New ideas

The Al-Baath University in Homs looked fantastic in 2010. We seem to expect this perfect image today as well.
The Al-Baath University in Homs looked fantastic in 2010. We seem to expect this perfect image today as well. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It would appear that the flow of refugees has led to something positive after all. That’s the conclusion I came to after reading the news this morning. The director of the Enterprise Federation of Norway claimed in an interview that it was bureaucracy at its worst when it has taken so long for the refugees to enter the job market. This seems like new ideas, but the question is whether it describes the situation accurately.

The government has stated that it aims to get jobs for both refugees and migrants, but it’s far from being as simple as media and the political opposition in parliament seem to think. Fafo (they conduct research for trade unions, employers’ organization, government agencies etc.) sent 1800 ficticious applications to 900 real jobs in 2012. Half the applications were signed Andreas Hansen and Ida Johnsen and the rest Saera Rashis and Kamran Ahmad. The report concluded that applicants with a foreign name had 25 percent less chance of getting called in for a job interview compared to Norwegians.

There are several things that confirm this. A Norwegian financial newspaper interviewed Erik Hansen, the head of the Progressive Global Energy office for Norway and Scotland. This is the world’s largest recruitment company within oil and natural gass. Mister Hansen accused Norwegian companies of being racist because he has frequently been told that the candidate he presented was good, but had the wrong skin colour. It is essentially a further confirmation of this when data from Statistics Norway show that unemployment is much higher among first generation immigrants compared to the rest of the population. Employment in the population excluding immigrants is at 67,2 percent, while it’s 40,7 for Africans and 56 percent for Asians.

The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) approve foreign education in Norway, and they have experienced an increasing pressure to approve degrees from Syrian universities. It’s not as straightforward  as politicians argue. NOKUT refer to statistics from UNESCO showing that 25 percent in urban areas and 17 percent outside the Syrian cities had some higher education before the war. The civil war has been raging for five years now and I wonder how qualified we can expect someone that may/may not have completed a degree before that time to be. Syria was one of the most, if not the most progressive Arab country, so the level of education is likely to be lower in other countries.

It seems strange to me that during a time when unemployment is rising, and many more are competing for the same jobs, we are desperate to have victims of war work for us as well. I have no doubt that there is a lot of therapy in work, but we don’t know whether or not these people are qualified and fit to work. It’s new when some give the impression that bureaucracy is the only obstacle between migrants and a job. We are probably not talking about jobs that have been created especially for refugees, so they have to apply for the same jobs as Norwegians, Eastern Europeans and Scandinavians. These groups have a high employment because they come to Norway specifically to work, and if we intend to exploit the refugees as labour, we have to choose who to keep out of the job market. Are we that altruistic?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t accept refugees, but we should think about what it means to help refugees, and maybe we haven’t thought far enough ahead if we feel that they should contribute to our economy. There is a strong pressure on the government to accept all migrants no matter where they come from, and media regularly criticize the government for its desire to send migrants back to countries they see as safe enough. 40 percent of the migrants are Syrian refugees, so if we let everyone stay, we have to accept a lot of them in order to help the number of Syrians we want. This is not going to change anything.

What we are seeing now is an emergency solution, not a solution. The solution is to be found in Afganistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Eritrea etc. It’s a good thing if Norwegian businesses are less concerned with skin colour, but I don’t know if I have seen any evidence yet.




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