RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

According to European Labour Authority (2020) the shortages of skills workforce are high in 28 occupations currently employing 14 percent of total EU workforce and concern the sectors of STEM, healthcare, IT and communication, as well as transport, hospitality, retail, manufacturing and construction. European Commission expresses concern about the reliance of sectors and enterprises in the EU on low skilled migrant workforce as unsustainable strategy leading to worsening of quality of work and life not only for the migrants but also for the societies of host countries (2020). Research of skill mismatches in the context of changing labour markets and their implications for migration involves exploration of the causes of labour shortages by taking into consideration existing inadequacies of skills development, activation and matching, remuneration, changing work conditions and innovations at work (EC 2020). Sustainability of international recruitment of migrants involves not only dignity of their work and employment but also development of human capital of migrant workers by creating pool of skills and talents to be used also by the countries of origin (EC 2020). 

Implementation of such approach requires comprehensive research of both demand side of skills (labour market changes), as well as supply of skills (development of skill systems) in both destination and origin countries to balance and plan sustainable pathways of migration permitting to address labour market distortions. EC (2021) invites to design a sustainable model of skills mobility partnerships between the sending and destination countries by referring to the following principles:

  • Individualization of skill requirements in supporting integration of migrants in the destination countries by providing individualized training and skill formation.
  • Following sectoral requirements of skills in designing measures of recruitment and training of local workforce and migrants by involving sectoral stakeholders.
  • Investment in the skill formation of the sending/origin countries based on the long-term planning and following the interests and needs of the sending countries.
  • Development of long-term skill partnerships with joint approach and sharing of costs and benefits.

EU New Pact on Migration (2021) seeks for the establishment of the wide skills partnerships in the EU and third countries covering the policies of education, economic development, public administration, sectoral development, research, energy, environment protection and dealing with climate change, stressing importance of capacity building for vocational training and integration of returning migrants in both countries of origin and destination.

Geopolitical tensions of the last year at the Eastern borders of EU have significant effects on the situation with migration and create new challenges for policy interventions on skill formation. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the Report on Migration and Asylum (2022) reports on the important steps and interventions of the EU in dealing with the refugee crisis provoked by the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine launched in February 2022. These measures also target skill formation and qualifications of the refugees from Ukraine, such as Recommendation of Commission on the recognition of professional and academic qualifications, guidance on access to the labour market, vocational education and training, and adult learning, Ukrainian language skills-profiling tool for third-country nationals, the Europass portal and the classification of skills and occupations provide to refugees access of beneficiaries of temporary protection to the EU labour market. Hofmann (2022) claims that high educational and VET standards with cultural proximity to Europe will facilitate successful employment of refugees and migrants from Ukraine. To avoid the waste of their skills and under-qualification in this case it is important to ensure proper assessment and recognition of their skills and qualifications.  

Existing research does not directly targets research of skill matching in the labour markets of destination and origin countries in relationship to the migration, nor does it show the potential of the partnerships between the stakeholders of skill formation and deployment in these countries to enable sustainable and fair patterns of migration and skill distribution. There is a lack of holistic evidence-based knowledge of the potential of skill formation and qualifications systems for integrating migrants, refugees and displaced persons in labour markets and skill formation systems in Europe. This knowledge gap creates obstacles for initiating and implementing policy solutions and disseminating effective practices and know-how in providing access for migrant groups to education, training and employment opportunities in both the destination and origin countries. Existing research on the contribution of skill formation and qualifications systems in the destination countries to the integration of migrants and displaced countries in the skill formation and labour market is rather fragmented, lacking a systemic view and comparative perspective.

Theoretical framework of this research consists of two key theoretical approaches dealing with skills, training and migration:

  • skill matching theories,
  • skill ecosystem theories.

Theoretical perspective of skill matching in the labour market explains the factors of skill matching in the labour market and discloses it’s implications for migration. The research in this field suggests a wide variety of such factors, including overeducation of migrant workers (Visintin et al, 2015),  barriers for migrant workers to access education and training, related shortages of VET skills and qualifications amongst the refugees and asylum seekers (UNESCO-UNEVOC, 2021),  legal limitations in accessing employment and recognition of the skills and qualifications of migrant workers in the destination countries and  concentration of refugees and asylum seekers in the unskilled and low-skilled jobs (Tverdostup and Paas, 2019).

Current skills shortages in the EU can be better dealt by a demand-led approach taking into consideration economic cycles of Member States, different economies and labour markets and long-term sociodemographic processes like ageing of societies, configuration of nuclear families without extended support networks, participation of women in paid work (Triandafyllidou, 2017). Flexible and proactive regulatory framework allowing recruitment of migrant workers according to demand of skills in the sectors and regions could be helpful here, especially it involves social protection of migrant workers and can be applied in the specific niche sectors like domestic work and agriculture. Statistical data does not indicate that skills shortages is a strong factor of attracting migrants, because in some countries there can be found high representation of migrants both in the shortage and surplus occupations. 

Available research on skill matching also pays attention to the factors related to legislation, labour market institutions, employment quality, discrimination at work (Fregin et al., 2020; Rafferty, 2020; Farivar et al., 2022; Zwysen, 2019). Workplace discrimination not only prevents workers from matching their skills to work, but also limits their training opportunities. The impact of discrimination takes place across a broad range of protected characteristics on the risk of skill underutilization and under-skilling.  Recognition of skills leads to higher job satisfaction and in this way importantly fosters social embeddedness of skilled migrants not reporting brain waste.

The extent of utlilization of skills in the labour market, and especially skill underutilization under dimensions of credential gap, performance gap, relevance gap and subjective gap presents by itself important factor of social discontent and often becomes a pushing factor for emigration (Livingstone 2017; Mara and Landesmann, 2021).  Overqualification and occupational downgrading are quite typical challenges faced by the migrant workers in the destination countries with liberal economies (Sirkeci et al, 2018; Rosso, 2021).

Research on the policy interventions which involve skills matching and handling of migration discloses various implications of these policies for the migrants, as well as for the human capital of the origin and destination countries. Sound industrial and re-industrialization policies in the region together with improving of working conditions in the public sector could significantly improve the situation and reduce the loss of human capital to emigration (Burnazoglu, 2022; Kureková and Žilinčiková, 2018). Sustainability of migration policies and interventions can be defined in terms of rights (to ensure access to fundamental human rights), policies (retaining political support) and scale (enduring over time and functioning at scale) (Betts 2021). Looking from the perspective of skills, these terms involve accessibility of migrants to skill formation, political support to the skill-formation oriented labour market and migration policies and long-term engagement of different stakeholders in such policy interventions. The scope of these policy interventions should include both matching the skills with local and sectoral skills demands, as well as investments in re-skilling and training. Employment relations perspective can also offer potentially effective policy responses in dealing with problematic nexus of migrant workers and low quality employment by measuring violations of migrant workers’ rights in the business practices, mobilisation of the migrant workers identity, shedding light on the frames of references used by the migrant workers in the labour market of destination countries, exploring the nature of preferences of companies for migrant labour, visa rules and regimes, state and society enforcement initiatives for protection of migrant workers’ rights, gendered dimensions of immigration policies (Wright and Clibborn 2019; Marino and Keizer, 2022). 

The conflicts between the existing international migration frameworks often deprive origin countries from the essential workforce, such as nurses and health workers and impede achievement of sustainable development goals related to migration, such as access to training, orderly and responsible migration and retention of health workers (Thompson and Walton-Roberts, 2019).   There are also important ethical aspects when dealing with skill matching and migration relationships dealing with vulnerability of different social groups (unemployed youth and dropouts, vulnerable migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, etc.). Solution of the skill mismatches and skill matching by referring to migration cannot be based only on the economic reasons and imperatives, but also focus on the fundamental ethical norms, including respect to the basic human rights, decent work and employment opportunities, especially for those, who experience forced emigration or seeking for refuge (Sachs et al, 2022).   

The perspective of the theories on skill ecosystems: skill formation and training of migrants as a measure to solve problems of skill mismatch in the destination and origin countries. 

Skill formation measures could help make integration policies more sustainable by helping to strengthen the autonomy of migrants in education and employment, as well as to develop human capital and addressing skills shortages of companies. Education and training providers have high potential to contribute to effective integration of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons (hereafter collectively termed ‘vulnerable migrants’ as the principal target group) in skill formation and employment in their countries of origin and destination (Wallis, Nacua & Winterton, 2022).  There is a research-based evidence of the empowering effect of the VET and CVET for migrants and refugees (Abdel Jabbar and Zaza, 2016). Developing key competencies of migrants and refugees is widely recognized as a key lever facilitating their labour market integration. Exploration of institutional aspects of training, employment and empowerment of migrant workers is important for understanding challenges and obstacles in providing effective and accessible skill formation services, as well as for identifying implications of related policies for accessibility of training to these target groups. Exploring implications of social dialogue over skill formation also necessitates analysing different institutional arrangements and their development. These aspects will be researched by referring to different theories of institutional development of skill formation.

Skill ecosystem perspective to migration research encompasses business settings and models, institutional policy frameworks, modes of engaging labour, job structure and skills formation processes and skills. Research of skill ecosystems enables analysis of change of skill formation of migrant workers at the micro level by paying attention to bottom-up initiatives in skills formation and identifying initiatives and self-reliance of different stakeholders and social partners (Buchanan, Anderson & Power,2017). Such analysis can provide insights into social coalitions and different internal mechanisms that help or hinder implementation and execution of skills formation policies for the target groups.

The theories of historical institutionalism explore the implications of temporal processes and events for the establishment and development of social institutions to explain how institutions emerge and develop historically and spatially (Fioretos et al. 2016). Historical institutionalism can be helpful for understanding specificities of skill formation and employment of migrant workers. Those are often shaped by factors such as global and country-specific critical junctures, historically developed path dependent characteristics or cooperation modes.

Integration of migrant youth in the skill formation of destination countries is influenced by their educational and employment aspirations confronted with the possibilities offered by the institutional settings of skill formation. The capacities of education and training providers for developing migrant workers skills depend on national education policies (Wickham 2017; Tūtlys et al 2022). VET and CVET providers play an important role in socializing migrants and developing civic participation in host countries. Well-established social dialogue, involving a range of stakeholders including governmental and non-governmental organizations, employers’ and employees’ organizations and educational institutions is of vital importance for successfully integrating migrants in the VET system and labour market (Lee et al. 2021). The institutional system of skill formation can influence accessibility of education and training for the migrants thus improving the match of their skills and qualifications to the labor market needs of the destination countries (Aerne and Bonoli, 2021).

Flexibility and agility of skill formation systems in adjusting to the specific skills needs of migrants, especially refugees become increasingly important in the context of geopolitical disruptions, such as the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine launched on February 2022. The inconsistencies of the accessibility of skill formation and training of migrant workers together with existing skill mismatches require systemic and common effort of state institutions and social partners in the countries of origin and destination, including development of international or global skill partnerships (Clemens, 2015). 

This project aims to develop systemic analysis of skills shortages in the 5 EU countries and 6 non- EU countries in the context of the global workforce migration by providing research-based evidence on the nature and development of skill shortages as well as on the potential of different skills partnerships to tackle these shortages in the countries of origin and destination of migrants.

Skills shortages will be explored by referring to the three main contexts/fields:

  • Labour market which defines relationships between the supply and demand of skills and their implications, such as skill mismatches.
  • The national and sectoral systems of qualifications which define the institutional pathways and processes of design, implementation and awarding of qualifications thus linking the skills demand in the labour market and their supply in the system of education.
  • Education and training systems which create the supply of skills through vocational education and training (VET), higher education (HE) and lifelong learning (LLL).

 

There are five main objectives of research (serving as a basis for the corresponding work-packages) which contain different sets of research questions and activities:

  1. Designing of the shortage model for recruitment of skilled workers in the countries of destination and transition countries by referring to the agency of existing skill partnerships in these countries. This model should help in evaluating the skill shortages, understanding their reasons and evaluating the role of migration in dealing with these shortages.
  2. Evaluation of the labour market in analysing matching needs and shortages of skilled workforce in the countries of origin compared to the countries of destination and transition countries. The main objective of this activity is to explore the possibilities and areas for sustainable and mutually beneficial skill partnerships between the countries of destination, transitional countries and countries of origin in terms of: a) analysis of the demand and supply of qualifications by seeking to identify the key shortages and mismatches. b) identification of areas/sectors of possible investments in skill formation in the countries of origin and transition countries; c) identification and localization of the possible measures for the sustainable development, assessment and recognition of the skills of migrants to prevent their losses.
  3. Surveying skilled migrant workers in the countries of destination and origin (returned migrants). This survey seeks to provide the perspective of migrants to the above discussed questions of research. Here the quantitative survey will be supplemented with the qualitative study (interviews and focus groups). The survey contains three key themes: 1) skill formation of migrant workforce in the origin and destination countries; 2) mobility patterns and their relations with skill formation; 3) participation of migrants in the local development of the origin and destination countries.
  4. Analysis of conditions which influence positively or negatively local development processes vis-à-vis foreign upskilling and recruitment in the destination countries, as well as the conditions which lead to domestic institutions of the origin countries to capitalize on the positive effects of migration for skill development of their population.
  5. Development of a toolkit for skill partnerships on sustainable and fair skill formation and migration between the stakeholders in the destination, transitional and origin countries. This toolkit will be designed on the basis of findings in the previous stages of research.

The research proposed in this project is interdisciplinary in terms of diverse research objectives and use of theories and methodologies from different disciplines. Research topics “Shortage model for recruitment of skilled workers in the countries of destination and transition countries by referring to the agency of existing skill partnerships in these countries” and “Evaluation of the labour market in analysing matching needs and shortages of skilled workforce in the countries of origin compared to the countries of destination and transition countries” will tackle disciplinary areas of economics (human capital theory, labour market theories), sociology, demographics, migration theories, skill formation theories, institutional development and functioning of the education systems and the national systems of qualifications. Here there will be applied analysis of official statistical data, SWOT analysis, meta-analysis and bibliometric mapping of research, surveys (enterprises, labour market stakeholders, education and training providers), interviews with national policy makers (education and qualifications, employment, migration policies) document analysis.

Research topic “Migrant worker perspective” will tackle disciplinary areas of sociology of migration, research of vocational and labour market integration of the vulnerable groups of society, accessibility of skill formation. Here there will be applied mixed approach of the survey of migrant workers in the destination and origin countries, as well as in-depth interviews with them. 

Research topic “Conditions for local development processes and capitalization on the positive effects of migration for skill development” will tackle disciplinary areas of the economics of industrial relations, social dialogue theories, political economy of skill formation. Here there will be applied SWOT analysis, meta-analysis and bibliometric mapping, focus groups with social partner organizations, policy making institutions, education and training providers, NGOs and rights protection organizations. There will be executed quantitative and/or qualitative studies by surveying or interviewing enterprises in the sectors of economy, as well as qualitative studies by interviewing social partners and representatives of governments aimed to disclose their political and strategic priorities and measures regarding investments in the local human capital and recruitment of foreign workforce, as well as implemented and planned political decisions and measures in this field.