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New research project identifies barriers and potential opportunities for foreigners wishing to integrate into the Danish labour market

Researchers behind the H2020 SIRIUS EU-funded research project point out that there is great potential in efforts to promote labour market integration if the qualifications of migrants - from their home countries - are taken into account to a greater extent.
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What opportunities and challenges are associated with the integration of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers into the Danish labour market? This is the question examined by the Danish team of researchers in the SIRIUS project (Skills and Integration of Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Applicants in European Labour Markets) over the past three years.

There has been a political focus in Denmark in recent years on getting foreigners into the labour market as quickly as possible, and although there may be differences in their statuses/circumstances (for example, refugees and migrants), some of the foreigners interviewed for the project have experienced some of the same barriers preventing their smooth integration into the Danish labour market. These barriers include language, cultural codes and norms and a lack of a network, which can otherwise often be a good route into the Danish labour market. In addition, some of the interviewees experience that they do not get a job corresponding to their qualifications, and that this is due to the fact that they encounter a system that is not necessarily geared to take account of the individual foreigner.

Professor of Global Studies at Roskilde University, Michelle Pace, who is the leader of the Danish team of researchers, concludes - on the basis of the research project - that the current focus on getting foreigners into the labour market at quickly as possible causes problems:

“The potential benefits of good labour market-oriented efforts are great, but right now we can see that a number of foreigners do not really have the opportunity to contribute with the qualifications they have. Our research shows that it would be beneficial to work on developing a system that better assesses the skills that foreigners bring with them to Denmark, so that we can ensure that they can take up jobs that reflect their skills and experiences” explains Professor Michelle Pace.

Since 2018, the Danish team of researchers has investigated and analysed the legal, social, economic and political possibilities and the barriers to labour market integration. In addition to a number of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, these researchers have also interviewed representatives of political parties, trade unions, employers' organizations and civil society organizations in order to gain an understanding of what a focus on getting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers (in particular) into the labour market quickly has meant.

“Our research shows that refugees, migrants and asylum seekers not only contribute to the Danish workforce: They also constitute a key resource that the Danish welfare society could utilize much better. Several of the interviewees described having to struggle to get their qualifications properly assessed and recognized. This has consequences for the individual, but also an unrealized potential for the Danish labour market” says Michelle Pace.

The Danish team of researchers from Roskilde University, as well as some of their informants, presented their results at a two day conference entitled “Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the Danish Labour Market: Challenges and Opportunities” organised at Roskilde University on 5-6 October 2020.

The SIRIUS project is funded through the EU research programme Horizon 2020. The other project partners are Glasgow Caledonian University (UK), Université de Genève (Switzerland), European University Institute (Italy), University of Florence (Italy), Charles University (The Czech Republic), Solidar (Belgium), Solidarity Now (Greece), University of Jyväskylä (Finland), University of Parma (Italy), National Technical University Athens (Greece) and Multikulturní Centrum Praha (The Czech Republic).

For more information, please access the SIRIUS project website.