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Migrants in the Job Centre. Qualitative findings on migrants' experiences with Public Employment Support Services in Germany

05.09.2008 | HWWI Research Paper | von Michael Fischer, Vesela Kovacheva, Jan Schneider

The inclusion of migrants into the labour market is considered a key issue in order to achieve better overall integration. However, compared to the German population, unemployment rates are around twice as high among foreigners. One important knob to improve access to the labour market lies in publicly funded counselling and services, a field which has undergone fundamental policy reforms in recent years. In order to illuminate the realities of everyday-encounters between authoritative services and unemployed migrants, to identify possible shortcomings and draw some conclusions for policy development, this paper focuses on the subjective views and experiences of migrants related to the various employment services and agencies. On the basis of a qualitative interview sample, several patterns of experiences within public employment-related agencies are identified, including the perceived role of counsellors, courses and training measures, questions of diversity, discrimination and transparency as well as the overall outcome in terms of job referral and service evaluation. While in some occasions successful cooperation between public employment support agencies and migrants searching for career opportunities can be discerned, in a number of cases the situation appears not very promising. Migrants often sense that local Job Centres or Employment Agencies do not respond to their needs and expectations in a satisfying manner. While in principle they seem to recognize diversity as a given challenge (with direct discrimination being a rather rare occurrence reported by migrants in the sample), there are a number of situations in which migrant clients feel disadvantaged and sense that their qualifications, competencies and career plans cannot be met or remain unrespected by the support system. Thus, building up trust appears to be one challenging endeavour on the services' side. Moreover, increasing transparency of procedures and improving the flow of information are considered to be important tasks in order to make employment-related counselling and service delivery more relevant to migrant job-seekers.