Overcoming Obstacles? Critical Transitions Between Vicious and Virtuous Cycles Between Health Problems and Employment in Migrant Women's Life Histories.

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Jasmijn SLOOTJES, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
Saskia KEUZENKAMP, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands, Movisie - Netherlands Centre for Social Development, Netherlands
Sawitri SAHARSO, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands, University of Twente, Netherlands
Migrant women have both the highest occurrence of health problems and the lowest employment rates in most European countries (Eurostat, 2014). Health problems are a serious obstacle to employment. In the Netherlands, for example, migrant women receive significantly more benefits than native Dutch women because they are unable to work due to health problems (CBS, 2014). Health problems are often omitted in explaining labour market integration of migrants. This study examines the intricate reinforcing relation between health problems and (un)employment during the life course through life story interviews with women from Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese and Dutch origin (N=60). The narrative analysis highlights four main (preliminary) findings. Firstly, women present health and employment to be strongly interrelated and reinforcing within their life narratives. Negative job characteristics and unemployment are often mentioned as clear causes for health problems, whereas health problems are often clearly indicated as the reason why women stop working or feel unable to work even though they would want to. Interestingly, health problems often seem to be embedded  within a variety of other obstacles to employment, such as discrimination, socio-economic status and gender roles. Secondly, due to the reinforcing nature of these relationships, women often present episodes of their health and employment history as a vicious or virtuous cycle in which different factors either negatively or positively reinforce each other. Thirdly, women identify clear transition points in their life histories, indicating shifts between vicious and virtuous cycles. These transition points provide insight in how women can break out of vicious cycles and overcome obstacles to labour market participation, which is interesting for policy makers. Fourthly, different patterns in the relation between health problems and employment are discussed in terms of ethnic background and migrant generation.