Let’s face it: Across Europe, migrants are still too often perceived as a socio-economic burden unless they can fill jobs that would have remained vacant otherwise. Such unfair focus on the negative aspects of migration purposely ignores much more important truths, simply because they don’t fit with the narrative. Migrants mitigate the effects of demographic decline and ageing, bring us cultural diversity, and make concrete contributions to our economies. This wrongful vision results in several barriers to integration, one of them being more difficult access to jobs. “The main problem here is how EU countries have come to provide migrants with a specific ‘legal status’ that effectively separates them from the rest of the population. Migrants are assigned to a legal category which directly affects their capacity to be hired. Asylum seekers for instance, are banned from work in many EU countries for a long period of time. Such a gap in their CV creates a vicious circle, which is only made worse by the lack of mechanisms acknowledging past educational achievements and skills, not to mention discrimination,” says Simone Baglioni, professor of Sociology at the University of Parma. With funding under the project SIRIUS (Skills and Integration of Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Applicants in European Labour Markets), Baglioni and other project partners could investigate labour market barriers and enablers for newcomers to the EU. They combined an assessment of policies and legal frameworks with societal dynamics and analysis of individual experiences, and eventually generated a much better understanding of the complexity of labour market integration for post-2014 migrants.
A serious game to prepare newcomers
The SIRIUS findings culminated in the creation of a serious game application called WORKEEN, created by a team of political scientists, sociologists, economists and software engineers. “The application provides practical guidance and hands-on soft skills training for any migrant entering the labour market for the first time,” Baglioni notes. “It’s one of the first of its kind, interactively guiding jobseekers through the two stages of job search and workplace integration by means of gaming scenarios.” In the first step, WORKEEN guides migrants as they follow all the necessary steps to secure a job. The application provides a checklist that helps them identify required documentation, before delivering guidance on how the migrant should present his/her skills and past experiences. Additional information is provided on how to contact a placement agency, write a cover letter and CV, and prepare for a job interview. The second step helps newly appointed migrants succeed in their new role, as Baglioni explains. “We have created scenarios to help users navigate challenging situations from simple miscommunication in everyday encounters to facing bullying or abusive behaviour.” The WORKEEN application is available from the Google Play Store for Android devices, free of charge. It’s available in English, Arabic, Farsi and six different European languages. Besides their work on the WORKEEN application, the project team has also been raising awareness of the conditions migrants live in. The interactive documentary ‘Workers: 11 stories from the European job market’, for instance, provides the broader public with first-hand insight from 11 refugees and migrants who’ve struggled with the European job market. The consortium has also successfully entered the political and academic debate on migrants, most recently with an open access book discussing how policies and legal frameworks shape opportunities for labour migration. “We hope the project will contribute by raising awareness about the barriers that should be removed; but most importantly by providing migrants with a qualified voice to speak with policymakers, social actors the media and ordinary citizens. At the end of the day, all we wish for is a common vision of a cohesive society respectful of diversities,” Baglioni concludes.
SIRIUS, migrants, refugees, labour market, legal status, discrimination, WORKEEN