Integrating Low-Skilled Migrants: European and US Experience


Event Date

Andrews Conference Room 2203 SSH, UC-Davis

This transatlantic conference explores the pathways followed by low-skilled foreign-born workers, those with a secondary school education or less, into employment. Most European countries have pre-employment policies that provide language and training to low-skilled migrants to make them more attractive to employers. US policies, by contrast, encourage workers to get into jobs quickly and then hope to climb the job ladder with on-the-job experience.

Some 20 percent of workers in Austria, 16 percent in Germany, and 17 percent of US workers were born abroad. In Austria and Germany, foreign-born residents have lower labor force participation rates (LFPRs) and higher unemployment rates than natives. For example, in Austria in 2017, the LFPR of foreigners at 73 percent was less than the 77 percent rate of natives, while unemployment for foreigners was 11 percent versus four percent for natives. In Germany, foreign LFPR was 73 percent versus 80 percent for natives, and foreign unemployment was six percent versus three percent for natives.

In the US, the LFPR of foreign-born men, 78 percent in 2017, is higher than the LFPR of the native born, 63 percent, and the unemployment rate of the foreign born, 4.1 percent in 2017, was lower than the rate for US born, 4.4 percent.

This conference has two parts. Part 1 is an academic conference that focuses on the changing nature of jobs and labor markets on both sides of the Atlantic, apprenticeship and entry-to-work systems, the labor mobility of low-skilled workers, and policy maker perspectives. Part 2 is a field trip to community colleges that train low-skilled workers and employers offering apprenticeships.

We are grateful to the Austrian Marshallplan and UCD’s Gifford Center for Population Studies and the UCD Migration Research Cluster for support of this conference. Selected conference papers will be published in Migration Letters (




Day 1: Conference


Welcome and Introductions, Gudrun Biffl, Danube University Krems, and Philip Martin, University of California Davis (UCD)


Changing Jobs and Labor Markets.
    Europe: Jean Christophe Dumont, OECD
     *US: Michael Bernick, ex-director California Employment Development Department




Moving Low-skilled Migrants Into Jobs

      Austria: Eduard Staudecker, Ministry of Education and Science

      Germany: Herbert Brücker, IAB & University of Bamberg

      *US: Community College Training

12:15pm Lunch

Mobility in Low-skilled Labor Markets

      Europe: Gudrun Biffl, Danube University Krems

      *US: Giovanni Peri and Zach Rutledge, UCD

2:30pm Break

Policies Toward Low-skilled Workers

      Europe: Christiane Kuptsch, ILO

      US: Philip Martin, UCD

4:00pm Concluding Discussion
5:00pm Adjourn


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