Racism forces migrants into European shadow economy

Racism, often encouraged by anti-migrant political discourse, often forces migrants to work in the shadow economy, where they can be easily fall prey to exploitation, according to a report released in May.

The study by the European Network Against Racism, which connects local anti-racism civic organizations, found that racism and lagging integration approaches by governments have created an employment gap between migrants and nationals.

The report found that, in many countries, people of certain origins – mainly African or Eastern European – made less than nationals in the same positions.

In Belgium, certain employers were willing to cater to their clients’ discriminatory demands: out of a total of 176 agencies providing cleaning services, more than 60 per cent responded positively when their clients specified the requested worker’s background, for example by asking for a “Belgian” cleaning lady.

Jobs below qualifications

Migrants are often forced to take jobs that are below their qualifications, ending up in sectors such as domestic work, caregiving, prostitution, construction or agriculture.

Because these jobs are hard to regulate, especially when domestic workers or caregivers live in their employer’s house, they can easily lead to exploitation.

The report, which surveyed EU member states, with the exception of Slovakia and the Netherlands, notes that racism has been fuelled by growing anti-migrant rhetoric in national politics, including the rise of far-right political parties.

Muslim migrants, who are often linked to terrorism, and migrants of Roma or African origins, who are often associated with illegal migration, are often particularly impacted by negative perceptions.