Knowledge for policy
Briefing 24 April 2020

Immigrant Key Workers: Their Contribution to Europe's COVID-19 Response

JRC120537

This note describes the contribution of migrant workers to the ongoing effort to keep basic services running in the Union during the COVID-19 epidemic. We quantify the prevalence of migrant workers in the so called "key professions" that the Commission and Member States have identified using the most recent wave of the EU Labour Force Survey.

Key Messages

  • According to our estimates, on average approximately 31% of employed working-age individuals are key workers in the EU. This share is highly heterogeneous across Member countries, varying from more than 40% in Denmark and France to just above 10% in Bulgaria and Slovenia.
  • The largest fi ve categories of key workers in the EU are: teaching professionals (14.5%), skilled agricultural workers (11.9%), science and engineering associate professionals (11.1%), personal care workers (10.3%) and cleaners and helpers (9.9%).
  • Six categories of key occupations - personal care workers, cleaners and helpers, health associated professionals, teaching professionals, health professionals and personal service workers - are clearly female-dominated, while all the others have a majority of male workers. This pattern is similar for both native and immigrant workers.
  • Even if the majority of key workers are Native, Extra-EU migrants and EU mobile citizens are essential in fi lling vital roles, keeping European economies functioning: On average 13% of key workers are immigrants in the EU.
  • In some occupations - e.g. cleaners and helpers and labourers in mining and construction - up to a third of key workers are foreign born.
  • The contribution of the migrant workforce to Europe's effort in keeping vital sections of the economy operational is heterogeneous across Member States, mainly reflecting existing differences in the share of migrant workers over the total workforce.
  • EU mobile workers are generally contributing in equal measure to key occupations compared to Natives.
  • In many Member States, Extra-EU migrants are overrepresented among the key workers, this is especially true for low skilled Extra-EU migrants who are overrepresented among the low skilled key workers.
  • Migrant workers (and especially Extra-EU ones) are over-represented in low-skill key professions (e.g. personal care workers in health service, drivers, transport and storage labourers, food processing workers).