by Michelle Bauer, student Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Business
This piece was inspired by Professor Eric Davoine‘s presentation during the “Unpacking Migration: Recognition of the benefits of individuals on the move in our societies : Overcoming barriers towards inclusion” Part 1 session during SIETAR Switzerland’s 2020 Congress.
In a merit-based employment process, jobs are offered to individuals based on their qualifications and abilities. However, no hiring system is flawless. In the first lecture of the series “Unpacking: Migration” from the SIETAR Congress of 2020, Professor Davoine discussed economic barriers that migrants and refugees face in their host country when looking for employment. He identified factors that prevent economic inclusion and then went on to elaborate on what can be done to overcome such obstacles. I would like to highlight and respond to some of the key points made during his presentation.
Professor Davoine identified the standard application process as one traditional “gatekeeper” that hampers migrants from getting a job. As more resumes are screened by algorithms, as opposed to humans, non-native candidates can be at a disadvantage because their path is often different than native applicants. In addition, migrants sometimes find it difficult to get their qualifications recognized and transferred. Immigration status can be another detraction for companies when looking for employment opportunities. However, there are also less overt obstacles in hiring practices and these barriers are apt to take the form of discrimination based on gender and ethnicity.
Ultimately, the key to eventual employment hinges on migrants and refugees developing a network. Social networks have often been established through volunteer work or short-term internships that lasted three to six months. Professor Davoine noted that these activities often led to job opportunities. Thus, as people connect, employment barriers in many cases can be overcome. Networks allow individuals to bypass traditional gatekeepers, like the standard application process.
While I was encouraged to hear that social networks provide a necessary bridge for migrants and refugees to enter the workforce, sidestepping “gatekeepers” is not a lasting solution because the real problem is not being addressed. Instead, I advocate for systemic change to hiring practices in Switzerland. This call for change is personal. When I relocated to Switzerland, I was confronted with some of the economic barriers described by Professor Davoine. Furthermore, as a student interested in intercultural awareness and human resource management, I think there is ample room to humanize a hiring system that reflects the needs of a more diverse set of candidates. Switzerland is lauded for its internship system because it allows young adults to enter the workforce via entry level positions specifically reserved for students. Companies could expand this system to include internships reserved specifically for non-native applicants, such as migrants and refugees. This way traditional limits, whether based on age or time passed since graduation, could be lifted. A tailored system, as described above, means qualified candidates would no longer have to rely predominantly on the power of their social networks but could instead allow their abilities to speak for themselves. For further encouragement, the Federal Government could support and incentivize companies to offer such programs.
To conclude, greater economic participation and thus, inclusion of migrants and refugees is predicated on dismantling hiring barriers.
Photo credit : Photo courtesy of Michelle Bauer, structure created by Tom Otterness as seen in Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen, The Netherlands, Den Haag, Netherlands