The future law on immigration in France will include the creation of a residence permit for "professions under strain", according to the labor minister and the interior minister. Will the new measure improve the lives of undocumented workers? InfoMigrants takes a closer look.
The future law on immigration, which will be debated in parliament in early 2023, was outlined by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde last week.
The two ministers announced the creation of a special residency permit for workers without papers who are already on French territory and working in sectors experiencing labor shortages. While giving undocumented workers legal status, Darmanin however also vowed to make the lives of those served with a deportation order "impossible".
For Jean-Christophe Dumont, Chief of International Migration Division at the OECD, the future text, though "hazy", represents a positive step forward in immigration law. "The measure will alleviate the Kafkaesque reality for some of those who have been employed for years but whose presence on French territory remains illegal," said the economist.
Which professions are 'under strain'?
The success of the measure depends on the jobs included in the list of the sectors "under strain" and the ability of the government to update the list. The list, divided by regions, was created in 2008 and updated in 2021. "There are professions on the list which have become obsolete, jobs like 'electrician' which are too general and new kinds of work in the technology sector which have not yet been taken into account," said Dumont.
"Covid-19 incited a lot of people to change jobs and it also accelerated the trend of working at a distance. This reduced the need for manual work. In the context of all this professional upheaval, jobs in the green sector, or linked to clean energy will be prioritized by the government," said Dumont.
Hélène Soupios-David, advocacy director of France Terre d’Asile, thinks "the new measure might not benefit everyone, since not all irregular migrants work in 'sectors under strain'". Some migrants, for example, work in the hotel trade or as waiters, and the new law has yet to give the details on whether these sectors will be included.
The advocacy director also voiced concern over the length of the future residence permit. "It shouldn't be too short. If the permit only lasts a year, it would not really represent an improvement in the lives of irregular migrants," she said.
In the interview with Le Monde, Dussopt said the goal of the measure "is for those who work in sectors under tension, particularly in construction, to be able to access the possibility of staying on the territory without depending on their employer," adding that it would inverse the power dynamic between employers who benefited from keeping their employees in an illegal situation.
Will it stop under the table work?
Will the measure reduce work on the black market? Once again, everything is in the details. "We don’t know if this is the end of the Valls Circular (a previous measure for migrants to gain residency status) and we still don’t know which jobs are 'under strain'," said Dumont.
Perhaps most significant is the fact that the announcement was made jointly between the minister of interior and the minister of labor. The Ministry of Labor has often been overshadowed by the Ministry of the Interior in the past and the fact that they issued the communication together appears like the beginning of an immigration strategy -- and a glimmer of hope to migrants yearning for regularization, analysts say.