Attracting international talent in cities

16 October 2020

Cities are looking into new ways to attract international talent and provide incentives for migrants to settle and work in their territories. European societies are ageing fast and are therefore in need of immigration to uphold socio-economic standards, counteract the pressure put on social systems and maintain the essential infrastructure of our economies.

One tool to achieve this is Tampere’s Strategic Programme on International Talent Attraction and Migration, a first of its kind in Finland. Mari Taverne, leading Tampere’s work on this topic, says the city’s vision is: “Tampere – the best for you – an attractive and renowned city for international talent”.

By creating a strategic, cross-sector holistic management model for internationalisation, the city focuses on bringing their local ecosystem to life. Tampere sees international talent as a key factor in promoting business and innovation. At the same time, the skills, competences and needs of people with a migrant background take centre stage when matching them for a good employment position.

To put these concepts into practice, Tampere has built a unique coordination structure that supports the settlement of international experts and steers job seekers with a migrant background towards open labour markets:

  • Migration Info Centre Mainio: giving advice and guidance for newcomers and settled migrants
  • International HUB Tampere: matching local business and global talents
  • the International Skills Centre: speeding up the educational and employment paths for migrants and facilitate their access to the labour market in the region

The cities of Solna and Grenoble also have strong measures in place the integration of migrants into the labour market. Solna’s Solna Model on labour market integration works through strong ties to employers, while Grenoble’s Refugee Inclusion and Employment Integrated Programme (RISING) builds on individualised employment coaching to ease access to employment.

These initiatives of the three cities illustrate their key role in personalisation and service orientation of labour market support beyond what national integration programmes can deliver, e.g. through individual job coaches, on-demand training, mapping and validating formal qualifications and non-accredited skills, one-stop-shops, or multilingual support. They also show how cities are forging partnerships and initiating joined governance processes: with actors from business, university, NGO and government sectors to jointly steer talent attraction and labour market inclusion from the local or metropolitan level. Finally, it is clear from these practices that cities occupy a key role in engaging employers to better tailor employment measures and meet skills shortages, and to tackle their insecurities (red tape, insecure status, language deficits, etc.) about hiring refugees.

The refugee arrival in 2015 boosted the adaptation of municipal services to diversity. It helped to initiate further processes of intercultural orientation of services, and to forge new alliances (e.g. with employers and chambers of commerce) on refugee integration.

This complex topic was the focus of discussion during a meeting of the Eurocities Social Affairs Forum’s working group (a group of cities dedicated to working together on a specific salient issue) on migration & integration on 7/8 October. Originally planned to take place in Tampere, the meeting moved online and was successfully hosted by Tampere as a digital mutual learning visit – complete with presentations, video messages, panel discussions and a virtual city tour! In addition, these local level experiences were linked in an advocacy session to ongoing EU policies on migration and integration.

These local level experiences were connected to the EU policy agenda on migration and integration. Cities engaged in a panel discussion with European Commission representatives Michael Shotter, Director for Migration, Protection and Visa, and Katarina Ivanković-Knežević, Director for Social Affairs, as well as Tampere’s deputy mayor Jaakko Stenhäll and Amsterdam’s deputy mayor Rutger Groot Wassink.

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum and the upcoming Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion were the main two policy files discussed, specifically in how they relate to cities’ integration efforts at the local level. With respect to the former, questions were raised about the compromise character of the proposal and whether the balance was struck between border management funding and integration funding. Connected to this, the Commission encouraged cities to engage in national level discussions on the importance of including migrants as a priority in member states’ National Reform and Resilience Programmes in the context of the pandemic recovery. The discussion also touched on the upcoming difficult negotiations on a common approach to migration and asylum and the need to find solidarity between member states.

With view to the upcoming Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion, the discussions highlighted that:

  • Direct and structural funding for cities, independent from national governments, remains a key priority for cities for the consolidation of existing local initiatives.
  • Funding should be more flexible and support from different sources should be more compatible, and not determine policy design by its administrative logic.
  • Opportunities for transnational learning and multi-level venues in which cities sit at a table with national governments and the European Commission are of strategic importance for cities and should be intensified.
  • Particularly when views on migration differ radically between cities and national governments, creating funding and cooperation structures independent of national government is crucial for cities to stay involved in the EU discussions on migrant and refugee integration.

These and other points are taking into account in a Eurocities submission to the public consultation on the integration and inclusion of migrants and people with a migrant background.

The Commission also highlighted that the European Pillar of Social Rights and the upcoming Action Plan on its implementation were key documents that will set the long-term future of social policy in the EU. As migration plays a crucial role in many of its principles, a mainstreaming approach to migration and integration is indispensable. Cities are invited to have their say by sending contributions to the EU public consultation on social Europe until 30 November.



Katharina Bamberg Head of migration