Labor Market Integration of Refugees: Determinants of Labor Market Entry Among Syrian, Afghan, Iranian and Iraqi Refugees in Austria

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Christina LIEBHART, University of Vienna, Austria
Raimund HAINDORFER, University of Vienna, Austria
Roland VERWIEBE, University of Vienna, Austria
In 2015 and 2016 Austria belonged to a group of EU countries (including Germany, Hungary and Sweden) which received the largest number of refugees in relation to its population size. One urgent concern is the facilitation of these refugees’ economic self-sufficiency by integrating them into the labor market. This paper investigates the theoretical assumption (e.g. Alba, Esser, Faist, Castles) that labor market integration is affected by various social, cultural, and symbolical factors. All of these factors are assumed to influence labor market chances in the receiving society, by taking into account the respective institutional conditions. Empirically, this presentation is based on field research conducted in 2017 in Austria. Our research utilizes a mixed-method approach comprising a quantitative survey with refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran (N=1,200), 25 problem-centered interviews with refugees and 10 expert interviews.

Preliminary findings show that labor market entry in Austria is mainly affected by refugees’ cultural capital (e.g. educational background, language proficiency), social capital (specific forms of personal contacts), occupational experiences as well as factors like age, gender and national background. The qualitative data give insight into the specific processes of looking for and finding work, hence disclosing a number of challenges regarding employability (e.g. recognition of qualifications) but also in the everyday reality of refugees (e.g. supporting NGO’s), that can positively or negatively affect their chances of finding a job. Better prospects of labor market integration are found for young males with access to ethnic and Austrian social networks and the willingness to work their way up from nothing, mainly in the service and manual crafts industries, while women with young children and little formal education can be especially vulnerable. Often the restraint of seeking employment during the long asylum seeking process is deemed to be a negative constant in economic integration.