Why bother with migrant support measures?

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MISMES – Migrant Support Measures from an Employment and Skills Perspective – have spread globally in the past few years and have become a typical tool of international labour migration management. But why should we care about MISMES? Why are MISMES so important?

MISMES have become particularly popular since the adoption of the EU 2004-2006 Aeneas Programme, which pursued the general objective of providing financial and technical assistance to third countries in order to support their efforts to better manage migration flows.  Among many other policy interventions, this new programme supported these kind of migrant support measures in the migrants’ countries of origin in order to improve labour market integration or reduce the underutilization of skills of individual migrant workers through the provision of information, training, or services. Within the framework of the programme’s sequel, the EU Thematic Programme on Cooperation with Third Countries in the Areas of Asylum and Migration 2007-2013, more than 30 projects containing MISMES have been funded throughout the world, for a total budget of more than €40 million. Canada, Switzerland and many Asian governments also fund many other MISMES worldwide. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are the big global players in the implementation of those measures.

Why put the focus on MISMES? Assessing the cost-effectiveness of MISMES contributes to a more efficient allocation of public funds, given the substantial amount of resources they claim. For the European Training Foundation (ETF), the main goal of launching the MISMES project jointly with the Migration Policy Centre (MPC) was to provide evidence-based policy advice regarding the kind of migrant support measures which are needed for more efficient job and skills-matching process, in particular within the framework of the Mobility Partnerships established between the EU and some of its neighbouring countries. Indeed, recent ETF surveys in Armenia, Georgia, and Morocco indicate that in order to reduce negative effects and increase the benefits of migration, more policy actions are needed in the field of employment and the skills and labour market integration of migrants, in particular to support legal circular migration[1].

But how to assess MISMES? More than 300 MISMES have been inventoried so far and 17 “models” or basic formats of migrant support measures have been identified in the first draft of a Global Inventory discussed at a workshop held in Florence on 13-14 March 2014. This Global Inventory carries out a basic analysis of each of these models and their variants, including their main features, challenges, and strengths, and also highlights some elements that can be used to assess their effectiveness and impact on the labour market integration of migrant workers. Although currently available information and evaluations do not allow for a thorough empirical assessment, implementation practices over the years bring to the fore some lessons concerning the design of the different MISMES, their targeting, and the contextual factors affecting their effectiveness. Demographic trends in the countries of origin (size and demographic dynamics), the level of education of their population and their linguistic regime, their economic development, and their labour market structure all are contextual factors having an incidence on the working of different models of MISMES, and hence need to be taken into consideration when assessing their effectiveness. The institutional arrangements in which MISMES are implemented (involvement of migrant associations, governmental bilateral labour agreements, labour migration management structures, etc.), and the patterns of migration (such as diaspora size and networks, destination countries, internal displaced persons flows…) also have a bearing on the performance of MISMES. However, it is not easy to isolate, measure, or even ascertain that impact. All we know is that MISMES cannot be successfully transferred from one migration context to another without adaptation.

From MISMES inventory to tracing studies. In any case, the Global Inventory of MISMES is only a first step to systematizing existing information and taking stock of available elements for assessment. In the coming months, five country case studies on Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Morocco and Tunisia will bring the analysis further and deeper in the context of EU Mobility Partnerships. But tracing studies tracking the professional itinerary and labour market outcomes of individual migrant workers in destination countries and upon their return to their countries of origin are the only method which could provide robust evidence on how effective different types of MISMES are. However, so far we do not have this kind of studies; this is indeed the next frontier of knowledge on this issue. Migrant worker tracing studies are certainly expensive to carry out, but the cost of not investing that frontier might be even higher in terms of policy effectiveness.


Iván Martín, Part-time Professor at the MPC, MISMES Project Coordinator

For further information on the MISMES project, please consult the project webpage.

The EUI, RSCAS and MPC are not responsible for the opinion expressed by the author(s). Furthermore, the views expressed in this publication cannot in any circumstances be regarded as the official position of the European Union.

[1] See ETF (2013), Migration and skills in Armenia, Georgia and Morocco: Comparing the survey

results, available at: www.etf.europa.eu/web.nsf/pages/Migration_and_skills_Armenia_Georgia_Morocco.