As the EU and European governments step up efforts to increase labour migration to face skills shortages, local governments ask to be more involved in the process to help meet the needs of local labour markets and facilitate socio-economic inclusion.
To help fill gaps in the labour market, the EU is currently revising legislation regulating work and residence permits for third-country nationals, while national governments across Europe are looking at ways to attract workers from abroad.
Local and regional authorities are calling to be more involved in the process as well, pointing to their role in fostering inclusion, facilitating recognition of qualifications and providing on-the-ground expertise on labour markets’ needs.
“All government levels need to work together,” said Lukas Mandl, EU lawmaker (EPP) and vice-president of the Assembly of European Regions, adding that facilitating labour migration is key to protecting Europe’s economic competitiveness.
According to Giuseppe Varacalli, member of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), “a lot can be done involving local and regional authorities in labour migration,” especially when it comes to surveying the local market needs and carrying out censuses.
Varacalli authored a CoR opinion on legal migration, which called on the EU to give local and regional authorities more resources to manage labour migration, given their role in checking requirements for legal residence and their knowledge of skills shortages affecting specific regions.
“Every municipality knows their territory’s needs,” Varacalli, who is also a member of the municipal council of the small town of Gerace in Southern Italy, told EURACTIV.
The local and regional level should also be more involved in recognition processes, according to the CoR, which proposed to introduce a local skills recognition system parallel to the national ones to speed up the access of third-country nationals to the labour market.
In Varacalli’s view, the recognition of competences is an “essential element” in attracting skilled workers to European regions and towns.
These processes, however, are often lengthy and complicated and migrants coming to European countries often rely on local organisations to provide administrative support.
Denise Stalder, who works at HEKS MosaiQ Bern in Switzerland, an organisation aiding migrants to access the labour market, said “recognition rules often lead to a waste of competences,” as diplomas earned abroad are not always recognised at the same level.
“We need to find a simpler political way forward,” she told EURACTIV.
For EU countries, the European Commission is currently working in this direction. Later this year, the Commission is expected to propose easier rules to recognise third-country nationals’ qualifications in order to facilitate skilled labour mobility towards the EU.
In Mandl’s view, the EU will need to make sure that the “recognition system is as little bureaucratic as possible”. At the same time, the EU should focus on training opportunities and ways to support local measures on socio-economic integration, he added.
Inclusion through work
According to the CoR, local governments can already help connect migrants to local businesses, but need more support, especially for newcomers wanting to start their own companies.
Some European cities are already encouraging exchanges between migrants and local inhabitants as well as entrepreneurship initiatives. One example is the Spanish municipality of Fuenlabrada, which took part in the IncluCities project promoting migrant integration practices.
“We try to create groups of people, both local and migrant people, in order to look for a job or even set up a company and we try to empower them by [providing] training activities and social skills,” said Juan Carlos Hernández Navas, technical director for city projects in Fuenlabrada.
“These experiences are quite useful not only for employment, but also for integration,” he added.
[Edited by János Allenbach-Ammann/Nathalie Weatherald]