Gender Knowledge in the Labour Market Inclusion of Skilled Female Refugees in Germany

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Helen SCHWENKEN, University of Osnabrück, Germany
The paper asks for the normative foundations of labour market inclusion projects for skilled female refugees in Germany. It hypothesizes that often less a traditional understanding of gender roles amongst refugees is the barrier to their adequate labour market inclusion, but indeed a traditional gender knowledge on the side of German institutions and career advisers.

After the institutionalized refugee reception and civil society’s ‘welcome culture’, labour market integration currently dominates refugee reception efforts. Besides projects designated to refugees in general, many target female refugees. Some have been designed for women migrants before (e.g. ‘Stark im Beruf’) and began including female refugees, others are tailored for female refugees (e.g. ‘Perspektiven für weibliche Flüchtlinge – PerF-W‘). Some are also directed towards skilled refugees (e.g. ‘MySkills’ or ‘ValiKomon recognition of informal skills; the gender-specific coaching project ‘Betriebliches Mentoring für qualifizierte geflüchtete Frauen’).

The existence of this plethora of gender-specific projects indicates that state and non-state actors are well aware that gender-specific efforts are necessary to promote equal opportunities for female refugees. It is equally important to critically assess these labour market inclusion measures. This paper therefore assesses the normative foundations of such projects. Despite the focus on gender equality, especially skilled female refugees and mothers are placed in low-skill and feminized sectors and experience a devaluation of their skills. The question is why. The paper does not presume bad intentions, but the unintentional effects of deeply-rooted gender knowledge (Dölling; Wetterer) that implicitly drives counseling and placement processes. Gendered norms might be understood as part of cultural capital. ‘Assessing it’ (as mentioned in the CfP) is not only ‘difficult’, but more complex given its tacitness.

The paper is based on expert and participant interviews and documents from an ongoing research project on the gendered labour market inclusion of refugees.