A division of labour? Labour market segmentation by region of origin – University of Copenhagen

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25 September 2018

A division of labour? Labour market segmentation by region of origin

In a new article in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies Jonas Felbo-Kolding, Janine Leschke and Thees F. Spreckelsen analyze EU-migrants labour market integration in Denmark, Germany and the UK. They find a systematic segmentation of the labour markets, where immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) generally end up in low-paid jobs at the bottom of the labour market.

The 2004/2007 EU enlargements rendered CEE labour migrants legally equal to other EU labour market participants. However, more than ten years after the enlargements CEE migrants seem to face ‘racialisation’ and segmentation in North-Western European labour markets. Similar processes might extend to EU-South migrants, giving rise to a division of labour, whereby CEE and EU-South migrants end up in poorer-quality, low-paid jobs. We compare the labour market integration of recent intra-EU migrants in the UK, Germany and Denmark. Using labour force, microcensus and register data, we model quantitative and qualitative integration through labour force participation and wages. We find no significant differences in labour force participation between nationals and migrants in the UK. Whilst in both Denmark and Germany, the labour force participation of EU-migrants is significantly lower. Notwithstanding differences in migration trends, labour markets and welfare regimes, we find evidence of a division of labour along occupational and industry lines − that translates into wage differences. EU-West/EEA migrants occupy better jobs (even outperforming nationals), followed by EU-South and CEE migrants. In Denmark and Germany, EU8 and EU2 migrants’ wages are lower than those of nationals even after controlling for differences in occupations. These findings suggest that inequalities across the EU are reproduced rather than converging.

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