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Seasonal Workers – Principles to guide future programs reforms in Europe experience

While there are limited opportunities for low-skilled workers to migrate legally to the European  Union, seasonal migration forms an important exception. EU Member States, like countries elsewhere in the world, often rely on workers from other countries to meet their seasonal labour needs in sectors such as agriculture, hospitality, and tourism. Some Member States (such as Germany) recruit seasonal labour from other parts of the European Union, while oth- ers primarily recruit from third countries with which they have historical, economic, or cultural ties.

In recent years, the European Commission has sought to harmonise seasonal worker programmes, some of which date back decades, to both make it easier to meet labour demand and to promote the potential development benefits of such migration for workers and their countries of origin. As part of this process, the Commission has aimed to create common standards for seasonal workers’ admission, residence, and rights in countries across Europe and to address some of the longstanding issues with these schemes, such as the risk of worker exploitation, visa overstays, and hiring through the informal economy. The adoption of the Seasonal Workers Directive in 2014 marked a step forward, but with the directive’s implementation still ongoing, it remains to be seen how effective it will be in addressing these policy goals.

Beyond this legal framework, designing and operating seasonal worker programmes that can swiftly recruit workers with the right skills, prevent abuse and exploitation, deter visa overstays, and potentially promote broader development benefits is a challenging proposition. A review of programmes in Europe and elsewhere suggests a number of principles to guide future reforms, including prioritising more transparent and standardised recruitment procedures, greater monitoring and outreach to protect seasonal workers, and more broadly, strategies to help maximise the benefits of these programmes for workers and countries of origin alongside destination-country stakeholders.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Seasonal Worker Programs in Europe: Promising Practices and Ongoing Challenges |


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