All 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 actually 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 on the basis of their motivation to enter the EU, and this category 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. It’s a huge waste of talent, and a source of demotivation for migrants,” explains Simone Baglioni, Professor of Sociology at the University of Parma.
With EU funding under the SIRIUS project, Baglioni and other project partners could investigate labour market barriers and enablers for newcomers to the European Union. 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
SIRIUS’ findings culminate in the form 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 a labour market for the first time,” Baglioni adds. “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 will guide 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 experience. 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. “Stage two is designed to help new employees become familiar with their new country or new position so that they may avoid unpleasant tension. It also makes them aware of their rights and prepares them to address potential exploitation and abuse,” says Baglioni. “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 on Google Play store for Android devices, free of charge. It’s available in English, Arabic, Farsi and six different European languages (Czech, Danish, Finnish, French, Greek and Italian).”
The application was actively promoted on social media and through web and print media outlets. Several actors, such as municipalities, have already shown interest in using it, while several NGOs have been tasked with testing it.
SIRIUS is due for completion in July 2021. Besides their work on the WORKEEN application, the consortium successfully entered the political and academic debate on migrants to become trusted interlocutors for actors ranging from EU institutions to businesses and civil society. “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, societal actors, the media and citizens. At the end of the day, all we wish for is a common vision of a cohesive society respectful of diversity,” Baglioni concludes.