United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Enhancing Tunisian youth employability through internships in Belgian companies


    High unemployment has been one of the main challenges for Tunisia in recent years, with an even higher incidence among young graduates. This situation contributes to internal instability and is a driving factor of irregular migration towards the EU. In this context, Belgium recognized that reinforcing regular migration channels would contribute to Tunisia’s development by reducing unemployment. Through this project, IOM promoted youth employability in Tunisia through targeted short-term employment assignments in Belgium, providing concrete opportunities for young graduates to scale-up their skills and increase their chances of finding a job or opening their own businesses.


    The objective of this project was to contribute to the Tunisian government’s efforts to address the issue of unemployment among young graduates and promote regular pathways to the EU from Africa through a circular migration scheme between Belgium and Tunisia. Belgian and Tunisian stakeholders, both public (employment and investment agencies, ministries, embassies and others) and private (employers’ associations, chambers of commerce, and others) were engaged in developing the scheme and in making it a triple win for all parties involved: the trainees, the host companies in Belgium, and the Tunisian companies hiring the trainees upon return.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    By facilitating access to technical and vocational training to young Tunisians, the project contributed to SDG Goal 1 and 4 (Targets 4.3 and 4.b), as well as Goal 8 (Target 8.5). Given the prominence of the ICT sector, it also contributed to Goal 4 (Target 4.4) and Goal 5 (Target 5.b). The project fostered equal participation of men and women, thus contributing to Goal 5 (Target 5.5). By facilitating regular migration, the project contributed to Goal 10 (Target 10.7). Finally, the creation of a public/private multi-stakeholder partnership for the project contributed to Goal 17 (Target 17.17).

    Implementation methodologies

    The project, funded by the Belgian Government, was implemented from March 2018 to December 2019. In the first phase of the project, outreach towards the private sector in Belgium and Tunisia was conducted, and contact was established with stakeholders in both countries. As a result of the outreach, companies interested in hosting and training young Tunisian graduates in Belgium were identified along with an initial set of companies interested in hiring them upon return to Tunisia. Contacting additional companies continued until early 2019. Once an initial number of companies were identified and a set of internship notices were collected, a recruitment campaign was launched in Tunisia in cooperation with ANETI, the local public employment agency. In parallel, a monitoring mechanism to oversee both the companies and the interns’ satisfaction with the project was developed in Belgium. The first recruitments were confirmed by companies in the second half of 2018, and others continued throughout the first half of 2019. In February 2019, IOM also organized a training on soft skills for the interns, based on the feedback received by the first companies who engaged in the project. By August 2019, all interns had completed their placement and returned to Tunisia. In this third phase, IOM contacted Tunisian companies interested in hiring some of the returnees and, where applicable, provided additional support to other interns to identify job opportunities or to launch an entrepreneurial activity, which some interns prepared in Belgium. In some cases, interns were hired in Tunisia by their Belgian host company. IOM followed up with the interns between January and February 2020 to assess the impact of the project in the short term.


    The project offered 31 Tunisian graduates the opportunity to intern with 12 Belgian companies to upscale their professional skills. After the internships, 24 out of 31 interns were employed in Tunisia, 2 interns decided to continue their studies, 3 were employed abroad, and 2 were dismissed by their host companies for unsatisfactory performance. The majority of the host companies evaluated the project positively and would be open to participate in similar initiatives in the future. The project also provided all parties involved with a better understanding of regular migration, and helped companies and interns to explore the complementarities and the differences between Belgium and Tunisia. It has also been an opportunity for Belgian companies to understand Tunisia’s market potential: four host companies manifested the intention to open a branch in Tunisia following their experiences in the project, contributing even further to the positive economic development for both countries.

    Factors and Constraints

    A good skills-matching process between the Belgian and the Tunisian labour markets’ structure was the main enabling factor of the project. Another advantage was that this opportunity was free of charge for all parties involved. Furthermore, the support of key stakeholders benefitted the implementation of the project. Oppositely, the main constraints of the project were the multiple administrative and logistical procedures related to the intern’s relocation to Belgium. Additionally, the interns’ underdeveloped soft skills, and the lack of pre-departure support, were issues that had to be tackled in the course of the project implementation.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The project created a network of public and private entities who cooperated with each other and will be available for future similar initiatives. Among these, the Belgian host companies who participated in the project play a key role which is manifested in their interest to join a follow-up initiative. Lessons learned from this project are supporting Skills Mobility Partnerships: between Tunisia and Italy, Morocco, Egypt, and Switzerland. Furthermore, ideas to replicate the internship scheme are currently being discussed, including a follow-up project with Tunisia and a new pilot between Belgium and Georgia. Meanwhile, the lessons learned during the project have been disseminated in different for a via the participation of IOM at thematic events and have been integrated into new projects (such as the Making Migration Work programme). They have also been integrated in an EU-funded labour migration project called “MATCH”, currently being implemented by IOM Belgium and Luxembourg.

    COVID-19 Impact

    The project was concluded before the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Contact Name
    International Organization for Migration – Country Office for Belgium and Luxembourg
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    Geographical coverage

    All three regions of Belgium (Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia) and various Tunisian governorates

    01 March 2018 (start date)
    31 December 2019 (date of completion)
    More information
    Contact Information

    Rob, Policy and Programme Officer