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Immigrants in Belgium: immigration and the labour market (Federal Ministry of Employment and Labour)

Research project AG/EE/058 (Research action AG)

Persons :

Description :

Project description

For many years, the Employment Ministry has been providing statistical data on foreign-national salaried workers for various institutions, notably EUROSTAT and the OECD. A major financial commitment has been made in order to compile data on salaried workers. Nevertheless, the requests received by us concern the labour market as a whole, not just salaried workers.

A major effort was undertaken at the beginning of the 1990s in order to present a global view of immigrant worker participation in the Belgian labour market. This major effort was conducted by the Department of Economic Demographics under Professor Feld at Liège University (ULg) in research supported by the scientific policy programming department. This effort culminated in the publication of several volumes, each analysing one aspect of the issue of foreign workers in the labour market. For a long time, these efforts served as the sole points of reference in this problem area. At the time, we collaborated closely on the chapters of this research that focused more specifically on the labour market.

Each year, a report on immigration in Belgium is produced at the request of the OECD. Since last year, we have elected to have the report for Belgium published in the OECD’s ‘SOPEMI’ publication to enhance its valorisation. SOPEMI is a much sought-after publication: although published only in French (the OECD’s compilation language), more than 100,000 copies were distributed and it had to be reprinted. This problem area is therefore one that is set to develop strongly and demands are building up from various sides.

For that reason, the clamour is now strong for a global view to be presented of the situation facing immigrants, focussing in particular on their situation in relation to the labour market. To meet this demand, new tools should be developed in order to best utilise the possibilities linked to new database developments. Examples of these include the ONSS’s "LATG" system, which is being developed within INASTI, the future possibilities offered by the Central Bank’s "data warehouse" as well as the results from the new, ongoing survey of labour forces to be conducted by the NIS. Therefore, there is a fresh possibility that these new databases will be better integrated in order to improve our awareness of the labour market. This has been the philosophy behind our work for many years.

Since legislative and regulatory aspects are closely tied in with the evolution of the labour market, particular attention will have to be paid to these. Not only should they be positioned within the domestic framework, but also internationally.

Clearly, the labour market is strongly influenced by demographic factors both within Belgium as well as internationally. For that reason, these factors will need to figure prominently when setting the context for this problem area.

The aim of the project is to introduce tools for describing and analysing the labour market for immigrants and position these in their demographic and regulatory context. These tools will have to allow comparisons in Belgium’s three regions as well as internationally. Lastly, they must provide support when compiling annual reports on the situation of immigrants in Belgium.

The situation facing certain sections of the Belgian population is very similar to that of immigrants. For that reason, it will be necessary to make allowance not only for the nationality of people today, but also their original nationality and even that of their forebears. For that reason, it might be easier to refer to "people of foreign origin". Indeed, rapid naturalisation of certain people of foreign origin has not fully eliminated the specific traits of this population segment. Therefore, the project needs to make allowance for this.

Development to be implemented by the scientific team

The scientific team will have to develop two types of database. The first database will relate to workers, job-seekers and non-working persons according to nationality (present, original and/or of former generations). This database must not confine itself simply to head counts, but will also have to make maximum use of all dimensions of the labour market (type of work, duration, modalities, sector of activity, status in terms of social security...) and cross-reference these with data on individuals (nationalities, gender, age, place of residence, place of work ...). These data will have to make it possible to respond as a priority to the questionnaires we receive from international institutions. They will also have to pre-empt future demands from these various institutions as well as other demands that reach us.
The second database will relate to legal and regulatory measures at the regional, federal and European levels that influence the situation of foreigners in Belgium.

It will also aim to highlight indicators allowing the various dimensions of the immigrant labour market to be characterised and pitched alongside results obtained for the (native) Belgian population while allowing comparisons with other European countries.

End product expected from the scientific team

The expected end products are as follows:

A methodology to allow the aims being pursued to be met.
A statistical database concerning immigrants and migratory movements.
A judicial database containing the various regulatory aspects (regional, national, international) that characterise the situation facing immigrants.
Finalisation of indicators allowing the immigrant presence in the labour market to be characterised.

Valorisation of the result

The results of deliberations will be valorised by making most of the data available on our Internet site, as is the case already with the bulk of our current data. Furthermore, the dossier has been tracked by the Ministry for many years in careful reference to international requirements and is set to undergo more widespread dissemination within Belgium itself. for that reason, it is being integrated in order to establish the permanent updating of the situation immigrants face in Belgium. This updating process will be performed by publishing an annual report on immigrants in Belgium.


Federal Ministry of Employment and Labour

Documentation :

L'immigration en Belgique : effectifs, mouvements et marché du travail (rapport publié par le SPF Emploi, travail et concertation sociale)    Bruxelles : SPF Emploi, travail et concertation sociale, 2003 (PB6022)
[To download

De immigratie in België : aantallen, stromen en arbeidsmarkt (Verslag gepubliceerd door FOD Arbeid en Sociaal Overleg)    Brussel : FOD Arbeid en Sociaal Overleg, 2003 (PB6023)
[To download

Minorités ethniques en Belgique : migration et marché du travail. Analyse démographique, statistique et des mesures juridiques et d'action en faveur des migrants sur le marché du travail = Analyse van de demografische, statistische en reglementaire context met betrekking tot allochtonen op arbeidsmarkt  Desmarez, Pierre - Van der Hallen, Peter - Ouali, Nouria ... et al.  Gent : Academia Press, 2004 (PB6062)

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