Is the solution to the shortage of labor foreign workers in the immigration bill project?

On November 6th, after several delays by the government due to lack of consensus, the Senate is expected to begin examining the « Immigration » bill, before the National Assembly takes it up in early 2024. The heart of the debate could be article 3, which aims to facilitate the use of foreign labor in professions where recruitment is difficult. This idea has been rejected by LR, despite the executive relying on them for a majority. We went to see what people think about it on the ground.

In the medical-social establishment in Hérault where she has been working for four years, Anissa* is highly regarded. Both the residents and her colleagues appreciate her. « She is discreet but always smiling and does her job perfectly, » says the director, who wishes to remain anonymous. Not because she doesn’t take responsibility for her position, but to protect her employee.

I don’t know how I could replace her.

For the past few months, this Moroccan woman has seen her residency permit come to an end. And without the help of a well-connected politician who managed to get her an appointment at the prefecture of Hérault when she couldn’t connect to the platform to review her application, she would now be in an irregular situation, unable to work. « For now, she only has a document stating that her situation is under review, » says her boss. « Even though she has been in France for almost ten years, is married to a naturalized foreigner, and has a child born in France. » And especially since she works in a permanent position in the highly demanded field of healthcare. The director of the institution confirms: « If I had to let her go tomorrow, I don’t know how I would replace her, except with unqualified temporary workers, » she says, apologetically.

Des conditions de travail « contraignantes »

This case is far from being isolated. While the government hesitates on its « immigration » bill, according to a recent study by Dares, when one out of ten jobs is currently occupied by an immigrant in France (8% in Occitanie), out of the 87 professional families, 35 occupations stand out with a higher proportion of foreign workers. « These professions are often exposed to demanding working conditions and/or labor market tensions, » states this document. Among the sectors concerned, we notably find domestic employees (38.8%), security guards (28.4%), unskilled construction workers (24.1%), and cooks (22%).

« I cannot reword »

Jacques Mestre, a restaurant owner in La Grande-Motte and president of Umih 34, confirms this pressure. « No one wants to work despite the increased salaries. We are experiencing a real shortage of staff, which forces certain restaurants to close for one or even two days a week. Other business owners are putting their health at risk, » he criticizes. He wants to explore various options with the authorities, but admits that recruiting immigrants, facilitated by the law, would be a viable solution. « But be careful, we only take those who genuinely want to work and for whom we can provide a work contract. The problem today is that the prefecture responds four to six months later, » he adds.

« Une filière » de sans-papiers

One of his colleagues, also based in Hérault, supports this statement. If he asks to remain anonymous, it is because he admits to having already employed undocumented workers due to a lack of staff. « But in certain establishments, it is institutionalized. There is a system that allows someone to come to the kitchen within an hour. They are interchangeable and difficult to control, » he reveals.

, il est important de suivre les normes de sécurité.

In a completely different field, Emmanuel Daries, from the eponymous company specializing in metalwork in Brignac (Hérault) near Ganges, refused to engage in illegal activities. « I don’t have a business that allows me to hire, but I often take on apprentices. I would have liked to hire a young Guinean whom I had already had as an intern with his school, but he didn’t have a residence permit. I couldn’t break the law myself, but I regretted it because this young man was serious and talented. »

With the necessary paperwork, this person would have a future ahead of them in France. Especially in the industry where there are many available positions. In the « Mécanic Vallée », a cluster of 200 industrial companies in the Industry and Metallurgy sector, employing 12,000 workers and extending to Aveyon, 150 positions for lathe millers and machine operators were not filled in 2022, out of the 800 that were created. « We have launched a working group, with all institutional partners, to find new skills. Nevertheless, some of our companies are already turning to foreign countries. And we have another working group to share our experiences on integration actions. We teach them French with our associative partners, we enroll them in training programs, we find them housing and transportation solutions, » says Hervé Danton, General Delegate of Mécanic Vallée.

At the same time

Alphonse Tejedor, from the company La Rosée, a wholesale fruit and vegetable distributor in Mauguio, is also faced with this puzzle. « We have 650 hectares of melons, which amounts to 20,000 tons to harvest, and 30 hectares of strawberries. At peak times, we need 700 to 800 people throughout the year. The local people don’t want to come, so we recruit from Spain, often people of Latin origin, » he says. His main difficulty is finding accommodation for them. There are also administrative challenges. « Some prefectures issue seasonal OMI contracts, which grant a residence permit for the duration of the contract. We can’t do that here. » The business owner therefore hopes that the future immigration debate will streamline the process. « Without fully opening the borders, » he adds. This « at the same time » approach ultimately aligns with Macron’s project.

57% of French people are in favor of the « in-demand occupation » residence permit.

According to a recent survey by Odoxa Backbone consulting for Le Figaro, this is the percentage of French people in favor of a « high-demand job » residence permit, which would facilitate the recruitment of foreign workers in sectors facing labor shortages. Only RN sympathizers are truly opposed to it (at 73%). However, this opinion study also shows that the French also expect firmness, with over 80% demanding more strictness in deportations or the establishment of quotas voted annually by Parliament.

The first name has been changed.

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