessment and documentation of skills and qualifications. They have also committed to promote the Partnership amongst their members, and strengthen cooperation with public authorities at all appropriate levels. The European Commission will endeavour, amongst other things, to promote synergies with EU funds, ensure synergies with other related initiatives at European level and continue to work with relevant EU bodies, groups, committees and networks as well as Social and Economic partners to support the labour market integration of refugees.
The partnership will be signed by Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, and Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility on behalf of the Commission.
In the face of current and future skill shortages and labour market needs, failure to release the potential of refugees in the EU is a considerable waste of resources, both for the individuals concerned and the economy and society as a whole. While investments to train and fully activate the existing work force should continue, refugees — if well integrated — can equally contribute to the EU's labour markets and help address demographic challenges.
According to studies, refugees face significant barriers to accessing employment and they are one of the most vulnerable groups of non-EU nationals in the labour market. In 2014 the employment rate of refugees was 15-20% lower than the level of native-born persons, with women having particularly low employment rates. In addition, refugees are often overqualified for the jobs they do, which is in part due to their lower skills in the host-country's language and in part due to the lack of official or employer recognition of their qualifications.
To support the integration efforts of Member States, the Commission adopted an Action Plan on the integration of third country nationalson 7 June 2016. The New Skills Agenda for Europe, adopted by the Commission on 10 June 2016, launched ten actions to make the right training, skills and support available to people in the EU, including profile assessments for migrants and refugees to upgrade their skills. In particular, the EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals launched in November this year is designed to help national authorities, such as public employment services or integration centres, to map the skills and work experience of third country nationals and thereby facilitate quicker access to employment or training. In some cases, refugees might be able to eventually return home where they can play an important role in further developing or rebuilding their countries with the skills acquired in the EU.
Social and Economic partners are committed to facilitating the labour market integration of refugees. A joint statement of the European Economic and Social partners on the refugee crisis was presented at the Tripartite Social Summit of 16 March 2016. On 23 May 2017, during the second European Dialogue on Skills and Migration, employers and representatives Social and Economic partners discussed the challenges and benefits of integrating third country nationals into the labour market and exchanged good practices.On the same day, the initiative "Employers together for integration" was launched.
The European Social Fund (ESF) is the main funding instrument supporting labour market inclusion, including of migrants. The Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) can also provide funding for preparatory measures to access the labour market. A call for proposals under AMIF was launched in November 2017 (deadline 1 March 2018) to support initiatives by employers and Social and Economic partners to promote the labour market integration of refugees and other migrants.
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