Recruiting Skilled Professionals Abroad: a Comparison between France and Germany

In recent years, distinct social worlds – on one hand scientific and on the other political, often coordinated on an international level, have taken up the issue of the immigration of skilled professionals. In the 2000s, the category of “highly skilled” workers appeared in German and French migration policies, thanks to the European Commission’s growing preoccupation with the question. At the same time, there was an increase in the degree level of new arrivals, so much so that the percentage of immigrants with university degrees was from then on comparable to that of the rest of the population, both in France and in Germany. Until now, the sociology of immigration has in general been more interested in less skilled professional sectors, beginning with workers. Recent evolutions thus raise a number of questions: to what extent do foreign university degrees allow access to superior professions? What is the position of foreign university graduates in a group of administrators/directors? Is this manpower from abroad disadvantaged (in terms of career, salary, etc.) or on the contrary, privileged due to its international attributes? 

To answer these questions, I explore several aspects closely interlinked, such as geographic origin, type of training, sex, and/or professional sector. Skilled professions show very different recruitment practices, some remaining very closed to the recruitment of immigrants, others more open, but mainly to immigrants from Western Europe. Opposition can be seen between managers in private companies and professions of the public sector, which employ more women. The placing of certain national groups of university graduates in low-level positions follows different rationales according to the country, which can be linked with France’s colonial past and Germany’s historical links with Eastern Europe. My research is based on several searches in public statistics (Employment inquiries, German micro-census), supplemented by interviews carried out among skilled immigrants.