10. The marginalized migrant: integration and well-being of adult migrants unable to enter the labour market in the 21st century

Convenors: Magdalena Kosová, Åbo Akademi University; Pekka Kettunen, University of Turku; Benedicte Nessa, VID Specialized University, Stavanger

Contact: mkosova (at) abo.fi

Session 10.1: Thursday 2.12.2021 at 17.00-18.30
Session 10.2:
Friday 3.12.2021 at 12.30-14.30

What immigrant integration policies in Northern Europe have in common is a strong focus on labour market participation: they are based on a presumption that the adult migrant will after a certain integration period be able to find a paid employment. However, there are certain groups of immigrants that with a high degree of probability will never be able to do so due to factors (and their combinations) such as advanced age, legal status, ill health or culturally specific factors; similarly, integration measures designated for supporting integration of working-age adult migrants may prove inefficient for these groups. This creates a category of migrants that can to a degree be described as marginalized – by policy makers, the media, the major society.

The purpose of this workshop is to investigate the ways the marginalized migrant establishes themselves into the receiving society. What do we know about the marginalized migrants, who are they and how are they doing? How are they supported in their process of integration and their lives in the new country and new societal context after the integration period has ran out? How do they interact with and are perceived and portraited by the receiving society? What are the side effects of strong orientation of labour market integration policies? What tools are there available for the marginalized migrant to engage and participate in the community (or communities) or be heard in the society, and what can be done to facilitate their engagement in the mainstream society? And what methods can researchers employ when studying this particular group of migrants?

Papers in this workshop shall focus on among others specific measures that are employed in order to support one or more groups of marginalized migrants, on both quantitative and qualitative studies on their wellbeing and on other phenomena related to the migrant’s experience of establishing themselves in the new society. We welcome papers from a wide range of disciplines and theoretical perspectives and from researchers in all stages of their career.

Back to the workshops

Presentation order and abstracts:

SESSION 10.1 Thursday 2.12.2021 at 17.00-18.30

  1. How well does the integration system work?
    Pekka Kettunen: The Migration Instutute of Finland

The Finnish integration system is mainly trying to bring immigrants to the labour market. At the same time we know that immigrants can have big difficulties in finding work, or alternatively, they are forced to work in tasks not corresponding to their education and work experience. there are various reasons to this situation, among them lack of resources (supervising, language training) and attitudes and racism in the labour market. The paper aims to find out how well the integration system works, and why immigrants encounter difficulties.

  1. The spheres of participation: a comparative study of asylum seekers’ and reception centre professionals’ perceptions
    Martta Myllylä, Antti Kivijärvi, Mervi Pantti, Lena Näre, University of Helsinki

In the context of the European migration regime, asylum seekers are separated from the surrounding society by the legislation and institutional practices of the reception system. Their situation has been deemed as a state of liminality, characterized by segregating asylum system, protracted asylum processes, and limited rights and agency to act on their own behalf. However, despite the hostile environment, many asylum seekers take part in and contribute to society in their everyday lives. While the normative concept of integration might be insensitive in explaining micro-level actions, accommodations and experiences of particularly those with precarious status in their hosting societies, new approaches are needed to analyse the ways asylum seekers clear their ways and contribute to the surrounding institutions and communities.

Consequently, in this paper, we examine asylum seekers' participation in the context of the Finnish reception system. With the concept of participation, we refer to both being involved with local social structures and communities and having an influence on them. Thus, participation often takes place in informal and mundane surroundings. Drawing on asylum seekers’ individual interviews (n=28) and reception centre professionals’ focus group interviews (eight interviews with 55 interviewees), we examine the ways in which asylum seekers in Finland perceive and pursue participation, and how their participation is perceived by reception centre professionals. In practice, we focus on everyday practices, perceptions and evaluations of participation and explore how spheres and levels of participation are constructed in the interview accounts.

  1. Refugee stories about war and welfare
    Tine Brondum: The University of Copenhagen

In this paper, I wish to present initial findings and analytical work from a recently begun research project based on narrative interviews with refugees that have arrived in Denmark since the 1990’ies. Refugee stories about war and welfare, is a subproject of the collective project Refugee Stories and Stories about refugees (led by Trine Øland).

In the subproject, I aim to explore differing refugee experiences across age and gender, as well as across time and location in Denmark, in order to answer the overall question of, how differing groups of refugees make meaning of their life before and after their flight, and how Danish welfare system encounters are integrated into these narratives.

The interviews will be structured by explorative questions making room for the refugees’ own reflections and storytelling. The sub-project seeks to identify common stories, structures and performances of the collective refugee and post-refugee condition relating to for instance homeland nostalgia and silence (Sa'di & Abu-Lughod 2007, Eastmond 2007), as well as the experience of being cast as a refugee in the Danish integration and educational system in shifting policy environments. An initial thesis of the project is that this casting and process of becoming a refugee entails complex processes of marginalization in which the individuals’ meetings with welfare and immigration services structure and produce norms that the refugees has to oblige and accommodate to.

In the paper, I will furthermore address the scientific challenges of ethics, power and language when working with refugees with sensitive or even traumatizing stories. Doing this, the paper discuss the impact of the differing contexts in relation to silences and voids in the stories told in relation to the known effects that experiences of violence and displacement can have on peoples’ story-telling (Eastmond 2007).

An important part of the future work will be the synthesizing analysis of the collective project. In this we focus on the relations between the refugee’s stories and political and administrative stories about refugees from Danish welfare workers. An overall ambition of the project is therefore to abstract new theoretical understandings of the mediated connections between types of subject-based experiences from a marginalized group in society, and types of institutional welfare state-based narratives.

SESSION 10.2 Friday 3.12.2021 at 12.30-14.30

  1. Migrant mothers transitioning from the home to working life
    Päivi Iikkanen: Univeristy of Jyväskylä and Minna Intke-Hernandez: University of Helsinki

In Finland, it is often taken for granted that learning the local language and finding employment are the keys to integration. Migrants are offered integration training that aims at developing their language proficiency, and providing them with opportunities for equal societal participation. In general, the training is full-time. In practice, however, the everyday life of numerous migrant mothers revolves around their homes and families, and may not allow them to participate in such training. This has resulted in viewing migrant mothers as a particularly challenging group of migrants. We argue, however, that motherhood gives migrant mothers access to various social contexts, such as play groups, family clinics or daycare, that can both facilitate and impede language learning depending on the circumstances. For example, parent child groups offer precisely the kind of social, emotional and linguistic support that migrant mothers seem to need, and participation in multilingual activities supports Finnish language learning (Intke-Hernández 2020). Furthermore, children are a significant factor for mothers to invest in language learning, since this can also be viewed as an investment to the children's future. However, a life in a new country places migrant mothers in a specific ecological niche (see e.g. Suni 2017), and it may be difficult to transfer from one niche to another, as children grow older and mothers are able to find more space for professional aspirations. In practice, the integration measures aimed at the “inactive” group of migrants, such as stay-at-home mothers, are organized by the municipal authorities with much less emphasis on working life skills than in the training organized by the labour administration. One of the dangers that lies within the separation of the two strands, is that if migrant women follow the integration pathway intended for people who are (temporarily) outside the workforce, they may have difficulties finding their way to suitable employment later (OECD 2018). In addition, migrant women often have difficulties having their previous educational or professional credentials recognized in the Finnish job market (Iikkanen 2020). Thus, a lot of potential may be lost to menial jobs or return migration. In sum, we call for more attention to providing migrant mothers with appropriate support both at the beginning and later on during their integration pathways and keeping long-term goals regarding employment specifically in mind.

  1. The Intersection of Childhood Disability and Migration in Family Lives
    Snæfríður Þóra Egilson: University of Iceland, Disability Studies Programme, Guðbjörg Ottósdóttir: University of Iceland, Faculty of Social Work, Unnur Dís Skaptadóttir: University of Iceland, Faculty of Sociology, Anthropology and Folkloristic

Disability studies and migrant studies have largely operated on different tracks. Despite the growing diversity within Icelandic society, little is known about the lives of migrant families with disabled children living there. Inspired by critical disability studies, migrant studies and Bourdieu’s concepts of capital and field, this study focused on the daily experiences of three migrant mothers of disabled children and their encounters with the Icelandic service system. It is part of a larger Icelandic research project that focuses on the lives and experiences of migrant families who have disabled children. Data were gathered by interviews and observations. The three migrant women’s experiences reflected their diverse positions and needs in terms of their participation and possibilities to use their resources to build upon and apply their social and cultural capital. Initially, all three intended to stay temporarily in Iceland, but the intersection of the birth of their disabled children, their possibilities for balancing work and care, as well as their experiences with the service system, ultimately affected their decision to stay or leave. The critical disability studies lens helped unpack and illuminate the complex interconnections between each woman’s migration experience and contextual factors, such as her employment opportunities, access to formal and informal supports, attitudes within the service systems, as well as her child(ren)’s impairment. Although the three mothers’ experiences were, in some ways, similar to that of native born mothers of disabled children, adding the position as a migrant to the equation clearly complicated the situation. The presentation concludes with a call for a more nuanced understanding of the intersection between disability and migration in family lives.

  1. What is Relevant and What is Not: Examining Career Counselling Encounters with Adult Migrants in a Finnish Integration Training Programme
    Miika Kekki: University of Eastern Finland

Through thematic analysis, this paper examines how career counsellors working in a Finnish integration training programme for adult migrants use power in their work with their counselees by influencing the content of career guidance discussions.

Career guidance and counselling can be described as a process through which individuals are encouraged, supported, and guided to think about and act in their lives (Hooley, Sultana & Thomsen 2018). It can thus be seen as one of the central measures promoting the well-being of migrants and their integration into the receiving society.

The career counsellors deal with various issues in the discussions with their migrant-students and they may turn out be crucial especially for the more marginalized or vulnerable migrants. But who may decide which issues or topics end up being treated and discussed in career counselling? Are there some topics that career practitioners tend to avoid or do not want to discuss? In particular, how do career counsellors react when a student brings up a theme or topic of discussion? These are the questions this paper reflects upon. It draws on empirical data of 18 video-recording career counselling discussions between career counsellors and their students, collected in 2019 from four educational institutions located in the Southern Finland.

The theoretical framework applied is the non-decision-making theory by Bachrach and Baratz (1970). We show how career counsellors tend to limit discussion topics to those belonging to their pre-formulated structure and how the topics suggested by students tend to be either dismissed, treated with less depth and accuracy, or ignored. The focus of the discussion is primarily on which educational or employment choices would best suit the student in question, instead of worries or interests that the students also find relevant. The present work also discusses how the counsellor’s values appear to direct the discussions and what implications this may have for the career guidance practices within an integration programme.

  1. The Vulnerable Position of Highly Skilled Japanese in Finland
    Takuya Yamazaki: University of Helsinki

The labour market integration of highly skilled migrants has been a compelling subject for the Northern European states that increasingly set out the policies to attract and retain international talents for an advanced economy and society. Highly skilled migrants are commonly portrayed as migrants far from the marginalised group owing to their skill and education. Hence, policymakers often undermine the importance of supporting this group to become incorporated into the receiving economy and society. However, highly skilled migrants, especially non-EU born, are vulnerable to un/underemployment and discrimination compared to the native/EU-born population due to misrecognition of foreign credentials, the lack of native language competence and social contacts.

This proposed paper addresses this vulnerability of non-EU migrants with high qualifications in the receiving labour market using my own qualitative study of highly skilled Japanese seeking employment in Finland as an example. It highlights the role of university, non-profit organisations and local communities in contributing to their labour market position through career-related services.

To analyse the relation between these social supports and their vulnerable position, I will propose the notion of capital by Pierre Bourdieu (particularly cultural and social capital), which explains how migrants’ labour market position in the host country is associated with accumulation and utilisation of capital. What capital do Japanese migrants create and use? How do the local organisations/communities facilitate/constrain the process through which the Japanese create and use capital? How is the capital associated with their labour market position in Finland?

Analysing the labour market position of migrants based on capital allows us to see how the economic incorporation of the marginalised group is socially, culturally and politically oriented. Such an analytical viewpoint can be useful for the context of the immigrant integration policies where policymakers pursue specific integration measures, among others, to improve the marginalised position of certain migrants by considering multidimensional factors that influence the integration process.