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How your birthplace affects your workplace

This policy brief by Eurofound examines the differences in employment rates and conditions between natives and the foreign-born population (both EU and non-EU) in European countries. The brief also looks at differences between first-generation migrants and the second generation (i.e. those born in the country where they reside with at least one parent born outside) and makes recommendations based on its findings.

One’s birthplace and their parents’ birthplace have a major impact on working life. Generally, having a foreign background has a negative influence on employment prospects, but this varies significantly depending on factors like sex and whether one is part of the first or second generation.

Employment rates

  • Second-generation individuals with at least one parent born in the EU had the highest employment rates (81%), followed by natives (79%), based on 2014 statistics. First-generation migrants with a non-EU background had the lowest employment rate (66%).
  • The labour market disadvantage faced by women is exacerbated by having a foreign background, though second-generation women (both EU and non-EU) had lower unemployment rates than their male counterparts.

Working conditions

  • The second generation are more likely to occupy high-skilled, high-paying jobs compared to both natives and the first generation.
  • First-generation migrants are more likely to work in the poorest quality jobs and are strongly overrepresented in elementary occupations. They are less likely to have a permanent, full-time job than natives and more likely to feel job insecurity and have difficulty making ends meet.
  • Both the first and second generations are more likely to report having experienced discrimination at work than natives.

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is an EU Agency with the role of providing knowledge in the area of social, employment and work-related policies.

Isabella Biletta, Tina Weber, Julie Vanderleyden and Nils Brandsma
Posted by:
Monica Li (Migration Policy Group)