4 years after the recognition of their refugee status, 55% of refugees are working, according to project CAREERS, a study sponsored by BELSPO (Belgian Federal Science Policy Office) and the Federal Migration Centre, undertaken by ULB and KUL (Belgian universities), and published on Thursday. Researchers followed the careers of 108,856 people who sought asylum in Belgium between 2001 and 2010. “Time plays a crucial part in their socio-economic integration. The faster they start working, the better their careers later on,” points out Andrea Rea from ULB. Out of a total of 108,856 people, researchers focused on the 4,869 who obtained refugee status between 2003 and 2006. They assessed their situation every 3 months over the course of 4 years.
The study found that, though at the time of their recognition, 19% were either employed, self-employed or unemployed, after 4 years that figure reached 55%. “This proves that insertion in the labour market gets better over time. Little by little, these people join the labour market and contribute to the economy,” highlights Andre Rea.
Researchers found integration into the workforce of refugees was on a par with that of the Belgian population of foreign origin. “These are good results when compared to other countries. Belgium is in line with neighbouring countries,” points out Andrea Rea.
But the study also highlights some weaknesses in the system. Family and gender have an impact on refugees’ careers. Single mothers are more likely to need benefits than married women with or without children, or than childless unmarried women.
The study also shows differences between the north and the south of the country. The economic environment in Flanders, where the unemployment rate is lower than in the other 2 regions, offers better job prospects, which would give refugees a better chance of getting into the labour market. Inburgering (a civic integration programme in Flanders) also helps, by offering language and guidance and networking with Belgian and Flemish institutions to promote useful job-hunting skills.