One-quarter of all asylum seekers who sign up with the Flemish employment and training agency VDAB have found work within a year, according to a new study by the Leuven university labour support office. Based on figures provided by the VDAB for 2015 and 2016, 12.4% of asylum seekers had found a job within six months, and 24.5% within 12 months. However women did rather less well: 20% were in work after a year, and only 10.1% after six months. Women make up less than half of all VDAB clients.
“This concurs with previous research which showed a lower participation in the labour force of female asylum seekers, thanks to traditional gender roles and hierarchies which form a barrier for women,” the research says.
But however successful their search for work, asylum seekers tend to be under-employed, working below their level of education, qualifications and experience, the team said. Part of the problem is the recognition by Belgian employers of qualifications including degrees obtained in other countries.
Poverty, on the other hand, seems to play little or no role in the success at finding work. Asylum seekers from poor countries are just as successful as those from countries that are better off, the research reveals. Asylum seekers from conflict zones, by contrast, have more problems. They often have mental problems caused by trauma and stress, caused also by events during their flight.
“This could ensure that asylum seekers from those areas feel relatively more traumatised, which means they need more time to begin looking for work and to present themselves on the jobs market via a service like the VDAB,” the researchers said.