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Research points to discrimination in European hiring practices

A study has revealed that immigrant children experience high levels of discrimination when entering the labour market.

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The successful integration of migrants contributes to the future well-being, prosperity and cohesion of any society. However, labour market inequalities involving immigrants and minorities act as a barrier to the efficient use of existing human capital and growth. The rising share of migrants and their descendants in Europe poses a major policy challenge, where their incorporation and the successful management of labour mobility play an essential role. Supported by the EU-funded GEMM project, a recent study on hiring procedures in Europe concluded that children of immigrants face discrimination when accessing the labour market. The findings of the research are summarised in a news release by project partner Charles III University of Madrid (UC3M). The researchers analysed whether the children of immigrants – a majority of their parents were born outside the EU – are joining the labour force with equal conditions as those whose parents are native-born. The analysis was based on the employment practices of over 19 000 companies in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Norway. “For that purpose, they compared the response the candidates received from the companies analyzed with candidates who had CVs with identical features, but with native-born parents. In this way, the degree of discrimination in each of the countries in the study is estimated.” Discrimination in employment The results showed “the existence of worrying levels of discrimination when accessing employment for children of immigrants in all of the countries analyzed.” The highest levels of discrimination were observed in Great Britain and Norway, while Germany and Spain had the lowest levels of discrimination among all the countries examined. According to Dr Javier Polavieja, project head at UC3M, “the results for Spain are especially relevant if we take into account that our country has experienced the most severe economic crisis of all the countries in the study, and furthermore, that the crisis was preceded by the largest increase in the flow of immigration experienced in Europe, this could have led us to expect that Spain would be among the countries that discriminate the most, not the least.” He adds: “It seems that the mechanism behind discrimination is not lack of information, but rather the prejudicial attitudes and stereotypes held by employers, or perhaps their unconscious discriminatory behaviours.” The GEMM (Growth, Equal Opportunities, Migration and Markets) project ended in 2018. It was set up to analyse the obstacles to the successful incorporation of migrants, and in particular to the attraction and retention of highly skilled migrants. Having determined migration-related drivers of growth, another objective was to identify the causes of discrimination through a cross-national analysis of ethnic discrimination in the European labour market. Thanks to their theoretical and empirical analyses in the project, partners were also able to explain the differences between migration outcomes in varying institutional contexts and to gain insights into the practical implications of differing policy measures. For more information, please see: GEMM project website


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