Keeping a Job: Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Temporary and Non-regular Employment

IMPRS Colloquium

  • Date: May 31, 2021
  • Time: 15:00
  • Speaker: Ayodeji Akinnimi
  • Doctoral researcher, IMPRS-SPCE
 Keeping a Job: Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Temporary and Non-regular Employment
In 2015 the German government relaxed its restrictions for asylum seekers to enter the German labor market by reducing the waiting time from 15 months to 3 and improving integration supports. The state of research shows that asylum seekers and refugees are mainly employed through temporary agencies.

The expectation of labor market researchers is that agency employment provides a steppingstone into regular employment, as refugees learn the language and become better integrated into working in Germany. In my presentation, I will show how employment patterns diverge from the state of the literature to date, which depends on registered data from the job centers and employers. My research shows that immigration controls and employment regulations interact to force asylum seekers into informal employment, either intermittently or for the longer term. The research I present is based on an ethnography of three main locations of job seeking and work- day markets where asylum seekers are recruited to informal jobs, Schrottplätze operated mainly by persons with a migration or refugee background where most asylum seekers find informal work, and temporary agency-client workplaces, where asylum seekers are placed and share information on agencies. I will discuss two distinct patterns of job-seeking and employment experiences: the permanent forced mobility of temporary agency work due to how employers evade regulations on equal pay and the forced informalization of employment due to how the German government has classified some asylum seekers as not likely to remain in Germany in the long term. The first pattern covers asylum seekers from the five unsafe countries which are extended priority support in integration and language courses, while the second pattern covers those two unsafe countries (Nigeria and Afghanistan) which are not given the same priority. I focus especially on the meaning of informal labor markets for this second group of mainly Nigerians, for whom Schrottplätze are the main workplaces. I will end with an analysis of the meaning of informal employment, from both the perspective of employers and the asylum seekers who take up such jobs.

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