Being on the Frontline? Immigrant Workers in Europe and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Francesco Fasani, Jacopo Mazza*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article provides the first systematic assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the labor market for immigrant workers in Europe. The authors estimate that in 2020 extra-EU migrants were twice as likely and EU migrants were 1.6 times as likely to experience employment loss relative to comparable natives. To understand the determinants of these large gaps, the article focuses on three job characteristics—essentiality, temporariness, and teleworkability—and documents that migrants were overrepresented among essential, temporary, and low-teleworkable occupations at the onset of the pandemic. The authors estimate that pre-pandemic occupational sorting accounts for 25 to 35% of the explained migrant–native gap in the risk of employment termination, while sorting into industries accounts for the rest of the explained gap. More than half of this gap remains unexplained. Although major employment losses were averted thanks to the massive use of short-time work programs in Europe, migrant workers—particularly extra-EU migrants—suffered from high economic vulnerability during the pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-918
Number of pages29
JournalILR Review
Issue number5
Early online date17 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • COVID-19
  • European Union
  • employment risk
  • essential occupations
  • key workers
  • migrants


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