A Division of Labour? Labour Market Segmentation by Region of Origin: The Case of Intra-EU Migrants in the UK, Germany and Denmark

Jonas Felbo-Kolding*, Janine Leschke, Thees F. Spreckelsen

*Corresponding author for this work

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The 2004/2007 EU enlargements rendered CEE citizens legally equal to EU labour market participants. However, CEE migrants still face ‘racialisation’ and segmentation in North-Western European labour markets. Similar processes might extend to EU-South migrants, giving rise to a division of labour, whereby CEE and EU-South migrants end up in poor-quality, low-pay jobs. We compare the labour market integration of recent intra-EU migrants (EU8, EU2, EU-South, EU-West/EEA) in the UK, Germany and Denmark. Using labour force, microcensus and register data, we model quantitative and qualitative integration through labour force participation and wages. We find no significant differences in labour force participation between nationals and migrants in the UK. Whilst in both Denmark and Germany, the labour force participation of EU-migrants is significantly lower. Notwithstanding differences in migration trends, labour markets and welfare regimes, we find evidence of a division of labour along occupational and industry lines − that translates into wage differences. EU-West/EEA migrants occupy better jobs (even outperforming nationals), followed by EU-South and CEE migrants. In Denmark and Germany, EU8 and EU2 migrants’ wages are lower than those of nationals even after controlling for differences in occupations. These findings suggest that inequalities across the EU are reproduced rather than converging.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number15
Pages (from-to)2820-2843
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Published online: 7. September 2018


  • Intra-EU migration
  • Labour market integration
  • Racialisation
  • Wages
  • Welfare regimes
  • Segmentation
  • Central Eastern Europe
  • EU-South
  • EU-West

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