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  • New Annual Report – Edition 2023!

    A serious employment challenge

    And now? We still have a serious challenge ahead of us. Only 5% of them have already found a job, and if the figures for recent years are anything to go by, the outlook for their professional future is not encouraging. For a number of years now, Belgium has had one of the biggest gaps in Europe in terms of access to employment between people from non-EU countries and people born in Belgium. This situation is not only unfavourable to the migrants themselves – work is more than just a source of income, it is a powerful lever for inclusion, a means of self-fulfilment and social recognition – but it also threatens the prosperity of our country. This waste of skills is absurd in a context of labour shortages and given the ambition to achieve an employment rate of 80% in all regions of our country.

    The causes of the disadvantage suffered by migrants have already been identified on numerous occasions by labour market experts. We have been observing them in the field for nearly 10 years. The barriers are linked first and foremost to the context of the Belgian labour market: ethnostratification, discrimination in recruitment and mismatches between supply and demand. Other obstacles are linked to the fact of undertaking a professional integration process in a new country. First-time arrivals in particular come up against language barriers, the complexity of procedures linked to the recognition of their diplomas and skills, the lack of a professional network and knowledge of the labour market and its codes.

    Difficulties in accessing basic services, and therefore the conditions needed to devote oneself calmly to the search for employment, can also delay or even hinder the process of professional integration: decent housing, good (mental) health, childcare, a (minimum) income, a stable family life, etc.

    Now that the situation is clear, what can be done to facilitate the integration of recent arrivals, particularly Ukrainians, for the benefit of everyone?

    A customised solution…in a redesigned context

    There is a recurring dilemma: is the shortest route to employment the most effective route to sustainable socio-professional integration for newcomers? It’s a well-known fact that long-term exclusion from the labour market becomes a handicap and reduces the chances of finding a job afterwards. Yes, but hasty activation increases the risk of confining newcomers to unattractive, insecure jobs with no prospect of social mobility, leading them to drop out quickly (see the recent publication by Dries Lens). (see the recent publication by Dries Lens)

    What’s the answer? The answer surely lies at the intersection of these two ideas. At an individual level, a process of sustainable professional inclusion should be envisaged for each newcomer. Not only to ensure an increase in the employment rate, but also to ensure the permanence and quality of jobs and the right ‘match’ between the person and the job. And that takes time, because we need to restore people’s confidence and give them the keys to developing these prospects. To achieve this, a personalised, intensive assessment and support on the road to employment, such as that provided by a mentor, is a key lever! Structurally, if the objective is indeed to accelerate or at least facilitate access to the labour market for newcomers, the first step is to create the human and social conditions for access to the labour market. At the same time, we need to tackle the structural causes of inequality in the labour market for all people of immigrant background. Avenues for action are already on the table. Starting work to put an end to these inequalities is probably the most urgent thing we can do.