Poland needs a more systematic and holistic approach to the integration of foreigners

The third online workshop within the MIGRIGHT project was held on June 24. The representative of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), the project’s partner, presented a case study on cooperation between social partners and public employment services on implementing a national programme for inclusion into the local labour market persons requiring the support, including non-European migrants.

Referring to this presentation, the representative of the Centre for Migration Studies pointed to the challenges in the area of socio-economic integration of foreigners in Poland. One of the conclusions was that we need a more systematic and holistic approach to the integration of foreigners. Most projects focus on economic migrants from Ukraine and Belarus and there is a lack of support for migrants and refugees from culturally distant countries, including Arabic-speaking countries (e.g. Syria, Palestine, Egypt) and from Asia (India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan). In addition, integration programs should not be limited only to labour market inclusion but offer more support in other areas, including psychological and medical assistance. Integration of foreign nationals takes place at the local level and the largest Polish cities (i.e. Gdansk, Wroclaw, Warsaw, Cracow) have developed their integration strategies. In contrast, integration strategy is lacking at the national level. Without a clear integration policy Poland has „stuck” at a stage between the "guestworkers" and assimilation approach (a one-way process, assuming that foreigners should adapt to our society). Finally, more cooperation is needed between local authorities, NGOs and social partners on implementation of integration programmes e.g. within the planned Centres for Integration of Foreigners.

Subsequently, the participants reflected on the possibility of transferring the Norwegian experience to Poland and the potential role of social partners in supporting integration of migrants and refugees in Poland. In Norway, social partners, in particular employers' organisations play an important role in the process of socio-economic integration of foreigners and initiated many labour market inclusion programmes for jobless migrants and refugees. In Poland, social partners associated with Voivodship Social Dialogue Councils (WRDS), are not very active in addressing the issue of ensuring decent working conditions for migrants and support in their integration into the society. The interest of employers and employers' organisations is mainly limited to the problems related to the lack of skilled workers and the need for more facilitated procedures for employing foreigners. In the opinion of the Federation of Polish Entrepreneurs (FPP), the low activity of WRDS might be due to, among others, focusing on other priority issues (e.g. support for employers in the pandemic) or lack of initiatives from representatives of the organisations, i.e. trade unions and the government. According to FPP, employers need the support of the government/local authorities in providing language and vocational trainings confirming or upgrading migrants’ qualifications and skills. 

In the last part of the workshop, the concept and structure of the social dialogue toolkit were presented. The toolkit will be developed in cooperation with the workshop participants and include examples of good practices (national and Norwegian) and recommendations to strengthen a social dialogue in Poland for decent work of foreigners.

Another project’s event was the third expert meeting on the decent work of migrants and refugees in Lubelskie Voivodeship, which took place on June 28. It was the last of the regional meetings aimed at increasing the knowledge of participants of social dialogue on challenges related to employment and work conditions of foreign nationals in Poland, as well as exchange of experiences, opinions, good practices and recommendations to improve the working environment of migrants and refugees.

The meeting was attended by the representatives of social partners from Lublin Voivodeship, including members of the Lublin Voivodeship Council for Social Dialogue, employers' organizations (Federation of Polish Entrepreneurs), trade unions (All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions, Miners' Trade Union), state administration (Ministry of Development, Labour and Technology, District Labour Inspectorate in Lublin, Border Guard), self-government administration (Lublin City Hall, Marshal's Office) and non-governmental organizations (Institute for State and Law, Foundation „Activism without Borders”).

In the introductory part, the CASE expert presented the characteristics of economic migrants in the regional labour market. During the three sessions of the meeting, the participants shared information and experiences on challenges of labour immigration to the region, employment and working conditions of migrants on the local labour market as well as the situation of some vulnerable groups like refugees or disabled migrants. In particular, the following topics were addressed:

- concept and directions of the reform of employment system of foreigners planned in 2022 

- problem of illegal migration and other abuses in the area of employment of foreigners

- violations of labour rights of economic migrants by employment and temporary work agencies

- activity and cooperation of control bodies and labour offices as regards legality of employment and working conditions of foreigners, as well as information and education activities towards migrants undertaken in Lubelskie Voivodeship

- negative demographic phenomena in the region and cooperation of social partners (local authorities and non-governmental organizations and employers' organizations) to promote the region and attract more foreign students and economic migrants to the region

- active inclusion and professional activation of migrants and refugees in the local labour market within the programmes of the European Social Fund

- challenges of access to the labour market and barriers to employment among others by persons applying for international protection in Poland, as well as disabled foreigners (problem with recognition of certificates on disability).

 Written by Emilia Małys-Zaremba

The leader of the MIGRIGHT project is the Federation of Polish Entrepreneurs and the partners are the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions, CASE – Centre for Social and Economic Research, and NHO. The MIGRIGHT project is implemented with support from Norway through the Norwegian Funds 2014–2021, under the programme “Social Dialogue – Decent Work”.