Speech by CEEP General Secretary at the European Dialogue on Skills and Migration – Integrating Refugees and Other Migrants into the Labour Market (23 May 2017)

[Check against delivery]

Dear colleagues,

It is my pleasure to be able to explain how employers of public services fare in responding to the difficult refugee situation in Europe. To respond to the question of CEEP members’ role, I need to make a clear distinction between to imperatives: public services as ”first responder” on the one hand and as employer able to ensure a smooth integration to the labour market on the other hand.

What I mean by first responder is the ability of CEEP members to answer to emergency situatuations when a refugee first arrive in a local community. It means providing urgent individualised services with efficiency. Our members face numerous challenges on this front:

  • Housing: Most asylum-seekers and refugees are provided with housing in most countries, making this service the most comprehensive provided by local authorities to newcomers. We face serious shortages of affordable housing and accommodation for the refugees, especially in cities and municipalities with already overstretched housing markets.
  • Language: The lack of knowledge of the language of receiving country is a major obstacle to accessing services that public bodies provide, particularly education for children, training and employment, and healthcare. Investing in language immersion courses and supporting voluntary language support activities is crucial.
  • Information and training: Across the continent, there is a perceived and a real need to train staff in local authorities and social services in dealing with refugees, including information about the asylum process. For managers of public services, it is also important to be better informed about national strategies and plans.
  • Specialist services for refugees and unaccompanied children: Many municipalities struggle to provide adequate services for asylum-seeking children (child protection, education, care) as well as specialist services such as trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment services.

In this context, public services have already been severely affected by the economic crisis, leading to weakened infrastructure for service provision and uneven financial resources for integration programmes.

In terms of integration to the Labour Market

Our members are first and foremost impacted by demographic ageing.   Many unfilled vacancies co-exist with high unemployment throughout Europe. We believe that the arrival of refugees has the potential to help recruit for our sectors which are struggling the most. However, the challenges we still face are:

  • insufficient language skills (level of education of asylum seekers and refugees is averagely low or very low);
  • non-existing previous schooling or occupational knowledge (difficult recognition of education and skills);
  • often-unstable legal situation (including disincentives to invest in training);
  • depending of their place of settlement, employment opportunities strongly differ.

We believe that the solutions to these now clearly identified issues will be the following:

  • Promoting multi-stakeholder operational frameworks and structures to assist asylum-seekers and refugees for a faster transition into the labour market and in the workplace.
  • Setting the conditions for a more effective skills assessment and skills matching and upgrading skills to facilitate their integration in the EU labour market (in particular through language trainings, VET and entrepreneurial education).
  • Exploring innovative measures to help employment, such as the Swedish “fast-track” set up by SALAR or advertising economic sectors with workforce shortages.

Social partners cannot take by themselves the overall burden of integration, but our engagement is key to attain the objective, and we have the power to complement what is being done by public authorities.

As for what we as CEEP intend to do to support our members, we have the following concrete means at our disposal:

  • CEEP committed to work with the other economic and social partners to support inclusion of refugees into work and society (TSS “Statement of the EU economic and social partners on the refugee crisis” – 16/03/2016) and will pursue this common objective through the LABOUR INT project.
  • CEEP intends to engage wholehartedly in the future propsects for establishing a dialogue on migration policies with DG HOME and DG EMPL which can be further structured by taking inspiration from existing practices such as the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAFA).
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