JUDITH Safar believes that migrants need to be given tools that help them to improve their situation and prospects on the labour market.
“Migrants need to be lifted out of the situation where they have to beg for a job,” said Safar, the team leader for professional integration at the Austrian Integration Fund. “If they progress, learn the language and are given a chance to offer their skills to society, then it is a win-win situation for everyone.”
The Austrian Integration Fund was founded by the Republic of Austria in 1960 in response to a wave of migration of Hungarians to Austria. The fund helps migrants, mostly recognized refugees, to take the first steps of integration into society, principally in language, social and career issues. However, the fund also focuses on Austrian society, in order to understand integration as a set of mutual dynamics between migrants and the majority population, according to Safar.
Professional integration includes financial support services but also mentoring for migrants, creating a win-win situation, because once the talents and skills of migrants are recognised businesses can access their labour, Safar said.
The mentoring process also increases what Safar calls intercultural competence, along with providing a practical insight into the Austrian business world, she added. According to Safar, the best way to achieve professional integration of migrants is to create synergies and a sort of networking for migrants.
Professional job coaches provide individual support for integration in the Austrian labour market. The fund also operates Integration Houses for recognised refugees, who can stay at these centres for one year.
Safar also suggested that determining when someone stops being considered a migrant is difficult because it cannot be defined simply by counting generations. One also has to look at the question of when people start having the same access to information and opportunities as the rest of society. The fund is trying to make sure that this happens as quickly as possible, Safar concluded.