A strong motivation to work, a good education and knowledge of English are all factors that do not guarantee finding a proper job if you are an Iraqi who has arrived in Finland as an asylum seeker. Despite a strong motivation to work, after a few years, some of the migrants content themselves with being recipients of social benefits.
The City Executive Office participated in the Polkuja työhön research project that ended last year. The project looked into how migrants with different backgrounds had integrated into society and the job market in Finland. In a new blog post in the urban research publication Kvartti, City Executive Office researcher Anu Yijälä compiles the main results of a sub-project concerning the subject. In the sub-project, the labour market situation of Iraqi migrants was monitored during their first 2.5 years in Finland.
Employment difficulties change asylum seekers’ attitudes toward social benefits
According to Yijälä, during the time of the first two interview rounds, one aim of the educated Iraqi interviewees was strongly emphasised: to make a living by working. However, employment difficulties hampered the migrants’ integration into the new country. They had problems especially when it came to learning the language and the culture, and the consequential financial concerns reflected badly in the migrants’ self-esteem and general health.
Several of the interviewees found short-term low-paid work that did not match their education. However, accepting the work was deemed difficult, since it was challenging to balance the irregular, low income with the social benefits.
Since permanent employment proved to be nearly impossible to get, the attitude of the interviewees gradually changed and became notably more positive toward social benefits.
The consequences of the significant change of attitude toward social benefits have been covered not only in the blog post but also in the science publication Refugee Survey Quarterly.
Faster employment and support for low-threshold employment opportunities necessary
In the blog post, Anu Yijälä also compiles a number of recommendations for action through which the employment of migrants can be supported. It is essential to get migrants into work, especially educated migrants used to working life, before their capacity to work suffers from the inactivity. Part-time work that did not match the migrants’ education also increased the well-being of interviewees, as long as it involved working in some kind of work community.
According to Yijälä, Finland cannot afford losing even one educated worker into inactivity because of, for instance, depressions stemming from prolonged employment problems or migrants exiting the country.