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

This note, part of the European Commission's "Knowledge for policy" series, describes the contribution of migrant workers to the ongoing effort to keep basic services running in the Union during the COVID-19 epidemic. The authors 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 findings

  • The authors find that, on average, approximately 31% of employed working-age individuals are key workers in the EU. This share is highly heterogeneous across Member countries.
  • The five largest 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%).
  • 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.
  • In many Member States, Extra-EU migrants are overrepresented among key workers. This is especially true for low-skilled Extra-EU migrants who are overrepresented among low-skilled key workers.
  • Migrant workers (and especially Extra-EU ones) are overrepresented in low-skill key professions (e.g. personal care workers in health service, drivers, transport and storage labourers, food processing workers).
  • 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 the others have a majority of male workers. This pattern is similar for both native and immigrant workers.

Read the note

Francesco Fasani, Jacopo Mazza
Beitrag von:
Monica Li (Migration Policy Group)