(Mis)Recognition of Migrant Youth Employability: Ethnographic Account of Activation Labour Market Policies in Finland

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Daria KRIVONOS, University of Helsinki, Finland
Lotta HAIKKOLA, University of Helsinki, Finland
In Finland, as in all European countries, young people with migrant background are disadvantaged in the labour market, and part of this disadvantage remains inexplicable in quantitative analyses. This paper attempts to fill this gap by examining how immigrant employment and integration services are experienced by young migrants in Finland through the concept of (mis)recognition (Fraser 2008). We examine integration services as an extension of activating labour market policies. Activation here refers to various forms of workfare where unemployment benefits are conditional upon participation in trainings and work trials meant to enhance one’s employability, and with immigrants - integration and language courses. The paper is based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in the employment office and career counselling courses for young people. The fieldwork has shown that young migrants’ skills and education gained outside Finland are perpetually devalued, misrecognized and even not acknowledged at all. Instead, to be re-recognized as employable, young people are supposed to invest three to five years to learn Finnish and get a new training or vocational degree in Finland as part of their activation plan. Such long-term investment delays entrance to the labour market and requires deep commitment from already qualified young people. Moreover, outcomes of this investment are uncertain and there is no guarantee that the desired employment will be achieved. Unlike most of the existing research on migrants’ inclusion to the labour market— which focuses solely on individual qualifications — we argue that young migrants face structural misrecognition by institutional agents as capable, qualified and employable. Migrancy works as a key category to classify young people’s qualifications and experience. In this way, we change the focus from young migrants’ supposedly personal failings to the structural processes of recognition of migrant youth’s capabilities. 

 Fraser, N. (2008) Scales of Justice. Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World. Polity.