Integration of migrants as a three-way process and its implications on the future of training and education

Murat Kenanoğlu (Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV)), Sibel Güven (Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey)


Two of the most pressing issues facing the Group of Twenty (G20) are demographic changes and labor shortages. While the G20 is aging, its member economies are simultaneously transforming because of technological advancements. Consequently, G20 countries are unable to meet the growing domestic demand for skilled workers. Migration offers a viable solution. We propose establishing innovative skill-building schemes in countries-of-origin together with G20 destination countries with whom a long-standing migratory relation exists. While allowing destination countries to meet the demand for skilled workers via immigration, this initiative would expedite migrants’ integration into host countries and help improve the quality of domestic labor in migrant-sending countries.



The Group of Twenty (G20) countries are experiencing dramatic changes in their demographics, exposing them to current and future labor supply shortages (Strack et al. 2014). When compounded together with the structural changes that are taking place in advanced economies as a result of technological breakthroughs, the future holds numerous uncertainties for the G20. Until now, both of these changes have had a direct impact on and transformed how supply–demand relations in the labor market (LM) are structured. This transformation period will inevitably continue into the future. As yet, this period of transformation has created a considerable number of jobs that require highly-skilled personnel, consequently pronouncing the shortcomings of G20 countries in filling emergent vacancies (International Monetary Fund 2016). Putting aside the quick-fixes that automation or tech-induced productivity increases may offer, migration provides a more natural, ever-adaptive solution to this problem.

The challenge in this policy brief is to promote the establishment of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) schemes in countries-of-origin initiated by, or in collaboration with, destination countries (i.e., G20 countries) with whom long-standing migratory relations exist. First, the proposed action is based on the presupposition that G20 countries need a continuous supply of migrant workers with different skills-set to satisfy the ever-growing demand in their ever-changing LMs. Second, TVET-investments in migrant-sending countries will help educate and train the migrant-sending countries’ labor force (LF) and indirectly aid in the creation of new job opportunities. The solution offered would help G20 countries better manage long-standing migratory flows by initiating a process of migration management and integration through skill-building TVET schemes before participants take part in the act of migration.

It is important to clarify in the context of this policy brief that “long-standing migratory relations” imply that migration is an ever-continual phenomenon taking place in increasing numbers, fueled mostly by historical–sociological networks, and income-employment disparities between sending-receiving countries.

As mentioned above, it is projected that this initiative would maximize migrants’ chances of integration in the host country. It could help discourage migrants from resorting to irregular migration, as safe and regular migration is comparatively harder for workers with low skills (Sabadie et al. 2010). Additionally, this initiative would help develop the skills of the workforce of migrant-sending countries, while helping G20 countries meet specific occupational demands in their LMs, externally.



First, this policy brief will assert the notion of integration as the principal act of incorporation of migrants into host communities.

Second, the policy brief will utilize the push–pull theory in the field of migration to clarify which migrant-sending and -receiving countries would be eligible for the collaborative establishment of TVET scheme(s) at countries-of-origin.

Third, the policy brief will review the G20 countries’ need for skilled workers and the role of migrant workforce as a response.

Lastly, the policy brief will propose the idea of establishing TVET schemes in countries-of-origin in collaboration with destination countries. These TVET programs will help maximize migrants’ chances of integration by ensuring their transition to the LMs of destination countries upon entry. This is bound to create a skilled domestic LF in countries-of-origin because of spillovers, and help G20 countries manage migration better.

The “Integration” Question: A Three-Way Process?
The literature on integration has demonstrated that a universal definition of the concept is ambiguous at best. At its core, this relates to the need for idiosyncratic applications of the concept to different realities (Castles et al. 2002; Portes and Zhou 1993). because of its multifarious nature, integration should be tackled as “…an umbrella term suggesting a set of possible and overlapping processes” (Favell 1998). However, while definitions of integration are numerous, these arrive at a consensus on certain points.

Integration is multi-dimensional. It takes place in numerous sectors of the host state— legal, socio-economic, and cultural—and progresses at different paces (Threadgold and Court 2005).

Integration is a non-linear process. The processes of integration that migrants undergo in the host country upon arrival are not straightforward but filled with complex interaction patterns (Garcés-Mascareñas and Penninx 2016). In this instance, specifically, the process takes shape through the personal interactions of migrants with destination-country policies and society (Castles et al. 2002).

Having access to labor market, housing, health, and education are prerequisites to a successful integration process (Threadgold and Court 2005). Particularly, LM access has been identified as not only cross-dimensional, but fundamental in retaining a receptive and an open-ended host-newcomer interaction. Hence, facilitating a migrant’s LM entry helps to find success in more than one dimension, as it promotes economic independence, cross-cultural exchange, and also speeds-up language-learning (Robinson 1993). Therefore, building the skills of migrants in their countries-of-origin in a way that ensures future, potential emigrants can obtain the necessary qualifications to fill employment gaps in destination countries before emigrating (i.e., the futureof-work) would maximize integration prospects, and expedite integration processes upon arrival. Even if the TVET participant ends up not migrating, participants’ prospects for employment in home or third countries would be positively impacted. For example, a German initiative between 2016 and 2019 trained Vietnamese workers in their country-of-origin to become future healthcare workers, an occupation that is in high demand in the German LM (Mosuela 2020). This initiative provides evidence that a similar endeavor with a future-of-work focus could be carried out.

Finally, integration has long been viewed as a two-way process where both the host and newcomer undergo a process of change through interaction (Castles et al. 2002). This interplay has since evolved to include another actor: countries-of-origin. Consequently, integration as a three-way process was introduced (EC 2011). This approach seeks to facilitate migration management and calls for closer collaboration between migrant-sending and -receiving countries.

As some migratory routes between sending-receiving countries have been ever-present, and are direct outcomes of shared historical–sociological-economic ties, this policy brief approaches the reasons for long-standing migratory relations in light of the push–pull theory and explains its relation to skill-building initiatives at countries-of-origin.

Migration: A Recurring Phenomenon
Reasons for emigration are integral to the design of integration processes in the host. This makes a good case to look specifically at the push–pull theory (supply–demand), to draw attention to factors surrounding decisions to emigrate.

The reasons for continual migratory movements are best interpreted by the push– pull theory, since the prevalent reasons for voluntary migration are mostly better economic conditions in receiving countries and existing historical–sociological ties. Push factors encourage migrants to emigrate from their home country based on “political instability, a low standard of living.” (Gibney 2004). Pull factors, on the other hand, are those that entice the act of immigration toward a certain country based on “a high standard of living, democratic political institutions, excess demand for labour.”

(Gibney 2004). Migration from Mexico to the US and from North African countries to France are best elucidated through this theory (Portes and Böröcz 1989). Both the US and France are G20 countries, and have had long-standing, one-sided migratory relations with countries in question.

In fact, by 2016, 20% of all immigrants living in G20 countries were from five countries: Mexico (11.7 million), India (6.8 million), Bangladesh (4.9 million), Ukraine (4.8 million), and China (4.7 million; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] 2019). For example, a large portion of the 4.8 million Ukrainians live in Russia because of these countries’ long-standing relations and open migratory channels. This makes Ukraine an ideal place for Russia to establish skill-building programs to improve Ukraine’s LF but also to guarantee an inflow of highly-skilled workers (OECD 2019).

The push–pull theory implies that migration is inevitable as long as socio-economic discrepancies are a reality. As countries need an outsourced LF for economic growth, and emigrants search for better conditions (International Organization for Migration 2015), the theory also suggests that migration is necessary. It is, however, certainly not an all-inclusive migration theory but one that is sufficient and filled with enough real-world examples to suggest that TVET schemes in countries-of-origin are viable.

The Nexus: Migrant, Destination Country, and Country-of-Origin
Skill-building schemes in countries-of-origin are bound to have direct, positive spillover effects on how migration is managed, and integration processes are designed in the host. The establishment of these schemes in migrant-sending-countries would mean the recognition of a simple but vital fact; ex-ante migration management is possible, easier, and comparatively inexpensive.

Expectedly so, these TVET(s) have to be considerate of distinctive LM and LF structures in migrant-sending and -receiving countries. G20 economies are in a transition period where certain occupations in certain sectors (i.e., manufacturing) are disappearing. There is rising labor demand in low and high-skilled occupations (i.e., job polarization) resulting from technological progress and increases in automation, which is expected to expedite further with the prevalence of artificial intelligence (International Labour Organization [ILO] 2018a). However, as the LFs of G20 countries fall-short of satisfying the demand for certain skills domestically, the G20 needs to tap into the migrant workforce for required skills, much in the same way as it has for most of the 20th century. The proposal to the above-stated challenge is underlined even bolder here. The economic discrepancies between the G20 and the rest of the world are widening, and certain skills have become obsolete while demand for others have increased. Moreover, skill-building initiatives in less developed economies are far from satisfactory in quality and number, as the domestic demand for those skills in countries-of-origin is rare. TVET programs, therefore, could tackle problems regarding the skills demands in the G20, the lack of skill-building initiatives in migrant-sending countries, and the widening discrepancies between the G20 and migrant-sending countries.

A survey of G20 governments conducted during the 2015 Turkish presidency concluded that 15 of the G20 countries would like to receive the same or higher number of immigrants in the future (International Organization for Migration 2015). This implies that the G20 governments recognize the prominence of skilled migration for their LMs. This reality is hardly inadmissible as more than 40% of all scientists in Australia are immigrants, while in the US, immigrants account for more than 35% of enrolments in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields (Martin-Shields and Munir-Asen 2018). Similarly, low income countries have the highest rate of highly-skilled emigration to G20 countries, with some Central American, Caribbean, and African countries experiencing emigration levels of over 40% in highly-skilled workers (OECD 2019).

OECD asserts that the enhanced capabilities of G20 countries to outsource tasks and conduct business across national borders are expected to have an impact on how skilled immigration will be managed in the near future (OECD 2019). This is especially important, as the demand for technical skills that enable problem-solving and critical-thinking, particularly in STEM-occupations, and the number of occupations will increase in the G20 (ILO 2018b). Correspondingly, migrants who want to immigrate to these countries will need the necessary skills to be granted entry.

Currently, 66% of all migrants are employed compared with 62% of native-born citizens in G20 countries (OECD 2019). However, the general average does not reflect the differences in discrepancies in some G20 countries. In Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Brazil, migrants have much better LM outcomes compared with natives. In Argentina and South Korea, the discrepancies between migrants and natives are not as high. In the UK and the US, however, migrants lag behind the natives in employment rates. While the discrepancy in LM outcomes between natives and newcomers is nowhere more pronounced than in Europe, Turkey, and Mexico (OECD 2019).

Moreover, the rapidly aging populations of G20 countries call for an additional migrant workforce to satisfy the domestic demand in short-to-medium term (UN 2019). An increase in the over-65 population in the coming 30-years is almost certain for all G20 countries, with the highest (%) increases expected in Indonesia, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia, and the lowest in Russia, Germany, Italy, and Japan (UN 2019). In the face of an aging population and the differing disparity between LM outcomes for natives and migrants in G20 countries, an immigrant LF with the desired skill-set is required to sustain economic growth. A study in 2019 asserted that Germany would need 260,000 new migrants each year until 2060 to meet shortages in labor because of demographic decline, of which approximately 140,000 would need to come from non-European countries (Bertelsmann Foundation 2019). Similarly, 2018 ended with Japan having around 900,000 job openings that the local workforce was not equipped to fill (Japan Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare 2019). The Boston Consultancy Group foresees a labor shortage of almost 40 million workers in Brazil by 2030, and a labor deficit of approximately 900,000 workers in Italy by 2030 (Strack et al. 2014).

In summary, when the varied share of migrants-to-native employment figures combined with the labor demand problems facing the G20 countries are considered, skill-building schemes in countries-of-origin before the act of migration could assure a higher probability of integration through employment at destination countries, while also satisfying the labor demands in G20 countries with precision. The positive correlation between skill-building and integration prospects is evident in the approaches of destination countries to integration. For example, Germany offers rigorous language training to newcomers as part of integration courses and subjects all migrants to a dual education system to achieve German-equivalency following their arrival. In Belgium, asylum-seekers have the chance to benefit from the trainings offered by the public employment services, and Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Sweden have made significant efforts on migrant skills validation and skill-building schemes upon arrival (CEDEFOP 2017). This policy brief asserts that carrying-out certain integration activities at countries-of-origin makes the process easier and cheaper to manage, and beneficial for all parties involved (Clemens 2015). Even in the event a TVET participant does not migrate to the destination country, the attendee would be equipped with future-of-work skills and could seek employment domestically or in third countries.

The interaction between aging demographics and migrant skill-building schemes to fill job vacancies is not unequivocal (OECD 2019), and so are not the “challenges concerning fair access to training and how to fill skills gaps in some countries without creating them in others.” (ILO 2010). The Ministerial Declaration of the G20 in 2019 emphasizes that “An ageing population will bring new job opportunities…but without appropriate actions, also has the potential to result in shortages of labour and skills, slower economic growth…we recognize that labour mobility may facilitate the better matching of supply and demand in our labour markets.” (G20 Japan 2019). The recommendations in this policy brief are appropriate actions to address the shortages in labor and skills, and shape country-specific applications of integration processes in G20 countries in a way that positions countries-of-origin at the center of migration management.

This policy brief recommends that G20 countries promote bilateral relations with countries-of-origin from which most immigrants emigrate, by way of TVET scheme(s) in migrant-sending countries.

For socio-ethical reasons, the proposed TVET scheme(s) can only be established in migrant-sending and -receiving countries with long-standing historical–sociological– economic relations that have resulted in one-sided emigration.

These schemes could also act as responsibility-sharing mechanisms, as similar programs can be established in countries hosting large numbers of asylum-seekers and refugees to alleviate the burden on host countries (i.e., Turkey).

A TVET should be designed for the migrant-sending country citizens with a curriculum that is considerate of existing skills gaps in the destination country (i.e., futureof-work). The curriculum, while teaching new skills, would also increase participants’ chances for remote work, if supported by the necessary infrastructure (i.e., qualification certificates). Future skills such as complex problem-solving, critical-thinking, along with hard-skills such as computer programming-coding would be included in the curriculum to maximize employment prospects.

Upon destination country selection:

  • Analysis of LM/LF to identify skills demands with due consideration of expected future-of-work skills and best-practices
  • Design of ToT module(s) to produce educators (i.e., intercultural education training)
  • Inclusive information gathering initiatives (i.e., skills-needs, employment guarantees)

Upon country-of-origin selection:

  • Analysis of LM/LF to map existing skills and skill-gaps
  • Existing domestic skill-building scheme(s)

TVET(s) will be designed, and a group of participants will be trained in the country-of-origin. Participants would be selected based on preliminary examination results.

Destination countries will not only help develop the TVET schemes in countries-of-origin but offer employment guarantees to overachieving participants. Those who do not qualify for a guarantee will nevertheless become members of the domestic LF equipped with future-of-work skills and remote working opportunities. Their participation is projected to have a direct effect on decreasing the probability of irregular migration.

The destination country will offer guidance to countries-of-origin to ensure an up-todate and sustainable program. Hence, the destination country will introduce innovative approaches and share its expertise. Considering the on-going structural changes in G20 countries, new TVET schemes must be devised with concurrent modules that incorporate advanced teaching tools/subjects. Therefore, an ideal TVET must include workshops, digitalized remote education combined with horizontal skill-building modules, and information dissemination seminars.

Expectedly, some migrant-sending countries will be against this initiative, as it could lead to an increase in brain-drain and would raise ethical questions on worker recruitment. However, as this skill-building initiative is considerate of migrant-sending countries in the migration-integration nexus, which previously solely considered the host and the migrant, it is expected that it would bring-in financial, infrastructural, and human capital investments.

Referring to The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration drafted and signed in 2018, the proposed TVET scheme would allow for controlled immigration to destination countries where chances for integration are maximized. It would reduce immigrant integration costs of destination countries, help with social cohesion, and also support migrant-sending countries by encouraging skill-building at home.


This policy brief was developed and written by the authors and has undergone a peer review process. The views and opinions expressed in this policy brief are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the authors’ organizations or the T20 Secretariat.

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Murat Kenanoğlu (Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV)), Sibel Güven (Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey)

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