By Amy Weatherburn, Elias Herman Kruithof and Christophe Vanroelen
Since 2019, a single permit – allowing both the right to reside and right to work for more than 90 days – has been available to third country nationals who wish to fill a vacancy in a medium skilled bottleneck profession. This study investigates the lived experiences of migrant workers in Flanders, who are single permit holders. The findings reveal that single permit holders working in medium skilled bottleneck professions have a significant dependence on their employer when it comes to relying on them for information about the application process for the single permit whilst still in their country of origin; for informing them of steps to take upon arrival in Belgium before they can begin to work e.g. requirement to register at the local authority within first 8 days of arrival upon territory; for the provision of accommodation on a temporary or long-term basis and for the renewal of their single permit after one year. Overall the implementation of the regime requires a shift in focus onto securing the labour and social rights of workers rather than focusing upon the needs of employers. They recommend that the over-reliance and the dependence on the employer must be minimized by ensuring that more information is provided to workers by local and regional authorities and by opening up the renewal of the single permit so that the holder can work for any employer in that sector. Crucially, the ability to integration both in the workplace and socially can be facilitated by providing access to language and information courses. These programmes would enable workers to have contact with local authorities and social partners e.g. trade unions, beyond their direct employer, allowing for them to receive advice and guidance should they have any workplace grievances or wish to change their employer.